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Ranking Heavyweight: Joshua rules, but has contenders

Anthony Joshua has earned the top spot, and the division is solid at the moment.

Anthony Joshua v Joseph Parker - World Heavyweight Title Fight Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

1) Anthony Joshua (21-0, 20 KO)

Joshua, 28, has won three of the four major titles in the division and looked good all the way, struggling only against Wladimir Klitschko, a generational great — even at the end of his career, Klitschko was still better than most fighters. He’d still be top 10 if he wanted to fight anymore. There was hope that Joshua would face the No. 2 man on this list in September, but it rather predictably didn’t come off. Instead, he has a fairly dangerous matchup with Alexander Povetkin, his WBA mandatory. Next: 9/22 vs Alexander Povetkin

2) Deontay Wilder (40-0, 39 KO)

Wilder, 32, has been defying skeptics since turning pro, winning the WBC title in early 2015 and defending it successfully against Eric Molina, Johann Duhaupas, Artur Szpilka, Chris Arreola, Gerald Washington, Bermane Stiverne, and Luis Ortiz. That isn’t exactly a who’s-who of the division or anything — there’s a reason that Joshua is considered the No. 1 man almost universally — but it’s been a good run, and he’s earned the No. 2 spot. He wants the chance to prove he’s the real king of the division. Maybe it’ll come in April 2019. Maybe not. Next: TBA

3) Alexander Povetkin (34-1, 24 KO)

Povetkin, 38, is probably past his prime just on age alone, but he’s not taken much punishment over his career, either, and heavyweights can age better than some lower weight fighters. The Russian veteran was a terrific amateur and has had a good if not exceptional pro career. In his one real marquee fight, he and Wladimir Klitschko put on an all-time stinker in 2013, with Povetkin losing every round of a miserable affair. His best wins have come over the likes of Carlos Takam, Ruslan Chagaev, and uh, Christian Hammer I guess. But he’s a good fighter and a perfectly fine opponent for Joshua, even if the gap between the top two and No. 3 is pretty big right now. Next: 9/22 vs Anthony Joshua

4) Tyson Fury (26-0, 19 KO)

Fury, 29, is still in what should be his prime. He’s done more to harm his chances of a long career outside the ring than in it, where he was the top man, the real world champion, in 2015, after he beat Wladimir Klitschko. Then he didn’t box for almost three years. Fury returned on June 9 with a comical win over Sefer Seferi, and now faces journeyman Francesco Pianeta in August. I have a hard time ranking him lower than this, even if he needs time to work himself back into proper shape. Sanctioning bodies do “champion emeritus” stuff; consider this my version of that. If or when Fury gets himself in proper condition, he’s still got the style, size, and ability to be more than a handful for anyone in the division. Next: 8/18 vs Francesco Pianeta

5) Luis Ortiz (29-1, 25 KO)

Ortiz, “39,” lost to Deontay Wilder in a wild slugest on March 3, and came back on Saturday night with an easy win over Razvan Cojanu, a man who can be accurately but still charitably described as a “former world title challenger.” Ortiz wiping out Cojanu in the second round was no surprise. The big Cuban has power and toughness, but we saw him eventually outgunned against Wilder. His ceiling has surely been reached, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be fun to watch for a while longer. Next: TBA

6) Dillian Whyte (24-1, 17 KO)

Dillian Whyte v Joseph Parker Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Whyte, 30, is a terrific character for the division to have, and a damn good fighter, to boot. His only loss came in 2015 to Anthony Joshua, and since then he’s gone on a really good run, reaching a new high last night with a victory over Joseph Parker. Whyte had to get up off the canvas — as he said after, he still makes a lot of mistakes — but he’s the kind of guy boxing is better off having. A big personality, talks a great game, and backs it up with exciting fights. Next: TBA

7) Jarrell Miller (21-0-1, 18 KO)

Miller, 30, is the latest American hope for the division. I’m not a huge believer, being honest. It’s not even the conditioning, I just don’t think he quite has the goods to really challenge someone like Joshua or Wilder or a returned-to-form Fury. But I’ve been wrong before, will be again. “Big Baby” has a few solid wins in a row going — Fred Kassi, Gerald Washington, Mariusz Wach, Johann Duhaupas. The sorts of wins that may not mean he’s ready for the elite, but tell us he’s not a pure pretender, either. And he, too, has a star personality and trash talk game. Next: TBA

8) Joseph Parker (24-2, 18 KO)

Parker, 26, is still really young in the boxing game. He says he wants to retire by 30 or 31, so that would mean 4-5 more years. What can he do? Sadly, he may have peaked. With the landscape being what it is, it’s hard to imagine him getting another world title unless it’s some cockamamie scenario where a better fighter gets stripped and the belt gets contested between Parker and someone else who isn’t really deserving. He’s lost two straight, but to good fighters, and both fights on the road. He showed a lot of grit in his loss to Dillian Whyte, coming on strong in the final rounds and nearly pulling it out in the final frame. Parker is a likable sort, easy to root for, and would still be a great opponent for just about anyone other than the top two guys. Next: TBA

9) Dominic Breazeale (19-1, 17 KO)

Breazeale, 32, has done better as a pro than I expected he would, honestly. His only loss came to Anthony Joshua in 2016, and he’s won two straight since then, knocking out Izuagbe Ugonoh and stopping Eric Molina after eight rounds, both fights coming last year. He would make sense as a next opponent for Wilder. They’re both with Al Haymon, both big Americans, both have Olympic pedigree, and so on. It’s a fairly easy fight to sell for the time being, as Wilder has to fight someone. Or at least you’d think. Next: TBA

10) Tony Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KO)

Bellew, 35, has two wins over David Haye in the division. Listen, I’m not insane and putting him in the top five or anything based on that. Haye was pretty much finished as a fighter, but the wins were still pretty good, and I’d give Bellew a perfectly decent chance against someone like Adam Kownacki or Agit Kabayel. It looks like if Bellew fights again, he’ll do so against cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk. If that doesn’t come off, who knows, Bellew may retire. Next: TBA

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