For almost this entire century, the name “Klitschko” has been synonymous with boxing’s heavyweight division. Current WBA, IBF, WBO and lineal champion Wladimir Klitschko has barely lost a round over the past decade. His older brother, Vitali, retired at the end of 2013, following a similar run of dominance.
Vitali left his WBC version of the heavyweight title vacant and Bermane Stiverne was able to win it in April 2014 with an impressive stoppage of Chris Arreola. Undefeated knockout sensation Deontay Wilder won the belt from Stiverne last January by unanimous decision.
With 32 of his 33 wins coming by KO, Wilder is definitely an exciting fighter. But nobody aside from his own promotional team truly views him as the heavyweight champion. He’ll have to beat Klitschko or wait until the Ukrainian legend retires before he can truly call himself the man at heavyweight.
Tyson Fury is also undefeated and has recorded two impressive stoppages in the past six months, against Dereck Chisora and Christian Hammer. I’ve never believed in the 6’9” English-Irish fighter as a true threat to win the heavyweight title, but there is no denying he has earned his shot. He should be next in line for Klitschko, or at least for a shot at Wilder and the WBC trinket.
But with his brutal, Round 2 stoppage of Kevin Johnson in London last Saturday night, 2012 Olympic gold medalist Anthony Joshua demonstrated that he might be the true future of the heavyweight division. This win improved him to 13-0 with 13 KOs.
The version of Johnson that Joshua dispatched this past weekend is an extremely faded version of the fighter who went the distance with Vitali Klitschko in 2011. He didn’t even look like the same fighter who lost more recently against Fury and Chisora.
At this point, Johnson is little more than a punching bag with a bit of name recognition. Still, Joshua deserves credit for handling his business and doing so in a highlight reel manner. It was exactly the kind of win you would expect from a potential heavyweight star.
Joshua took up boxing in 2007 at age 18. Within a few years he had established himself as the best amateur big man in the United Kingdom and in 2012, he turned in an impressive Olympic tournament to win gold in his native city of London.
At a chiseled 6’6”, Joshua is a physical specimen. He has the massive size that nearly seems to be a prerequisite for a modern heavyweight and he is athletic and intelligent in his approach to fighting. It’s still too soon to declare him the next big thing at heavyweight. But he’s very much in the conversation as a potential candidate.