clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Fury-ocity killed the cat: Fury vs Ngannou and the state of boxing’s heavyweight division

The heavyweight giants are awake from their slumber, but not in the fights boxing fans want to see.

Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images

In a year that is soon to deliver us delights such as Errol Spence Jr vs Terence Crawford and Stephen Fulton Jr vs Naoya Inoue, perhaps it was too much to ask to expect a meaningful fight in the heavyweight division.

Meaningful as in what should be expected of the showpiece division; the best fighting the best at their best. It shouldn’t be considered a luxury.

Announced in the space of a week were an uninspired trio of contests involving three of the four, widely regarded, best in the heavyweight division: Oleksandr Usyk vs Daniel Dubois, an Anthony Joshua vs Dillian Whyte rematch, and Tyson Fury vs somebody who has never had a professional boxing bout in his life, Francis Ngannou.

This three-headed monster of disappointment gridlocks the heavyweight picture from August through to October and, importantly, commits Tyson Fury (the disputed numero uno in the division) to just one ring appearance in 2023.

Now to the casual onlooker this may seem acceptable; after all, if you were to ask the average street-walker to name a member of the top 10 ranked heavyweights from any sanctioning body you’d most likely be greeted by a snarl or a polite crossing of the road. So for Tyson Fury, for example, to accept a fight from a well-known MMA star instead of say, Filip Hrgovic, you can see how the “$$$” signs made signing the contract easy.

But to the small percentage of us who are primarily interested in the health of boxing as a sport, it’s another kick in the proverbial bollocks as we are denied access to the crème de la crème of combat.

Fury may well, himself, lay claim to the heavyweight throne, but at 34 years of age the “Gypsy King” isn’t getting any younger, and importantly, he isn’t getting more active. Since beating Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, he has only beaten two fighters of any note or danger: Deontay Wilder and Dillian Whyte.

Comparisons to Floyd Mayweather’s fight with Conor McGregor or Muhammad Ali’s exhibition with Japanese pro wrestling superstar Antonio Inoki are made being knowingly obtuse — Mayweather’s career was done and dusted, whereas Ali was defending his title five or six times a year as well as indulging in these sort of stunts.

The narrative of these three fights will enable them to sell well, there can be no doubt. But that shouldn’t be the point. Usyk fighting in Poland (as close to his native Ukraine as possible), Joshua and Whyte’s history of “beef,” and Fury and Ngannou labelled as the two “baddest men on the planet” aid this.

In the United Kingdom you’ll be shelling out around £75 to watch all three and all three men will squirrel away millions in low-risk, high-reward tick-overs. In the United States, more.

For context, Fury and Usyk are both priced as 1/10 (-1000) favourites to win their fights, with Joshua down at a slightly more modest 1/6 (-600) in a fight he already won in 2015. A £10 treble on them all winning could see you upgrade your skinny latte to a skinny latte with caramel.

Our collective obsession with sanctioning titles has facilitated these distractions. Fury has been allowed an exemption by the WBC, who seem determined to keep the unbeaten heavyweight as their poster-boy and representative. On fight night, it will be close to 18 months since Fury fought a mandatory challenger.

On the other side of the coin, WBA seem more than happy to enforce their mandatories and see the cheques continue to come in thanks to Usyk. This week Usyk claimed the following:

“I don’t even care about the belt anymore. I need him, I need him, the WBC title is just a little extra motivation but the people and the fans just need to see us fight.”

This is all very well and good, but if you are willing to believe that these fights would be made easier without belts on the line then I’ve got some magic beans to sell you at a very reasonable price.

Maybe it’ll all work out. Maybe 2024 will be ladened with heavyweight scraps and the rumoured heavyweight tournament in Saudi Arabia will materialise. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll know for certain who owns the No. 1, No. 2 and No .3 spots and we can all move on with our lives and arguments.

But if boxing has taught us anything, it’s that in 20 years time we are going to look back on this period as a lost generation of fights that were never made.

Lewis Watson is a sports writer from London, UK, and a member of the BWAA. Follow or contact him on Twitter @lewis_watson8 and subscribe to his weekly sports newsletter “The 12th Man Newsletter” at

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Bad Left Hook Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your global boxing news from Bad Left Hook