Heavyweight rankings: Joshua cements his position

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Boxing’s marquee division is booming right now, and our heavyweight rankings are designed to help you navigate a complicated landscape.

There is much to look forward to in 2021, hopefully topped by that massive unification showdown involving British behemoths Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua. Of course Oleksandr Usyk may have something to say about that.

Dillian Whyte meanwhile gets the chance to avenge that shocking defeat by Alexander Povetkin in March, while Deontay Wilder is planning to return in January or February.

Our fully updated rankings give you an idea of how the division currently shapes up as we head into 2021.

Heavyweight rankings: World top 10

Our rankings are based on achievement and analysis, and they ignore the current ratings of the sport’s alphabet sanctioning bodies. And they will be updated after all major fights affecting our top 10:

1 Tyson Fury (30-0-1)

The WBC, Ring magazine and lineal world heavyweight champion, Fury thoroughly deserves his position atop the mountain right now following a career-best performance in dismantling Deontay Wilder in their Las Vegas rematch last time out. That sensational performance came with ‘SugarHill’ Steward and Andy Lee in his corner for the first time, and many experts believe there is yet more to come from ‘The Gypsy King’. Fury’s comeback from the brink of ring oblivion is already one of the greatest in a sport with a rich history of incredible back stories. The road to a showdown with Joshua is not without hurdles, but should he navigate it, Fury could go down as one of the division’s all-time greats. Had been due to fight in London on December 5 (likely against German Agit Kabayel), but will now not return until 2021. Hopefully against Joshua.

Next Fight: tbc.

2 Anthony Joshua (24-1)

IBF, WBA and WBO king Joshua appears now to be fully recovered from that shocking first professional defeat by Andy Ruiz Jr in June 2019. The Watford man avenged that loss immediately when he outpointed Ruiz with a masterful boxing display in their rematch in Saudi Arabia in December 2019. A year on and when Joshua met Kubrat Pulev in London in December 2020, there were few signs of ring rust. AJ had the durable Bulgarian on the deck three times en route to a ninth-round knockout victory. Next up will either be that unification showdown with Fury, or a mandatory defence against WBO #1 contender Oleksandr Usyk.

Next Fight: tbc

3 Deontay Wilder (42-1-1)

Wilder deserves to remain in the top three as there is simply not evidence yet to shuffle him down the heavyweight pack. Was that stunning demolition at the hands of Fury him being exposed for his technical flaws at the very highest level? Or were those post-fight excuses valid and will he come again? ‘The Bronze Bomber’ has found a way back when he’s been down in fights in the past – normally by the sport’s most frightening equaliser, his right hand. Can he do the same with his top-level career? We must wait to find out after his trilogy fight with Fury was cancelled for now.

Next Fight: tbc

4 Andy Ruiz Jr (33-2)

Ruiz Jr shocked the world in June 2019 when he dethroned Joshua in incredible style to become the IBF, WBA and WBO world heavyweight champion. The world appeared to be his oyster, or so it seemed. What happened in the next six months ahead of the inevitable rematch with Joshua wasn’t so spectacular. By the time the second meeting with Joshua came around – in Saudi Arabia in December – Ruiz Jr appeared to have been enjoying the fruits of his shock victory a little too much. He came in distinctly heavier and chubbier than he had for the first meeting, and was unable to get near Joshua as the Londoner boxed smartly from the outside to gain a convincing unanimous decision. It is not over for Ruiz Jr at the very top level, but he needs to prove he has the necessary application to get in shape to make the best use of his surprisingly fast hands and potential.

Next Fight: tbc.

5 Oleksandr Usyk (18-0)

The slick former cruiserweight king undoubtedly has the ring smarts and talent to be a big deal at heavyweight, but questions still remain about his ability to emulate Evander Holyfield. The Ukrainian duly outpointed Dereck Chisora in their pay-per-view show in London on October 31. But he did not do enough to merit belonging with the absolute elite on this updated world top 10 list. While Usyk is clearly a brilliant fighter with unquestionable skills, doubts remain about his power at heavyweight, and his ability to take big shots from big opponents. We’re not saying he won’t silence those doubts, we just need to see more. Now pushing for a shot at Joshua from his position as WBO mandatory challenger.

Next Fight: tbc.

6 Alexander Povetkin (36-2-1)

At the age of 40, Povetkin arrived at Matchroom Fight Camp as very much the underdog against world-title hopeful Dillian Whyte. But he arrived in top shape and of course with that impeccable pedigree (professional defeats only at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko and Joshua). On the night, Povetkin would not only prove that he still packs a formidable punch, but also that he retains all the resilience of his youth. The game looked just about up when he was dominated for the first four rounds and put down twice in the fourth. But ‘Sasha’ regrouped brilliantly and came back in the fifth to close the show with a picture-perfect left uppercut which literally put ‘The Body Snatcher’ to sleep. There will be no immediate title shot for Povetkin, instead he will rematch Whyte in early 2021. The rematch was initially scheduled for November 21, but was postponed after Povetkin was hospitalised following a positive test for COVID-19. January 30 and March 6 were also scuppered, and the bout will now take place in Gibraltar on March 27.

Next Fight: Dillian Whyte vs Alexander Povetkin 2 (March 27)

7 Dillian Whyte (27-2)

Saturday August 22 was meant to see Whyte take the final step to that elusive world-title shot. After waiting as mandatory contender for more than 1000 days, a win over Alexander Povetkin would net him a crack at the winner of Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder 3. But those dreams were shattered when Whyte – after himself putting Povetkin down in round 4, was stopped by a brutal left uppercut from the Russian a round later. Now Whyte must regroup and will rematch Povetkin in Gibraltar in March. A win there and he would regain mandatory status, but a title shot right now seems a world away.

Next Fight: Dillian Whyte vs Alexander Povetkin 2 (March 27)

8 Joseph Parker (27-2)

Parker absolutely deserves his spot in the top 10 as a former WBO world champion and the first man to take Anthony Joshua the distance (Parker dropped a unanimous decision in their meeting in Cardiff back in 2018 after a highly respectable showing). Parker also lost his next bout after that meeting with AJ as he went down to Dillian Whyte, but has since started to rebuild back towards world-title reckoning with a trio of comfortable wins. Next up is a major domestic showdown with fellow Kiwi Junior Fa in Auckland. That fight though has been postponed from December 11 back to February 27, 2021 after an injury to Fa.

Next Fight: Joseph Parker vs Junior Fa (February 27, 2021)

9 Michael Hunter (18-1-1)

Very few top heavyweights want a piece of ‘The Bounty’ – he couldn’t even get a bite when he offered to fight Dillian Whyte for free recently. In the end Hunter had a much gentler return to action with a fourth-round knockout of Shawn Laughery in Galveston, Texas on December 18. It had been more than a year since his draw with Povetkin on the Joshua vs Ruiz Jr 2 undercard. And despite a little inevitable ring rust, he did what was ultimately expected of him by registering an easy win. Laughery was down in both the first and the fourth in a one-sided encounter.

Next Fight: tbc

10 Joe Joyce (12-0)

‘The Juggernaut’ claims the final spot from Daniel Dubois after handing ‘Dynamite’ his first professional defeat in their eagerly-awaited November 28 showdown. The 35-year-old made his experience count by executing a plan to perfection against the 23-year-old Dubois (now 15-1). Joe used a stiff left lead to produce swelling around Dubois’ left eye from an early stage. By Round 10 the eye was closed and Daniel took a knee to be counted out. It was subsequently revealed he had suffered a fractured eye socket. Joyce will be a match for most elite heavyweights, he has a granite chin and a relentless style – he just keeps on coming whatever you throw at him. The 2016 Olympic silver medalist could yet meet Usyk for the WBO title if Joshua decides to vacate the belt in favour of that showdown with Fury.

Next Fight: tbc

Honourable Mentions: Frenchman Tony Yoka, who defeated Joyce in the 2016 Olympic final, improved to 9-0 as a pro with a unanimous decision over Christian Hammer in Nantes on November 27. But Yoka made heavy weather of it and fails to break into the top 10. He did though break his hand and must now heal before coming again in 2021. Luis Ortiz, Filip Hrgovic and Zhilei Zhang meanwhile had all been in action in the United States on Saturday November 7. A victory inside 46 seconds for Ortiz (32-2) against Alexander Flores in Los Angeles told us little. Meanwhile Chinese giant Zhang (22-0) put in a respectable showing in Hollywood, Florida to stop Devin Vargas inside four rounds. Hrgovic (12-0), on the same show as Zhang, continued his run towards a potential title shot by crushing Rydell Booker in five one-sided rounds.

NB: Rankings updated on December 19, 2020.