As 2017 comes to a close, we take a look back at the year in boxing’s heavyweight division. Right now, there is no doubt that the main man in the division is IBF and WBA world champion Anthony Joshua (20-0).
Joshua put together the signature moment of the year back in April when he defeated long-time champion Wladimir Klitschko via 11th-round knock out. The win came at London’s cavernous Wembley Stadium in front of a sellout audience, making that fight the biggest of the year. Promoter Eddie Hearn and the rest of Team Joshua were tickled pink at the results as Joshua had become a world champion ahead of schedule. Joshua followed that win up with a more human performance against late replacement Carlos Takam, winning via 10th round KO to retain his belts. Perhaps more noteworthy was the fact that the fight went down in Cardiff’s football Stadium, giving Joshua two straight 75,000 plus sellouts for the year. There is no doubt who the “A’ side on the business end is in the heavyweight division.
Meanwhile, WBC champion Deontay Wilder has been struggling to generate the same type of interest in the United States. Some of that is not Wilder’s fault as he has had high profile fights with Alexander Povetkin and Luis Ortiz fall apart due to failed PED tests. Povetkin and Ortiz have failed PED tests twice in the last 18 months but defenses were mounted and both men are actively fighting. Wilder is in talks with Ortiz to make that fight happen. Wilder went 2-0 in 2017 and he is hoping his first round wipe out of Bermane Stiverne this past November is enough to move him to the front of the line in the Anthony Joshua sweepstakes.
The last of the major world titles sits in New Zealand with WBO champ Joseph Parker. The 24-year-old may be next up for Anthony Joshua. If that match does not happen, you can look for Parker to defend his belt against local opposition such as Australia’s Lucas Browne. That Browne has two failed PED tests on his resume seems to bother no one, so just go with it. If Parker does face Joshua in his next outing, the winner of the bout would have three of the four major world titles.
England’s Dillian Whyte and American Jermell Miller head up and active roster of talent that put on entertaining fights this year. Both were guilty of flat performances as well and both may find themselves waiting beyond 2018 for their shot at a world title. Kubrat Pulev pulled out of a fight with Joshua due to an injury and all three fighters mentioned fall in to a field crowded with contenders from an international talent pool. The entire lot are looking up at Joshua.
Joshua can pick and choose who his next opponent will be and right now, his team has been negotiating with Parker. If that fight does not get signed, Wilder will likely face the undefeated Luis Ortiz in fulfillment of the promise he made in the ring after his Stiverne KO. Some experts think Ortiz presents a formidable challenge to Wilder but waiting for Joshua might mean just one fight in 2018 and Wilder wants the payday.