Monday, 14 August 2017 04:31

Wladimir Klitschko: Retirement already hurting heavyweight division

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Heavyweight boxing, for the first time since the 1990s, started generating momentum in 2015, culminating with Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko last April.

Perhaps one of the best fights in heavyweight championship history, over 90,000 attended Joshua vs Klitschko and the bout garnered front page headlines on mainstream sites such as CNN, BBC and ESPN.

(Image courtesy of Sky Sports)

The much-anticipated rematch was to take place this fall but the 41-year-old Klitschko, a sure first ballot hall of famer, decided he'd had enough with boxing and retired earlier this month.

... And just like that, the division losses interest because there are no big heavyweight fights on the horizon.

Wlad was far from the most exciting ever but he was a long-reigning, dominant champion who so obsessed with regaining his titles he, in the fight with Joshua, ditched his typical overly-cautious style for a more aggressive strategy that was more fan-friendly. 

And despite being KO'd in Round 11, he gave fans a performance for the ages and generated high excitement for the rematch.

Now what?

Joshua vs Pulev
Joshua will likely face Kubrat Pulev, a gritty foe who is, with all due respect, a top 10 or 15 heavyweight. However, Anthony has every conceivable advantage including size, reach, speed, raw skill, punching power, youth and experience (if the fighters' amateur careers are considered).

Joshua is a big favorite and no one aside from hardcore fans will be tuning in.

Title implications of Joshua vs Pulev
Anthony Joshua is a unified champion, holding the IBF and WBA belts. And although both sanctioning bodies had different mandatory opponents, the IBF and WBA agreed to sanction Joshua vs Klitschko 2. Now, since the rematch won't happen, they are seemingly hellbent on Joshua facing their No.1 contender.

Pulev is the IBF's top guy while Luis Ortiz is the WBA's.

Joshua will likely have to vacate the WBA strap when he faces Pulev, creating another obstacle for having a unified champion anytime soon. Instead of having three recognized belt-holders (Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Joseph Parker) like we do now, we'll have four. 

And that is a huge part of the reason boxing is losing fans... There are too many belt-holders, not enough champions and too many cases where belt-holders price themselves out of facing each other.

Tyson Fury
The controversial, charismatic undefeated lineal champion hasn't fought in nearly two years and is on a hiatus from boxing to deal with his drug addiction. And from the looks of recent tweets, he still might be under the influence.

Like him or not though, he is one of the most intriguing guys in the sport - and he's undefeated. But if he returns to boxing - and that's a big IF - it might be awhile.

David Haye vs Tony Bellew 2
Don’t hold your breath for the Haye vs Bellew rematch because Bellew's expectations are seemingly too high. Yes, he won the first fight over a compromised Haye and deserves a higher purse, but David is still the bigger draw and Tony seemingly refused to acknowledge that.

Joseph Parker vs Hughie Fury
This WBO title fight takes place next month but neither guy has beaten a name opponent yet and if you're not a hardcore fan you probably don't know who they are - or care.

Alexander Povetkin, Deontay Wilder, Luis Ortiz, Lucas Browne and David Haye
Assuming Joshua vs Pulev is all but set, none of the other heavyweight powerbrokers have a fight this moment.

On the cusp
Jarrell Miller, Dominic Breazeale, Andy Ruiz Jr, Dillian Whyte and Adam Kownacki might eventually be worthy of superstardom, but we need to see more. Even fights against each other would generate some buzz and would be a step in he right direction for heavyweight boxing.

Whyte is facing a relative unknown next week.

The state of the division
Even without any other big heavyweight fights scheduled, the prospect for Joshua vs Klitschko 2 forced us to keep an eye on the division. Regardless of what was happening (or wasn't), it kept heavyweight boxing relevant for the casual fan.

Is the heavyweight division running out of steam? For the first time in two years, it seems to be losing momentum.

Lee Cleveland

Lee is Managing Editor of, a student of the Sweet Science and longtime boxing fan.