WHO NEXT? WHO NEXT? – The Future of the World Heavyweight Championship


George Barry

Little under two weeks on from Tyson Fury’s historic win on the road in Dusseldorf, dethroning long-standing lineal Heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko, the dust is still settling from a result which blew boxing’s most famous division open wide.

‘Dr. Steelhammer’ recovered from knock out losses to Corrie Sanders in 2003 and Lamont Brewster in 2004, going on to rule from 2006 via the IBF title, unifying with the WBO in 2008 and the WBA in 2010. Nicely complementing his unified reign was older brother Vitali Klitschko who held the WBC strap from 2004 up until his retirement in 2012. The Klitschko brothers held all the belts and ruled as a clear 1-2 in the division for the best part of a decade. Impressive to say the least.

Regardless of the ever-present background aesthetic criticism of Wladimir Klitschko, to hold three out of the four alphabet titles and the lineal crown for that amount of time was a Hall of Fame worthy achievement. Klitschko helped provide credibility and stability to the division in a sport which often faces a public backlash due to the number of champions in each weight class and the diluted quality it inevitably brings.

Step forward Tyson Fury, crowned IBF, WBA ‘Super’, WBO and Lineal champion on the 28th November 2015. Two days after his success, the new dynamic of the divisional landscape took its first turn. The IBF contacted Hennessy Sports to state Fury’s next defence would be against their mandatory challenger Czar Glazkov, who earned his position with a debatable points win over previous Fury knock out victim, Steve Cunningham in March 2014.

To summarise International Boxing Federation ‘rule 3’ (Clauses in Championship Contracts) and ‘rule 5’ (Defense of Title) which state, “a Championship Contract can not contain a clause for a rematch that will interfere with the mandatory defence of a title, if the Championship is won by a challenger in an optional defence, the mandatory obligations are inherited for the new titleholder and the Championship must be defended against the mandatory challenger every nine months.”

Wladimir Klitschko’s last IBF mandatory took place in November 2014 against the unbeaten Kubrat Pulev; his champonship defence against Fury was allowed to go forth with the IBF’s blessing, after an understanding was reached that Glazkov would be next for the winner.

The rematch and it’s inevitability runs contradictory to the IBF ‘rule 3’; so while no blame can be attached to the IBF for stripping Fury, it seems more of a promotional oversight from K2 and Hennessy Sports. After praising such heavyweight consolidation earlier in this article, it seems a shame to see the alphabet titles being broken up so soon in what should have been a period of celebration for Fury and his team.

On the back of their ruling on the Fury-Klitschko debacle, the IBF ordered the vacant heavyweight title to be contested by their mandatory challenger Czar Glazkov and #4 ranked contender Charles Martin. While this seems like an excellent match-up between two exciting up and coming Heavyweight prospects, it does not feel like a bout that deserves its Championship status.

The winner of Glazkov and Martin will have a huge target on their back, and will inevitably be chased by the plethora of fringe world level Heavyweights frozen out under Klitschko’s dominant title reign. An interesting side note in Britain sees Anthony Joshua and Dereck Chisora ranked #8 and #15 respectively with the IBF – don’t be too surprised if they appear in an eliminator for the title in 2016.

Meanwhile, across the street, WBC titleholder Deontay Wilder looks to be in a difficult position amidst the looming presence of his mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin. Wilder’s first two defences against Eric Molina and Johann Duhaupas and his pencilled in third world title defence against Pole Artur Szpilka, have done little to enhance his credibility and standing within boxing’s heaviest division.

This leaves new champion Tyson Fury, providing he comes through his rematch with Klitschko, as the worthy unified WBA and WBO champion. All roads for the self proclaimed ‘Gypsy King’ seem to lead to a lucrative PPV date at Wembley next year; a worthy rematch with former champion Klitschko first, followed later in the year by a highly charged, publicly demanded clash with reigning Olympic Gold medalist Joshua.

Before his victory over Klitschko, Fury’s biggest career moment to date was the fight that never was – a huge domestic clash with former champion David Haye scuppered by injury twice in September 2013 and then February 2014. Team Fury lost a lot of time and money during this period and justifiably Fury moved to quash rumours regarding a defence against Haye, stating he would give up any belt before fighting the ‘Hayemaker’ in a mandatory defense.

The heavyweight division has seen a significant shake-up in the month of December. The aforementioned David Haye announced a comeback bout against unheralded Australian Mark De Mori on the January 16th after a three and a half year hiatus. The opponent choice was more to do with his ranking (De Mori is #10 with the WBA) than anything else. Possibly an early indication of Haye’s intent to force a mandatory position for Fury’s WBA world title? Time will tell.

If Fury is true to his word, we could be faced with the prospect of four different Heavyweight world champions by the end of 2016. Cue the public confusion.

Wladimir Klitschko somewhat spoiled boxing fans, making the Heavyweight division an exception to the norm of multi division world champions. As the division enters this period of uncertainty, let’s stay hopeful that the four alphabet titles can retain some value in their ownership. The Heavyweight championship of the world is an honour which carries quite a significant worldwide prestige – lets keep our fingers crossed it continues that way.

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