In less than three weeks, the entire heavyweight boxing landscape might look completely different.
There might be new champions. Old champs might come back and reclaim their precious hardware. The division might have a completely new trajectory. Who knows? It’s still really wide open.
With the direction of the next decade pending on a couple of title fights in the coming weeks, heavyweight season officially kicks off this Saturday, November 23, when Deontay Wilder puts his WBC heavyweight title on the line to fight Luis Ortiz … for the second time!
The undefeated Wilder, who has held the WBC belt since 2015, knocked Ortiz out in the tenth round of their previous bout in 2018. He’s basically been campaigning to unify the belts ever since.
Wilder vs. Ortiz really has the potential to be a big fight. Heavyweight bouts carry a certain cache, and Wilder, the division’s top puncher, brings a certain allure into the ring. That, and 40 knockouts in 41 wins.
Legitimately one of the biggest names in boxing, Wilder is on his way to amassing some of the best numbers and statistics in heavyweight history, but still this rematch versus Ortiz is rather pivotal for the future of his career.
Wilder will really need to deliver a strong performance against Ortiz to secure the title unification bout he’s wanted for so long. Sure, the image of “The Bronze Bomber” nearly flatlining Tyson Fury last December with a straight right-left hook combo is still fresh, but in the ever-evolving heavyweight division, Wilder must show more than just flashes of brilliance in order to earn that chance to unify all the belts.
With an impressive win, Wilder can likely call his shot to take on the winner of a December 7 bout between Andy “The Destroyer” Ruiz and Anthony Joshua. It was Ruiz who shocked the world in June, snatching the WBA, WBO, IBO, and IBF belts by knocking Joshua out in the seventh round. The pair will rematch in Saudi Arabia in a couple weeks, and there’s unlikely to be a trilogy, so Wilder could very well find himself facing the winner.
Of course, there’s always Tyson Fury. But who knows what “The Gypsy King” is doing these days. Apparently he’s training mixed martial arts with Conor McGregor and hitting pads with Darren Till before challenging UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic in the Octagon. Whether or not that’s true, Fury is certainly using his notoriety to play the prize fighting long game, pursuing MMA pipe dreams and publicity stunts while keeping his options open. Heck, he even dipped his toes in the professional wrestling pool, dabbling with the WWE on Halloween’s Crown Jewel event.
Fury, the lineal heavyweight champ, muddies up the waters of the division a bit, and he still has the potential to spoil everyone’s best laid plans. He’s on a mission of his own, which includes winning his belts back, the same belts he relinquished four years ago, and the very belts that are currently in Ruiz’s possession. Fury’s been on a solid run since returning from his brief retirement, a run that includes a controversial draw against Wilder in December 2018. That draw threw a major wrench in the division, as the winner was expected to face then-champion Joshua for a unification bout. Of course, that was before Ruiz stepped in to spoil the plot.
With so many pathways interconnected, it’s completely unclear where heavyweight boxing is heading in 2020 and the new decade. Even if he beats Luiz Ortiz on Saturday and finally earns a coveted shot to unify the heavyweight belts, will Deontay Wilder opt to fight the winner of Andy Ruiz vs. Anthony Joshua rather than pursuing a rematch against Tyson Fury? After selling north of 300,000 Pay Per Views in the U.S. and an additional 420,000 in the U.K. during their first bout, a Wilder vs. Fury rematch seems to be the biggest payday out there for “The Bronze Bomber.”
Then again, the economics of boxing are constantly changing now that the DAZN streaming service has disrupted the traditional PPV model. For the record, Saturday’s Wilder vs. Ortiz card will be available through FOX Sports Pay Per VIew, while the Ruiz vs. Joshua Clash on the Dunes rematch airs on DAZN. For his part, Fury has spent the last year fighting under the Top Rank banner, competing on the ESPN+ streaming app, and given the significant financial and contractual stipulations commanded by elite heavyweight boxers, it’s quite possible that the future of the division hinges on which two promoters are willing to work together to put on the biggest and best fight out there.
Ruiz seems to have the most flexibility to fight whomever he chooses, should he beat Joshua, and an eventual showdown with the undefeated Fury makes for an incredible story. However, of all the potential combinations and outcomes, a Wilder vs. Ruiz matchup, which might have the highest financial ceiling in the U.S., seems the least likely of all, despite the possibility to do massive numbers — like, Cowboy Stadium numbers — in North America.
With Wilder, Ruiz, Joshua, and Fury all at the top of the division, it’s fair to say that heavyweight boxing is in the middle of a major resurgence after the Klitschkos (brothers Wladimir and Vitali) hijacked the titles and stashed them away in Europe for so many years. There are a number of excellent options out there to revive the division and return heavyweight boxing to its former glory. One can only imagine that future bouts like Wilder vs. Ruiz and Joshua vs. Fury would be major worldwide events, but all of that hinges on winning and winning impressively, which is exactly what Deontay Wilder must do this Saturday, November 23, when he faces Luiz Ortiz at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.