Tyson Fury's November upset win over Wladimir Klitschko feels like it's blown the field wide open and, through a combination of belt-stripping (courtesy of the IBF), hard-charging prospects (Anthony Joshua, Joseph Parker) and returning or revitalised names (David Haye, Alexander Povetkin), for the first time in a few years, we have a heavyweight division which poses more questions than answers.
WBC titlist Deontay Wilder might need to overcome any kind of aversion that may exist to fighting overseas if he really wants to unify all the belts, but for now he has the altogether less intimidating challenge of Artur Szpilka to see away, and the layers don't think he'll struggle. Wilder is a huge general -1600 favourite to win that fight, with only a handful of firms venturing closer to the 1/10 mark. Szpilka's a +700 shot to pull a win that, even in mid-January, would take some topping as the shock of the year. Assuming Wilder moves past Szpilka without much ado, a much-discussed clash with mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin awaits. If Wilder decides against manoeuvring out of that fight, the bookies make him a slim -150 favourite to prevail against the Russian (+137), a man seemingly reborn since being manhandled by Klitschko in 2013.
On the Wilder undercard in Brooklyn, Vyacheslav Glazkov and Charles Martin meet for the vacant IBF strap. Depending on who you talk to, the IBF's stripping of Fury was either entirely unreasonable or perfectly consistent, but what is clear is that whoever emerges victorious will look the weakest of the major champions in boxing's marquee division. It should, at least, be a competitive fight. Glazkov's considered the favourite by the bookmakers at -150 (4/6), but not by much, with Martin available to back at +120 (6/5).
Saturday, January 16 also marks the somewhat dubious return of David Haye, three-and-a-half years since his blowout - but ultimately inconsequential - win over Dereck Chisora. Much ridiculed for his limp performance against Klitschko in 2011, Haye has since attracted the ire of British fans for withdrawing from bouts with Tyson Fury not once, but twice. The Londoner's reputation was damaged further still by the poise Fury himself showed in earning his one-sided decision win against Klitschko last November.
All of that said, Haye is still a massive name in the UK, and his reality TV appearances and media commitments in his time away from the sport have meant that, really, it's like he's never been away at all. While Haye's farcical win against Audley Harrison is often cited as the reason behind Sky Sports temporarily dropping their support of pay-per-view boxing, matched correctly ‘The Hayemaker' is still one of the few British names capable of drawing that kind of crossover attention to the sport, and will comfortably shift thousands of tickets in the process.
Australian unknown Mark de Mori looks a soft touch for Haye's return, but with 26 KOs from 30 wins (no matter, for now, the calibre of opposition he's been steamrolling) is exactly the type of opponent to ignite the intrigue of casual fans and, frankly, after so long away from the ring, and coming back from injury, nobody should have expected much more. It is, as most boxing fans will attest, what it is.
For what should amount to a walkover, it's impressive that - at time of writing - 14,000 seats have been sold at London's O2 Arena already, which really just underlines that aforementioned drawing power. Haye has been widely priced up as a prohibitive -1600 favourite against de Mori (+1000), and is -600 simply to win by stoppage.
Fury, new lineal champion following his win in Düsseldorf, has gone on record saying that he'll never again do business with Haye following the double-cancellation debacle, but this is boxing, and the lucrative nature of that contest might eventually change things. In the immediate aftermath of the Klitschko fight, Fury was considered a marginal 4/5 (-125) favourite to beat Haye (11/10, or +110), quotes which have since been pulled.
Should Haye look good against de Mori - and you have to suspect he will - there's little doubt that he'll have options down the line, even if it's not a blockbuster late-summer domestic showdown that's next. One potential opponent for such a bout is Olympic gold medallist Anthony Joshua, who, 15 fights and 15 knockouts into his professional career, is already a proven pay-per-view attraction. The oddsmakers, perhaps surprisingly, have installed Joshua as the favourite should that fight happen in 2016, with the British champion listed anywhere between -187 and -250, and Haye at +175.
Irish firm Paddy Power have Joshua as odds-on (-120) to pick up a world title in 2016, and given that he's ranked at number five with the IBF, that's effectively not much more than the price on a fight with the winner of Glazkov (#1) and Martin (#3) actually being made, a contest for which Joshua would be a considerably heavier favourite. The same firm offer +400 for Haye to claim a world title of this own this year, while British bookmaker Ladbrokes view the latter notion as more fanciful, however, listing him at +800 for the same achievement.
One conceivable route for Haye might be through the WBA, the ranking body with whom he was held in the highest esteem pre-hiatus, and de Mori - ranked at number ten with the Panamanians - could be a useful stepping stone in that regard. While Fury holds the WBA's ‘Super' title, their regular titlist, the plodding Ruslan Chagaev appears eminently beatable for most top ten heavyweights, as well as those on the fringes. Uzbek Chagaev is scheduled to defend his belt against Lucas Browne on March 5 and is justifiably fancied at around -450 to beat the Australian brawler, who's around +300 to pull the moderate upset.
The biggest heavyweight fight on the slate, of course, is one we've seen before. Wladimir Klitschko's activation of the contractually-agreed immediate rematch always looked inevitable, and the Ukrainian wasted little time in preparing a short video message telling everyone he'd be taking up the option. It's possible that Klitschko will have home advantage once again - not that it mattered last time, given the comprehensive nature of the defeat - and he's still viewed as the more likely winner in the second outing, with the layers making him a -110 favourite (Fury +110) in what's essentially coin toss territory.
Should history repeat itself, though, the layers have ventured into the fantastical. Fury is the favourite - just - at -110 to beat Wilder (+120), but as short as -162 with Sky Bet. Meanwhile, on current odds, he would, remarkably, start as the slight +137 outsider against Joshua (-110) in a fight that would sell 80,000 tickets at Wembley Stadium quicker than you could say ‘Carl Froch'.