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Oleksandr Usyk defeating Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury’s thrilling slugfest with Deontay Wilder means boxing fans got to watch the top four at heavyweight battle it out in two epic fights in late 2021.
The results of those fights shake-up the landscape among the big men but the losers aren’t confined to the dustbin of history and can come again, while the division itself has solid depth.
Otto Wallin, the revived Robert Helenius, a rebuilding Daniel Dubois and even 42-year-old Luis Ortiz all lurk outside the top 10. But our countdown of the best 200lb+ starts with a new entrant and one of only two under-30s on the list of boxing’s biggest, baddest giants.
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W: 19 (13 KOs), L: 0, D: 0
Breaks into the top 10 with an impressive showing on the Fury-Wilder III undercard where Sanchez easily outboxed fellow unbeaten rising star Efe Ajagba. The mature-looking 29-year-old (level of paper round in Cuba: hard) boasts a stiff jab and slick movement, although he lacks the dynamic excitement fight fans crave in their heavyweights. Still had enough power to knock Ajagba down, however, and is a welcome addition to the division.
W: 20 (14 KOs), L: 1, D: 1
Size will always be against the 6ft 2in former cruiserweight but Hunter can take heart from the only man to defeat him - Usyk in 2017 on points - who’s proved that being smaller doesn’t mean you can’t beat the super-sized heavyweights. ‘The Bounty Hunter’ is coming off a devastating KO of Mike Wilson and clearly deserved the decision over Alexander Povetkin in their 2019 draw. Speed is his advantage but he’d be a huge underdog against the top four.
W: 13 (12 KOs), L: 0, D: 0
The planet’s most underrated heavyweight? Britain’s ‘Big Juggernaut’ may be closer to 40 than 30 but he’s fresh for his age and is a better fighter than he looks on first viewing. Joyce is slow and often hittable early but seems to boast an iron jaw, a heavy jab and - as the nickname suggests - he has the engine to just keep coming. Stopped the durable Carlos Takam in July and deserves a megafight soon.
W: 29 (21 KOs), L: 2, D: 0
Country: New Zealand
Rapid hands, still under 30 with some impressive wins and only two defeats to Joshua and Dillian Whyte (both competitive defeats on points). However Parker has not impressed of late, including in his lethargic split decision victory over Derek Chisora this year. Has been training with Tyson Fury under new coach Andy Lee and Parker needs to start punching with his old authority to earn a more convincing win over Chisora in their December rematch.
W: 36 (22 KOs), L: 2, D: 0
It’s crossroads time for Ruiz who’s had two poor performances in a row since he pulled himself up off the canvas to pummel Joshua to defeat in 2019. Showed up in awful shape in losing a lopsided rematch to AJ but trained hard under Eddy Reynoso for his May 2021 fight with Chris Arreola. Ruiz got up from an early knockdown to outpoint the 40-year-old Arreola, but the fast-fisted Mexican-American needs to bring more to the ring next year.
W: 28 (19 KOs), L: 2, D: 0
‘The Bodysnatcher’ has had more tough fights than any modern heavyweight contender who’s never had a world title fight. His list of hard foes includes Whyte’s next outing against tall southpaw Swede Otto Wallin on 30 October. If (and it’s a big if) the hard-punching Whyte can get past Wallin, a fight with Fury beckons next year. Whether a man stopped by Joshua and by Povetkin can trouble ‘The Gypsy King’ with his left hook is another matter.
W: 42 (41 KOs), L: 2, D: 1
Showed his game-changing right-hand power and the heart of a lion in this year’s see-saw trilogy war with Fury. But Wilder is about to turn 36 and his punch resistance was a worry in the Fury fight, even if he somehow made it into the 11th round. Can KO any heavyweight - and is 42-0 against opponents not named Tyson Fury - but must physically and mentally overcome an absolutely savage defeat before he can fight again.
W: 24 (22 KOs), L:2, D: 0
Joshua’s points loss to Usyk in September is arguably even harder to come back from than his KO defeat to Ruiz. AJ looked lost between his aggressive, hard-punching style and the Klitschko-esque tactics that helped him outpoint Ruiz in their rematch - to the point where he did neither vs Usyk. Owns KO power and wins over the likes of Whyte and Parker, but Joshua needs a brand new game plan if he’s to turn the tables on Usyk in next year’s rematch.
W: 19 (13 KOs), L: 0, D: 0
The Ukrainian southpaw was masterful as he not only outboxed but also outfought Joshua on away territory in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The former undisputed cruiserweight champion showed his customary excellent movement, a cracking straight left hand and was backing the bigger man up by the 12th round of the fight. Size will always be against Usyk, but nothing else is - and he’ll start a deserved favourite for his second fight against AJ next year.
W: 31 (22 KOs), L:0, D: 1
The king of the division strengthened his grip on the crown with an uneven but action-packed stoppage of his old rival Wilder. Even when not in peak shape, Fury is a formidable, versatile fighter who moves way more fluidly than a 6ft 9in titan should - and now has more power on his punches. Still sloppy at times but you could drop a piano on his head and Fury would be back on his feet by the count of nine. Fury vs the winner of Usyk-Joshua II later next year, please.
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