It’s time for the best to meet the best at heavyweight, even if the sanctioning bodies don’t agree
Why Joshua-wilder is a must
ALL it takes is one buttery heavyweight to be smeared all over the ring and everything is forgiven. Forget that Bermane Stiverne had done nothing to deserve a shot at the WBC heavyweight title. Forget that Stiverne was in no condition to be allowed anywhere near a boxing ring, let alone plonked in one where a powerful slugger like Deontay Wilder could take a run up and smash his face in. Forget all that. Because we got to see a massive knockout in a ‘world’ heavyweight title fight and it makes Wilder versus IBF and WBA boss Anthony Joshua all the more marketable. And that’s just what we wanted, right?
To an extent, yes, but quenching some fans’ thirst for a brutal slaying covers up all manner of sins. Granted, it was absolutely imperative that Wilder – cruelly denied a date with Luis Ortiz after the Cuban flunked a drugs test – won emphatically against the undeserving Stiverne. Another struggle like those endured in previous defences would not have helped his cause, nor would it have done anything for the sport or the division. But should we just ignore that Stiverne was dangerously out of his depth, both physically and mentally? We should certainly put the victory into perspective before getting carried away, that’s for sure.
The WBC, still deciding whether or not Ortiz will be banished from their rankings due to multiple drug offences, should be made to explain why Stiverne was their No.1 contender - despite being inactive since 2015, and testing positive for banned substances the following year.
Absolutely we want to see Joshua-wilder as soon as possible because the alternatives for both men, with the exception of WBO titlist Joseph Parker, make grim reading.
Stiverne isn’t the only poster boy for sanctioning bodies behaving badly. Having despatched the sturdy but unspectacular Carlos Takam at the end of October to fulfil his IBF mandatory commitment, Joshua could soon be ordered to take on Russian Alexander Ustinov – the WBA’S leading contender. Below Ustinov in the WBA charts, in descending order, are Fres Oquendo (inactive since failing a postfight drug test in 2014), Manuel Charr (stopped in five rounds by cruiserweight Maris Briedis in his most recent contest against a known opponent, and set to take on Ustinov in an eliminator) and Performance Enhancing Drugs connoisseur, Alexander Povetkin.
The WBO too highly regard Povetkin (unranked by the WBC and IBF due to his crimes against the sport) and have matched him with the mediocre Christian Hammer in a December eliminator. Povetkin, whether illegally enhanced or not, should be far too skilled for Hammer and will then find himself in pole position for a crack at a major belt. If it wasn’t so sad, the lunacy of it all would be hilarious.
All of the above highlights how impossible it will be for any fighter to reside over all four titles for any length of time. Both Joshua and Wilder have spoken of their dreams to be the undisputed king but to do so – for more than one night only – would mean juggling an unworkable schedule of mandatory commitments. Not only that, they will have to grant numerous drug offenders a shot at their hard-earned gold. While it all seems like a lovely idea, romantic almost, to unify the banner division, perhaps the likes of Joshua, Wilder and Parker should just focus on fighting each other and sort out the true champion between them. Given that each is only likely to fight twice a year in today’s climate, spending six months building up for a Ustinov-type or a juiced-up fraud seems like a horrible waste of time. The power should be with the leaders to ensure a true king is recognised, and not the sanctioning bodies with their ridiculous rules and rankings. It’s wholly understandable, given the division’s rich history, why the leaders want that undisputed tagline, but anyone disputing the claims of the last man standing from Joshua, Wilder and Parker will have their sanity scrutinised. In turn, blue sky thinking though it might be, the WBC, the WBA, the IBF and the WBO should then be scrambling to be associated with the true world heavyweight champion, rather than the king being eager for their approval.
STIVERNE ISN’T THE ONLY POSTER BOY FOR SANCTIONING BODIES BEHAVING BADLY
WHAT A MESS: Stiverne had no business being in a world title fight
Cover photography Main: ED DILLER/ DIBELLA ENTERTAINMENT, QUEENSBERRY PROMOTIONS/ MARK ROBINSON & HUW FAIRCLOUGH