By Jeremy O’Connell
Going into the New Year, the heavyweight boxing scene has opened up a fraction with the vacation of the WBC title by long-time holder Vitali Klitschko. He has not fought since September 2012, and, while not ruling out a return at some point, seems unlikely to fight again due to his political ambitions. With his brother Wladimir Klitschko still the division’s seemingly indomitable king (with 15 consecutive title defences – the 3rd most in history, and the 2nd longest title reign ever), let’s take a look at the various contenders who will be looking to step up in 2014.
Bermane Stiverne gets the first crack at Vitali’s vacated title, and he could hardly have a more favourable opponent: the WBC’s favourite overweight son Chris Arreola, whom he quite easily beat just a matter of months ago. If, as expected, he can pick up the title, and continue to be showcased on HBO or Showtime, he will transition from relative obscurity to prominence in the boxing landscape next year.
Other interesting fights have already been set for the spring: Cork’s own Mike Perez vs. Carlos Takam & Bryant Jennings vs. Artur Szpilka will be aired on HBO in January; and Vyacheslav Glazkov will look to finally put long-time contender Tomasz Adamek out to pasture in March on NBC.
Tyson Fury and Robert Helenius will be hoping to come back from frustrating periods on the sideline, and Alexander Povetkin and Tony Thompson remain relevant despite 2013 defeats. Amir Mansour’s career should gain some traction because of his new promoter Main Events and their platform on NBC. Luis Ortiz and Andy Ruiz could also be two prospects to keep an eye on. Same goes for less experienced prospects Anthony Joshua, Hughie Fury and Dominic Breazeale.
Golden Boy’s untested puncher Deontay Wilder could be next in line for the Stiverne-Arreola II winner as the USA continues to search for its first heavyweight titlist since Shannon Briggs in 2007, and he has the power to take out anybody with a single punch.
Dereck Chisora has rebuilt in 2013, picking up 4 stoppage wins and collecting the European title. A shot at Wladimir Klitschko would be a natural, given their pre-existing feud.
Wladimir’s next opponent will be the woefully undeserving mandatory challenger Alex Leapai, who secured that status with an upset win over a disappointing Denis Boytsov. That fight is the most foregone of conclusions, but there is a ray of sunshine on the horizon in the shape of Kubrat Pulev, a mandatory to Wladimir for another one of his titles.
With David Haye’s career in limbo, Pulev stands alone as the undisputed number one contender to the world’s heavyweight championship. This fight is set to happen in the middle of next year, and while Klitschko would be prohibitive favourite as always, Pulev has some tools which could make the fight interesting in spots.
For more of Jeremy’s views check out his blog or catch him on Twitter @JeremyFoley
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