After years of near-stupor, the heavyweight division has suddenly sprung back to life.
Last November, Tyson Fury, the self-styled Gypsy King by way of Manchester England, shocked it from its slumber when he surprisingly took down the long-dominant champion, Wladimir Klitschko.
Then he sparked an in-ring face-off WWE-style, with WBC champion Wilder, after the latter defended his belt with a chilling one-punch knockout of brave but overmatched Pole, Artur Szpilka in January
Fight fans are excited about the division once again and this is set to continue with a slew of power-hitting young guns waiting in line to stake their claim.
But as the old English proverb says; there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip. So who are the prospects best equipped to land the big one?
Tyson Fury 25-0-0 18 KOs: WBA/WBO champion, and top of the pile.
Deontay Wilder 36-0-0 35 KOs: WBC champion
Prince Charles Martin 23-0-1 21 KOs: Annexed IBF belt stripped from Fury
The 2012 Olympic Super Heavyweight Gold Medalist is the most hyped of the prospects.
Born in North London of Nigerian heritage, the 26-year-old certainly looks the part. Fringe contender, Malik Scott famously described him as “being cut like a bag of dope.” Like those tightly wrapped bales of illicit merchandise you see in a drugs bust on television cop shows.
An imposing figure of 6 feet, 6 inches, with a wingspan of 82 inches, and a fighting weight of around 246 pounds, Joshua turned pro in October 2013, and has a record of 16-0-0 with 16 KOs
A genuine two-fisted bone-cruncher, he fires fluid combinations in a way that belie his sheer size, but doesn’t snap or extend his jab enough, and sometimes appears too stiff and upright.
However, unlike other untested prospects, he has shown he can take a lick and keep on ticking. Rocked badly by old rival the power-punching Dillian Whyte in the 2nd round of their fight in December, he rallied and grew stronger, to register a brutal 7th round KO.
Joshua has accepted the challenge thrown out by Prince Charles Martin, and is due to meet the newly-crowned IBF champion on April 9th in London.
Though it is time for the Olympic gold medalist to ditch the L-plates and face stiffer opposition, shooting for the title so early in his pro career is a calculated gamble. But the 29-year-old Martin who turned pro in 2013 is not vastly more experienced than Joshua, and his list of opposition apart from Vyacheslav Glazkov, is distinctly underwhelming.
Martin hasn’t fought anyone with the chilling power of Joshua, and may go the same way as the former Olympian’s previous opponents.
Conversely, Martin will be the best opponent Joshua has faced, and may find the hard-punching 6’ 5” southpaw too hot to handle.
Bookmakers have made Joshua the favourite, but it is a much anticipated fight on both sides of the Atlantic with many questions. A welcome rarity in recent heavyweight title fights.
The 6-foot, 4-inch southpaw learned his trade under the extensive Cuban amateur system, and like other Cuban emigres, now fights out of Miami, Florida.
Flaunting an imposing wingspan of 84 inches, and a fighting weight of around 240 pounds, the well-schooled power-puncher has compiled a record of 24-0-0 with 21 KOs, since turning pro in 2010.
He served notice of his intent by destroying former title challenger, Bryant Jennings in the 7th round this past December.
Under the moniker of the Real King Kong, Ortiz fires fluid heavy-handed punches with bad intent to head and body. He is particularly adept at slipping and countering, and would be a nightmare for any heavyweight.
Unless he becomes a mandatory challenger, it is unlikely any champion would be in a hurry to share a dance card with him.
On the downside, Ortiz is 37 years old, and the shadow of PED use hovers over him, having failed a drug test in September 2014 after a first round KO of Lateef Kayode.
This 24-year-old of Samoan extract hails from New Zealand, but currently fights out of Las Vegas.
Standing at 6 feet, 4 inches, with a wingspan of 76 inches and a fighting weight of around 236 pounds, he has compiled a record of 18-0-0 with 16 KOs since turning pro in 2012.
A genuine two-handed puncher with fast hands, a good jab, and good movement, he looks the most naturally-skilled of the young guns. But he needs to up the level of his opponents, and his short reach of 76 inches may hamper him.
Parker is trained by Kevin Barry of the 1984 Olympics fame. The noted trainer has high hopes of him. “I had 12 years with Tua, and if he was as driven as Parker, he would have won the title…I believe I have a guy that when we fight for a world title, he will win the world title.”
Strong words by Barry. But if he keeps progressing, Parker will one-day fight for a belt. The WBO recently made him number one contender for their belt held by Tyson Fury. A fight against Joshua could also happen, should the latter take the IBF belt from Martin. Parker recently called out his fellow prospect, challenging him to come to New Zealand. Joshua wouldn’t be averse to the idea, but the fight might make more economic sense in London, rather than the relative boxing back water of New Zealand.
The least talked about, but probably the most intriguing of the young guns, Ugonoh has some way to go before being considered at the same level as fellow prospects, Joshua and Parker.
Born in Szczecin, Poland, of Nigerian parentage, the 29-year-old has compiled a record of 15-0-0 with 12 KOs since turning pro in 2010. He is an athletic 6 feet, 5 inches, with a wingspan of 84 inches at a fighting weight of 235 pounds.
Nigerian Nightmare or Polish Punisher? He sees himself as a Pole. “When I look in the mirror, I don’t know what happened!”
With a kick-boxing background, he throws fast hurtful combinations. All his fights have been in Poland or New Zealand. He needs to fight more frequently, up his level of competition, and increase his profile
He currently fights out of Las Vegas together with Joseph Parker, under Kevin Barry’s tutelage.
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