It looks like 2018 will be the year that boxing’s heavyweight division returns to a semblance of prominence, hearkening back to the days of Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe and Lennox Lewis perhaps.
As of right now, Anthony Joshua is the leader of the pack. The imposing Joshua is 20-0 (20 KO), boasting a highlight-reel win over (former) undisputed world champion and future Hall of Famer, Wladimir Klitschko, before a rabid crowd at Wembley Stadium in the United Kingdom — ushering in a new era for heavyweight boxing.
First Things First
The first big heavyweight fight is likely to come at the O2 Arena in February, according to promoter Eddie Hearn, with Anthony Joshua expected to face New Zealand’s Joseph Parker, with the WBA, IBF and WBO titles on the line.
While 25-year-old Parker, who brings the WBO belt to the fight, is an unbeaten fighter (24-0, 18 KOs) with a decent record, it seems unlikely that he’ll be able to deal with the power and speed of Joshua, with the Brit being taller, heavier and boasting a better reach.
Parker earned a majority decision victory over Hughie Fury (Tyson Fury’s younger cousin) in September, but Joshua is a very strong favorite to win any potential fight with the New Zealander. Right now, he’s sitting at 1/20 terms of boxing betting odds.
Anthony Joshua vs Deontay Wilder
A superfight between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder should take place in the summer of 2018 if all is right in the world. The winner is set to be the first unified heavyweight champion since the turn of the millennium when Lennox Lewis bested Evander Holyfield to unify the belts in 1999.
It would clearly be the best heavyweight title bout since the aforementioned Lewis defended his title against (future champion) Vitali Klitschko in 2003. Both fighters are in their physical primes. Joshua is 28 years old and Deontay Wilder is 32 years of age, with a whopping 38 of his 39 wins coming within the 12-round limit.
The only opponent that went the distance with Wilder is Canadian-Haitian Bermane Stiverne in 2015. But Wilder more than made up for that slight blemish on his record in early November, brutally knocking out Stiverne in the first round of their rematch.
The fight will undoubtedly be the biggest of both Joshua’s and Wilder’s careers. Although I slightly favor Joshua, it’s basically a pick ’em fight. Both fighters are of peak age, of similar height and reach, and are knockout specialists. I highly doubt that this fight will go the distance.
I personally believe that Wilder will upset Joshua by TKO.
What Could Follow Joshua vs Wilder
How do you top a title match with two of the best heavyweights in the world? Well, either with a rematch or a dust-up with a forgotten champion. Assuming it’s the latter, expect Tyson Fury to enter the fray – if he can get into fighting shape!
Fury arguably breathed new life into the heavyweight division when he shocked the world with a points victory over Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, claiming the WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO, The Ring and lineal heavyweight titles in the process. However, the 28-year-old Fury hasn’t fought since that fight, due to his much-publicized health and fitness problems, including his temporary drug ban from the sport.
While Anthony Joshua vs Deontay Wilder would be the heavyweight fight of the year, the winner would be in store for another huge payday and mega-match against Tyson Fury later in the year.
If that happens, the heavyweight division will be hot again for a change!