British boxers have always acquitted themselves well on the global stage. Despite our relatively small catchment area, the Brits have typically punched above their weight on the world scene, with a host of world champions whose names still resonate with fans around the world.
Lennox Lewis was the last British born boxer to dominate the heavyweight division, before the undisputed champion retired in 2003. And after a few years hiatus, here in 2018, a pair of British heavyweights are threatening to rule the world, while building a rivalry that will light up British boxing – and heavyweight boxing across the globe.
Anthony Joshua, the current WBA, IBF, IBO and WBO title holder and the former champion, now on a comeback of redemption Tyson Fury have taken markedly different career paths to reach the top of boxing’s heavyweight tree, and both have huge followings across the country.
Joshua is the clean-cut Olympic Gold Medallist with a physique of a Greek god and a sledgehammer for a right hand. Fury is ‘The Gypsy King’, the colossus whose footwork and unbreakable confidence in his skills is a rare sight for a man who stands at six foot nine.
Both men are undefeated. Both have, or had, a world heavyweight title in their possession, and both are surely set to meet further down the line in a heavyweight ‘Battle of Britain’.
Right now, however, the pair are on adjacent, but different, career paths. Since knocking out Charles Martin in April 2016, Joshua has steadily worked through a host of mid-to-top tier heavyweights, with his stoppage of former world champ Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley the undoubted highlight.
Fury, meanwhile, took a near two-and-a-half-year hiatus and piled on the pounds before getting back in shape and reigniting his career and returning with a pair of wins over Sefer Seferi and Roberto Pianeta before declaring himself ready for the big guns of the division again.
Joshua is 22-0 with 21 KOs, while Fury is 27-0 with 19 KOs, but a potentially even more dangerous champion completes the trio. American Deontay Wilder has cut a swathe through the heavyweight division, earning a 40-0 record with 39 KOs. With Wilder holding the WBC belt and Joshua the WBO, WBA and IBF titles, and with Fury arguably still the lineal champion, the boxing world needs the three to face off to determine a true undisputed champion.
The first step towards that dream takes place on December 1 when Fury and Wilder meet in a WBC title bout where the betting odds shows Fury as a 5/4 underdog against 13/20 favourite Wilder.
But if Fury can hand the heavy-handed American his first pro defeat, the coast will be clear for a colossal fight with Joshua. The prize would be the biggest in professional boxing – the undisputed, unified, heavyweight championship of the world.
It would be the first time since Lennox Lewis that the heavyweight division had an undisputed champion, and the first time in history that a heavyweight champion held all four of the internationally-recognised world titles: WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO.
Pre-Lewis, heavyweight boxing seemed to be the almost exclusive realm of American fighters, while post-Lewis the scene was dominated by the Klitschko brothers.
But now, with both Fury and Joshua besting Wladimir Klitschko in the ring, the British duo have ushered out the uninspiring Klitschko era and ushered in a new, exciting time for heavyweight boxing.
And if we end up seeing Joshua and Fury battling to unify the world heavyweight championship, it would cement British heavyweight boxing as the very best in the world.