Tyson Fury broke his silence on the state of the heavyweight division this week by demanding his promoter, Frank Warren, find him an opponent for a summer stadium showdown.
The division is at a bit of a standstill mainly due to Saudi Arabia’s keen interest to host what most consider to be the top four – Fury, Oleksandr Usyk, Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder – this December.
Whilst it’s an exciting prospect, it’s left each man with a tough decision as to what to do in the mean time.
Usyk – who holds the WBA, WBO and IBF titles, has confirmed he will face his mandatory challengers and is heading towards a purse bid to face Daniel Dubois.
Wilder, who is set to face Joshua, is open to a tick-over fight in the summer, but will accept compensation to sit out. ‘AJ’ is looking at an August date, which will be a carefully picked opponent for him to get more work in under new trainer, Derrick James.
Fury has now made it clear that he doesn’t want to wait. Luckily for him, there were five heavyweights who answered his call.
Zhilei Zhang has punched his way into the conversation with a stellar win over Joe Joyce in the latter’s hometown. The Chinese southpaw stopped the previously ‘unstoppable’ Joyce, taking the WBO Interim title in the process.
That puts him in line for a shot at Usyk, but he was reportedly a frontrunner for Fury instead. That was until Joyce activated his rematch clause. The Brit’s team are adamant that it’s the fight they want next and there won’t be a step aside, but Zhang is confident there can be if Fury wants to fight.
Having said that, Joyce is represented by the same promoter that Fury is, and these deals can be done. For that reason, ‘Big Bang’ Zhang can be called the frontrunner once again.
The American has had ten fights at heavyweight following an impressive cruiserweight stint and good amateur career. His notable fights in the top division are a win over Martin Bakole and a draw with Alexandr Povetkin that some fans had him winning.
Hunter has been quick to challenge others over the years, but has struggled to turn words into actions, often through no fault of his own. A frustrating 2022 that saw a bout with Fury’s cousin, Hughie, fall through twice, means ‘The Bounty Hunter’ has been inactive since December of 2021 – a draw against Jerry Forrest.
That time out of the ring, plus a track record of fights not being made, make Hunter an underdog in the race.
Martin Bakole has made headlines recently with claims that he’s a nightmare in sparring. The Congo-born heavyweight says he’s stopped both Usyk and Daniel Dubois in the gym, and believes he’s president of the ‘who needs him’ club in the division.
Following a good win over Tony Yoka in Paris, Bakole has signed a deal with BOXXER and Sky Sports, and is reaching new heights in terms of notoriety.
Having fought in April – third round TKO over Ihor Shevadzutskyi – and with no fight scheduled, he may be the best fit for Fury’s challenge. Whether his promotional team, who see a big future for the 29-year-old, want to throw him in with the best in the world is another story. It could happen.
Cuba’s Frank Sanchez is still an up and comer on the scene despite being 30-years-old. The 6′ 4″ orthodox fighter is yet to be scheduled for twelve, and his most notable wins are over Efe Ajagba and Christian Hammer.
Perhaps the most unlikely in terms of pulling power, but a hungry heavyweight who might provide a test for the champion.
The final man to challenge Fury wants it to be his first bout in the sport. Ngannou recently left the UFC after building up a reputation as the hardest hitting mixed martial artist around, and has made it clear that he fancies an entry into boxing for the big nights and bigger purses.
Their names have been linked for a while now, and if the champ is looking for the biggest spectacle, Ngannou can likely provide it. As for intrigue, it’s widely accepted that the MMA man wouldn’t have much of a chance. A wildcard that wouldn’t be a surprise if it happened.