LINDER'S LOOK: THE HEAVYWEIGHT TRIANGLE
By Doveed Linder
Since the 2003 retirement of Lennox Lewis, the heavyweight division has been in a drought. The Klitschko brothers dominated from the mid 2000s to the mid 2010s, but their reign wasnít gratifying for most fans. However, this is not their fault. With their physical advantages, discipline, and sound fundamentals, no challenger out there seemed to have a realistic chance of beating them. Because of this fact, their fights lacked drama. When Lewis fought, he had fellow competitors Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson to make highly anticipated fights with. And now with the emergence of Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, and Tyson Fury, things are heating up in the heavyweight division once again.
In my view, Anthony Joshua has the most potential of this generation of heavyweights, though I wouldnít necessarily consider him a significant favorite over Deontay Wilder. That match-up would be 50-50 if it eventually happens, though my opinion might change after Wilderís upcoming fight with Tyson Fury. Every time I see Wilder fight, itís hard to imagine another heavyweight beating him. Joshua canít match the physical attributes of Wilder, particularly with punching power, but he has all the tools he needs to beat any heavyweight around. Heís big enough, heís strong, he has decent speed for a big man, and heís reasonably durable. What I like about Joshua is his simplistic approach to fighting. He doesnít do anything flashy, but heís technically correct. Heís patient, heís composed, and he has a good set of eyes, as was demonstrated in his recent stoppage victory over a very tough Alexander Povetkin. He also has a lot of heart, which he proved in his knockout victory over Wladimir Klitschko.
Many fans regard Deontay Wilder as the most promising heavyweight on the scene, mainly because of his devastating power. Heavyweights who produce dramatic results generally receive the most praise. His first round knockout over Bermane Stiverne (who had never been knocked out before), and his come-from-behind knockout over previously undefeated Luis Ortiz made a strong impression on the public. Aside from power, Wilder has a strong will to win. And the fact that he is outspoken, especially about his desire to fight Anthony Joshua, has also gone a long way in convincing the boxing world that he is here to conquer.
Tyson Furyís best accomplishment to date is a 2015 unanimous decision victory over Wladimir Klitschko. That was an admirable victory, but it wasnít satisfying. You canít take anything away from a man who defeats a true heavyweight champion like Klitschko, but in my view, Furyís advantage over Klitschko was purely psychological. Fury is a very intelligent man. Going into the fight, he knew exactly what buttons to push. On the night of the fight, Klitschko appeared timid and disorganized. This is a mental sport and Fury deserves credit for winning the head game, but that fight was more about what Klitschko didnít do, opposed to what Fury did. Instead of facing Klitschko in a rematch, Fury spent some time out of the ring due to drug abuse and emotional problems. I donít want to say anything negative about a man who is struggling with personal issues, but being the heavyweight champion of the world is a great honor and a tremendous responsibility. Instead of taking advantage of the position he was in, Fury succumbed to his demons and was forced to give up his titles, which is why I canít put him in the same category as Joshua or Wilder.
In a way, the upcoming fight between Wilder and Joshua reminds me of Saul ďCaneloĒ Alvarez vs Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. Before the fight, there were reports that Chavez was training hard and was in the best shape of his life. I had my doubts about Chavez, because one tough training camp is not enough to fill in the holes that come from years of being unfocused and showing a lack of discipline. I believe that Fury has more desire than Chavez and his credentials are better because of his victory over Klitschko. But to be the best heavyweight in the world, a man has to be in the zone. Furyís two recent tune-ups arenít enough to bring him back to where he was when he dethroned Klitschko. And that version of Fury might not be enough to beat a stone cold serious man like Wilder anyway. Going into this fight, Fury almost reminds me of a heavyweight Conor McGregor, when McGregor was getting ready to fight Mayweather. Heís very entertaining, but hard to take seriously. Iím sure Fury is very focused on the Wilder fight, but he will be a huge target for Wilderís massive punches. Like many people, I suspect a stoppage victory for Wilder.
A lot of people have accused Joshua of either delaying the fight with Wilder or flat out ducking him. I donít know the particulars with his camp, so I canít really comment. But if I was handling Joshua, I wouldnít want to rush him into a fight with Wilder. I donít remember the last time a heavyweight champion had to pick himself up off the canvas to win the title, like Joshua did against Klitschko. That fight was life and death. It was the kind of fight that could build character and possibly make Joshua a better fighter down the line, but I think it was best to take a couple of softer touches like he did and let the experience set in. It was nice to see him score a knockout like he did against Povetkin, and he seemed sincere after the fight when he said that he wanted to fight Wilder. If Wilder handles his business like he should against Fury, the time will be perfect for the Joshua-Wilder clash that everybody wants to see.
I say that Joshua-Wilder is 50-50, because both guys have been tremendous in recent fights, yet we still donít know everything about them. Their stories are still being written and anything could happen when they get in the ring. I lean towards Joshua, because he has demonstrated that he can control a boxing match. When Povetkin was coming on strong, he took his time, used his jab, and waited for opportunities. Even though Wilder has had forty fights, he still doesnít seem to see whatís in front of him. He sort of reminds me of a heavyweight Amir Khan. Like a teenager with a sports car, heís reckless and doesnít have control of all the gears. When Luis Ortiz was out-boxing him, he wasnít able to use his skills to turn things around. He had to retaliate with wild punches. But boy did he retaliate! While my recent comments about Tyson Fury havenít been very flattering, I havenít written him off completely. Heís a very crafty fighter, and itís possible that heíll frustrate Wilder and take his artillery away. I doubt it, but weíll never know till they fight. The current state of the heavyweight landscape has me guessing, predicting, analyzing, and looking forward to the future. I havenít felt this way about heavyweight boxing for quite some time.
Doveed Linder is the author of RINGSIDE: INTERVIEWS WITH 24 FIGHTERS AND BOXING INSIDERS, a collection of in depth interviews with various fighters, trainers, corner men, promoters, and officials, including ďSugarĒ Ray Leonard, Roy Jones, Jr., Angelo Dundee, Emanuel Steward, Larry Merchant, Bob Arum, Steve Smoger, and Jackie Kallen. The foreword was written by Boxingtalk publisher Greg Leon. This book is now available on Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Ringside-Interviews-Fighters-Boxing-Insiders/dp/1476664412