2016 Heavyweight Election Season
Imagine a world where countries have two Presidents presiding.
Or innumerable Kings reigning.
It seems ludicrous, right?
The bizarro world of professional prizefighting is one such place where at least three men now claim the singular title of World Heavyweight Champion. If dethroned kingpin Wladimir Klitschko is again checkmated by Tyson Fury in his July 9 attempt to regain the lineal championship from the now castled Gypsy King, the recently dormant heavyweight division may soon experience an intense race for the top similar to the wild presidential campaign now taking place in the not-so United States. Newly crowned IBF champion Anthony “AJ” Joshua and his WBC counterpart Deontay Wilder are the top young candidates most likely to clear the board and run the table.
Unequivocally, 2016 has been, and will be, the year of the heavyweight.
But let’s go back a bit first. In the hilariously underrated 1996 satirical boxing film The Great White Hype, Samuel L. Jackson’s ruthless Don King-like character, promoter Fred Sultan, realizes (while watching Witherspoon KTFO Eklund) “what a shame it is” that political power in America isn’t determined in a boxing ring. Feeling the burn of pugilistic inequality, hotel and casino mogul Peter Prince (based on Donald Trump and played by Corbin Bernsen) wryly replies, “If it was, we’d learn how to fight.”
Touché Mr. Trump, touché.
The two-term Klitschko-Klitschko Administration is now officially over unless Wladimir can regain office or big brother Vitali comes back with an iron fist to exercise his WBC emeritus clause. The people have spoken Wlad. You’re fired. Fortunately for fighters and fans, political power in the heavyweight division is determined in a boxing ring. Getting your name on the ticket can still prove to be tricky but once you’re in there, all it takes is one good shot to punch your own ticket to the seat of power.
As the U.S. prepares to elect its next president the heavyweight boxing landscape edges towards unification. The remaining candidates with a viable path to victory are:
Tyson Fury: The 6’9” incumbent looked fat and happy during a recent press conference to announce his July rematch with Klitschko in Manchester, UK. Mandated by his own sarcastic provocation that the world will be “happy again” with the “boring Klit” back on top as heavyweight champ and future “hall of dog shit” inductee, Fury 25-0 (18) draws strong comparisons to GOP attack dog Donald Trump. Both political outsiders are reformists at heart who use verbal bombast with reckless aplomb. Both reject all forms of political correctness and put their money where their big mouths are. In true Trumpian fashion, Fury seems to be getting under Klitschko’s skin. The usually mild mannered ex-champion responded to the tubby Tyson by dropping an F Bomb on Fury—and on the loyal subjects who agree with the Irish Traveller’s stance on LGBT issues and other touchy subjects like Queen singer Freddie Mercury.
Wladimir Klitschko: The vanquished ex-champ has a tall order ahead of him in Tyson Fury. Many suspect that unless the safety first Klitschko goes on the attack and takes the fight to Fury, he will again be picked off from the outside by the bigger, longer man. Their first face-off last November was as bad, if not worse, than any speech given by former Florida governor Jeb Bush before the Republican presidential candidate withdrew from the 2016 race after having to ask supporters to “please clap” for him. The Floridian Klitschko faces a similar lack of grassroots support when it comes to his regaining control of the heavyweight title. We all knew Wlad would one day join brother Vitali in the political reconstruction of their Ukrainian homeland. What we didn’t know was how soon that day will probably now come. Boxing’s winds of change are blowing away from old establishment candidates like Klitschko and Clinton.
“Beating Tyson Fury is all that matters,” claims the former champion.
Sound familiar? Now more than ever it should.
Deontay Wilder: The Bronze Bomber is a dark horse candidate from Alabama who holds the WBC title, an undefeated 36-0 (35) record, and an exclusive contract with PBC boss Al Haymon. This association could hold Wilder back while simultaneously exposing him to a wider audience. Defending his valuable green belt almost exclusively in America, Wilder is now set to travel to Russia this month for a WBC mandatory against very capable former WBA champion Alexander Povetkin. If Wilder is able to emerge from this key primary with his fourth title defense, his credibility as a true championship candidate will increase considerably. A Povetkin win would be a victory for substance over style but nobody seems too concerned with substance in these elections.
“I will be the undisputed heavyweight champion,” promises Wilder.
Anthony Joshua: The 2012 Olympic gold medalist who would be King is already IBF champion. The very same belt that was stripped off Tyson Fury has been picked up and put on by his British countryman. Joshua 16-0 (16) annihilated American Charles Martin for the “vacant” strap, just signed an exclusive deal with Showtime to telecast his title bouts, and will face fellow undefeated Dominic Breazeale this June in London. Because of his power, pedigree, and politeness, Joshua is wildly popular in the United Kingdom. His title victory, though less significant than Fury’s upset of Klitschko, was far more widely celebrated among British people. Fury is the man who beat the man but Joshua is the heavyweight champ Brits believe in and want to see more of.
“I’m only a quarter of the way there,” admits Joshua, a true realist.
David Haye: Speaking of truly unbelievable Brits, it’s getting harder to tell how serious the 35-year-old “Hayemaker” is about becoming world heavyweight champion. The former undisputed cruiserweight champ talks a good game and when he actually fights, opponents tend to fall down at his 10-toed feet. This result totally doesn’t happen often enough and when it does, the opposition is suspect at best. Haye recently ended a long period of inactivity (nearly four years) with a knockout of no-hoper Mark de Mori. There was talk of Haye fighting American side-show attraction Shannon Briggs but now it looks like Arnold Gjergjaj (who?) will get the chance to upset Haye while Briggs fights on the same London 02 Arena show this month. Neither Haye nor Briggs deserves to be thought of as a credible candidate. Of course, neither did Donald Trump but just look where we are today.
Luis Ortiz: The 37 year-old Cuban, not unlike Bernie Sanders, is an aging outsider with the poise and seasoning to rise above the fray if he can just get a fair shake from the powers that be. Ortiz lacks super delegates and super titles. Holder of the WBA “interim” title, Ortiz is also the holder of an intimidating knockout victory over Bryant Jennings. That impressive KO, last December in Verona, New York on HBO, put the heavyweight division on notice that Ortiz is more than just your typically talented but uninspiring Cuban big man. Ortiz believes in Ortiz and that means something. It means fans believe too and that other heavyweights will duck, dodge, and avoid “King Kong” for as long as they can. Say what you like about the long reign of Wladimir Klitschko, but “Dr. Steelhammer” always accepted the challenge of truly deserving contenders like Ortiz. That failed policy finally caught up to Klitschko against Fury.
Heavyweight Long Shots: Australian Lucas “Big Daddy” Browne is, like Ortiz, 37, and he somehow holds another version of the WBA title which he wrested from Ruslan Chagaev last March in Russia. It was later reported that Browne bombed a post-fight drug test but he then passed a polygraph, something most U.S. presidential candidates would surely fail. Here’s hoping the WBA puts these two “Geezers” in a “WBA unification” bout of sorts. New Zealander Joseph Parker is just 18-0 (16) but his boxing record is already filled with victories in quasi-title fights for the WBC, WBA, and WBO. Parker steps up this month against experienced contender Carlos Takam. Mexican heavyweight Andy Ruiz Jr. 26-0 (17) is quick-fisted, talented, and just 26 years-old but until he gets his weight under control, he’s the second coming of Chris Arreola, a real nightmare for Ruiz, who likens himself to Iron Mike Tyson.
As we see, a crowded field is shaping up fast.
This November, a new American President elect.
In heavyweight boxing, new hopes for a better, more unified future.