Boxing has missed out on a golden era of heavyweights, in the pantheon of the sport it’ll just be okay.
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Heavyweight boxing is the blue riband division of the sweet science, where the biggest can end fights with one swing of their almighty gloves.
The popularity of the sport can often be defined by how strong the division which captures the imagination most.
It may not always provide the best technical fights but heavyweights get the juices flowing like no other.
Muhammad Ali is often considered the greatest of all time to step in the ring, perhaps in any weight class, but certainly in the ‘heavies.’
He was not undefeated, even at his best he lost, but the American took on all comers in a great generation.
Many of his contemporaries would make it onto any list of all-time great heavyweights and, importantly, they all fought each other.
Boxing has rarely had it that good, in terms of strength in depth in the rankings or when it comes to matchmaking.
In the early part of this century, once Lennox Lewis had retired and Mike Tyson’s in-ring peak had long since passed, the sport was left with the Klitschko brothers at the top of the sport.
Understandably the pair would not fight each other and instead were left to fight a list of perfectly fine but hardly world-class opponents, in Ali’s era the likes of Samuel Peter, Lamon Brewster and Ray Austin would not have been world title contenders.
More recently, the heavyweight division has found itself in a prominent position once again, deep with talent.
The end of Wladimir Klitschko’s career intertwined with Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua reaching the peak of their powers.
Hard-hitting Deontay Wilder knocked out everyone who came close to him, with one of the biggest punches in history.
A supporting cast of Dillian Whyte, Andy Ruiz, Luis Ortiz, Joseph Parker, Alexander Povetkin, Kubrat Pulev and even the always-entertaining Dereck Chisora made it a fascinating period.
All that before Oleksandr Usyk decided to step up from his utter domination of the cruiserweight division to turn his hands towards the biggest and best.
It could, and should, have been a period of greatness, one comparable with the days of Ali, Frazier and Sonny Liston, or the 90s of Lewis, Evander Holyfield, and the like.
However, on three occasions in recent years, the sport has been allowed to fumble the opportunity.
There has been no undisputed world champion at heavyweight since Lewis was stripped of one of his belts in 2004.
When Wilder and Joshua were both champions a fight to determine the best of the best could have been made.
The Bronze Bomber won his WBC title in June 2015, AJ followed up by taking the IBF belt in late 2016, before adding the rest in 2017.
But there was little talk of the pair facing each other, despite both having their belts until the British fighter lost his to Ruiz in 2019.
He won them back soon after and then the American lost his title to Fury, which should have set up a British fight for all the marbles, a bigger event in British sport would be hard to come by.
But, after months of back and forth, and the usual Fury nonsense on social media, that even his most ardent of fans must be fed up of, a third fight with Wilder had to take place instead.
With all those dreams dashed, 2012 Olympic champion Joshua took on Usyk instead and lost, twice.
Now the Ukrainian was the one man who the Gypsy King needed to beat, win all the belts and secure his legacy as one of the greats.
However, that fight is now on the verge of breaking down, over, ironically, a rematch clause.
Not only does the WBC champ risk his own legacy, but a third failure to get a unification match on in less than 10 years also damages the entire generation.
Getting fights on is nothing new, Lewis never fought Riddick Bowe, and it happens in every division still, as we still await Terence Crawford vs Errol Spence, and we may still see Wilder and Joshua, and others, in the future, but failure to get any of the fights on at the right time borders on irresponsible by those involved.
This could have been one of the all time great generations of heavyweight boxing, instead it risks being a good one in which the main attractions never fought each other when they should have, it's been all talk but little action.
Featured Image Credit: PA Images
Topics: Boxing, Heavyweight Boxing, Oleksandr Usyk, Lennox Lewis, Tyson Fury, Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, Spotlight