Great Britain has always had its glamour divisions when it comes to boxing. Traditionally this was the Middleweight and Super Middleweight divisions. The legendary rivalries between Nigel Benn (42-5-1), Chris Eubank (45-5-2), Steve Collins (36-3) and Michael Watson (25-4-1) spanned most of the nineties, generating nine fights. That era also produced Herol “Bomber” Graham (48-6) who was arguably avoided by the aforementioned group of fighters. The Super Middleweight division continued to produce top class British fighters such as Joe Calzaghe (46-0) and Carl Froch (35-2) who were both ranked well within the mythical pound for pound list at their peak. Currently London born IBF champion James DeGale (23-1) rules the roost, with George Groves (24-3) hoping to win a world title on his fourth attempt.
However, despite Britain’s history of success in the twelve stone division, it is the Heavyweight scene that has been bubbling along nicely over the last few years, emerging from the shadows of the Audley Harrison (31-7) era, who although a talented and likeable boxer ultimately proved to be limited at the top end of the sport. There were signs of life with David Haye (28-2) winning the WBA version of the title in Germany against Nikolai Valuev (50-2) in 2010 and Dereck “Del Boy” Chisora (26-6) losing a respectable yet clear unanimous decision to Vitali Klitschko (45-2) who now serves of Mayor of Kiev. Oh yes, there were definitely signs. Nevertheless it wasn’t until late 2015 and early 2016 that the sleeping giant was truly awakened with consecutive, legitimate world title wins for both Tyson Fury (25-0) and Anthony Joshua (17-0).
It can be argued that the mainstream popularity of Joshua has forced other heavyweights to step it up a notch, with current British Champion Dillian Whyte (19-1) certainly experiencing a rise in prominence due to his status as Joshua’s most legitimate adversary. David Price (21-3), just entering his prime at thirty-three years old and once touted as the future of the heavyweight division appears to be reborn and refocused under the tutelage of David Coldwell. He seemed a likely opponent for Joshua on the December 10th Manchester card, particularly after the proposed bout with Vladimir Klitschko fell through due to injury. It would seem the fight between Joshua and Price is inevitable, particularly after the choice words the two have recently exchanged with Joshua admitting “yes, he dropped me in sparring” before adding “I continued training and that’s why I am here now”.
Whilst it seemed as though he was finished as a top contender with three victories on the bounce against opponents who could generously be described as middle of the road, it was ironically a split decision lose against Kubrat Pulev (23-1) that highlighted Dereck Chisora’s ability to still mix it with just about anyone . He is set to challenge
Dillian Whyte for his British title on the December 10th card, in what may prove to be a barnstormer if the recent video showing the two being separated while filming Sky’s The Gloves are off is anything to go by. A past opponent of the Dillian Whyte, David Allen (9-1-1) must also be marked down as one for the future. In a fight that arguably came half a dozen too early, Allen was able to prove his resilience by hanging in there after taking Whyte’s best shots while landing a few of his own. He is now ranked within Britain’s top ten, thus it would be wise to keep at least one eye in his direction.
Amidst all of this action, it appears as though the fire in the belly of David Haye was reignited as he returned from his supposed retirement with his first bout in three and a half years. Despite Haye’s obvious preference for extended hiatus’s and the criticism thrown his way for possibly enjoying the celebrity lifestyle a bit too much, it would be hard to deny his status as the best Heavyweight Britain has produced in the last decade, perhaps even since Lennox Lewis. David Hayes two come back fights have barely told us anything about how much athleticism and explosiveness he still possesses at the age of thirty-six, making a proposed clash with Anthony Joshua in 2017 even more mouth watering. We should not forget to mention the growing feud between Haye and WBC Cruiserweight champion Tony Bellew (28-2-1) who made his feelings be known after a stunning knockout victory against Bj Flores (32-3-1), who is ironically a close friend and sparring partner of Haye. In an ideal world this fight would take place early in 2017 and in spite of the outcome Tony Bellew would remain at Heavyweight and make his presence felt. We can dream after all.
Although Tyson Fury has recently vacated his versions of the world title, it seems as though the family name will continue to live on, at least according to uncle and trainer Peter Fury. In August he said of his own son Hughie Fury (20-0) “He’s an excellent boxer and he’s very, very tough as well. He’s good at doing rounds, so it’d be interesting” adding that “he’d be the most technically proficient opponent Joshua has faced by a mile”. 2017 could prove to be the year Peter Fury’s predictions come true, as Hughie will certainly seek to establish himself as a force to be reckoned with, both in Britain and on the world stage.
One downside to all of this is that so far there has been a lack of actual fights. The top seven British Heavyweights have thus far only produced four fights between, three of which took place over two years ago. However, at a time when the Heavyweight scene is more open than it has been in years, I suspect that 2017 will be a year in which we will see at least two or three of these fights, with more set to follow. Add into the mix current WBC Champion Deontay Wilder (37-0) who legitimately seems interested in proving himself as the best in the division, unbeaten New Zealander Joseph Parker(21-0) and the ever green Shannon Briggs (68-6-1) and excitement will surely follow. While the outcomes of these fights are anyone’s guess, what we can be certain of is that Britain’s Heavyweights will have a decisive role to play in the coming storm.