Boxing Monthly Mailbox: Heavyweights, Hatton and more
Welcome to the Boxing Monthly Mailbox! This week Tom Craze and Luke G. Williams respond to queries, comments and questions on Fury, Wilder and Joshua, boxing movies, Ricky Hatton and the light-heavy scene...
Before and after the thrilling Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury showdown there was much discussion on the BM Twitter timeline about who should be considered the world’s leading heavyweight.
We asked Tom and Luke for their take: Just who is the number one heavyweight in the world? Joshua, Wilder, or Fury?
Tom Craze: In general, there’s always a rush to proclaim someone as the divisional top dog, irrespective of how muddied the waters might be. The fallout from Wilder vs Fury – and everything we saw within those dramatic 12 rounds – means that we end 2018 with three men having a legitimate claim of being number 1.
The consensus seems to be that Wilder has the weakest grasp on that particular accolade, and I’d be inclined to agree. His win against Luis Ortiz was a legitimately world class one, in which he answered questions about his chin, his heart, and whether his power would be as devastating against a top 5 heavyweight. He emerged the other side of that firefight with a huge deal of credit and all of those boxes ticked. Nonetheless, Ortiz remains the only outstanding win on his ledger, and only a misguided minority felt the Alabamian deserved the nod against Fury at the weekend.
Going into Wilder-Fury, I felt the promotional bluster of ‘whoever wins this is the world’s number one heavyweight’ was wide of the mark. The history books, of course, will tell us that eventually nobody did, although it’s a fight I thought the Brit won clearly.
Casting Alejandro Rochin’s rancid 115-111 Wilder scorecard to one side, though, I maintain that it’s problematic to crown one man as divisional ruler just for the sake of it, particularly when there’s a unified champion, who holds three of the four major belts and has the deepest body of work at the top level, waiting on his next move. Forced to pick, I’d say the top three is now Joshua, Fury, and Wilder in that order, but from what we saw on Saturday night, a rejuvenated #2 could pose #1 all sort of stylistic difficulties.
Luke G. Williams: For me it’s pretty simple. Tyson Fury is the lineal heavyweight champion of the world and until he retires for good or is beaten in the ring he remains so. I don’t really care who the sanctioning bodies recognise or don’t recognise. Prior to the Wilder fight, I was unsure whether Fury was the best heavyweight in the world, which is not necessarily the same thing as being the champion by the way. (Joe Louis was at one point the best heavyweight in the world but not world champion, and you can find plenty of similar examples from boxing history).
However, I thought Fury boxed superbly against Wilder and should have got the nod, so for me he’s the champion and the best heavyweight around too. As contenders, Joshua has a superior resume to Wilder, but seeing Fury against either man would make me happy.
The release of Creed 2 led the @boxingmonthlyed Twitter account to ask our followers to nominate their favourite boxing movies. We received a huge response, with positive mentions for most of the Rocky films, Raging Bull and many others. So, we also asked Tom and Luke what their favourite boxing movies were…
TC: I should confess here that I’m far from the world’s biggest film buff. A combination of very little spare time and what appears to be a rapidly-declining level of patience means that committing a couple of hours to anything is, at best, a rare treat. Perhaps that’s why boxing, in its neatly-packaged, action-packed bundle of 36 minutes or less, is such a good fit for me. I digress.
That said, I probably fall into line with most when turning first to – what else? – the Rocky series in an attempt to answer this. If we rule out 'Rocky V' from the outset – mainly because it’s 'Rocky V' – I’ll probably side with either the first instalment or the fourth, with the latter bringing back vivid childhood memories of watching Balboa toil in the snow for reasons not particularly clear at the time, and then, when watching back as an adult, understanding all of its Cold War imagery and jingoistic stereotypes. Nostalgia aside, is it a good movie? Probably not.
Honourable mentions go to 'Creed' - which was almost surprisingly watchable, and brought the in-fight sequences right up to scratch - and 'Raging Bull', the finest cinematic achievement of the lot.
LW: 'Raging Bull' is often lauded as the best boxing film ever and although it’s a great artistic achievement I have to say it’s a film I admire rather than love.
For a wide range of reasons, many of them sentimental and relating to the fact I saw them in the cinema when I was growing up, the Rocky films are huge favourites of mine. The first in the series was deservedly lauded by critics and audiences alike, winning a clutch of Oscars and Oscar nominations. It’s often under-rated in cinematic circles due to the increasingly cartoonish nature of its sequels.
However, it’s one of those sequels that is my favourite boxing film of all: namely, 'Rocky IV'. For my reasons why I’ll quote – somewhat pretentiously – from my own words from the ‘Big Question’ section of the current issue of Boxing Monthly magazine:
“The original Rocky is the best boxing movie ever – a pitch perfect movie that is both gritty and heart-warming, as well as frustratingly under-rated by snobby cineastes. However, my favourite boxing film is Rocky IV – watching it at the Elephant and Castle Coronet aged nine was the most incredible cinematic experience of my life. A packed house stood on their feet throughout, cheering every punch Rocky threw. When Ivan Drago was KO’d grown men and women who didn’t know each other cried and embraced in the aisles. “
Our followers seemed divided on the question of whether Ricky Hatton should be in the IBHOF. What do Tom and Luke think?
TC: I’ve never been totally convinced of Hatton’s claim be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, and the 2019 ‘Modern’ category looks a tricky one.
The American slant to the voting panel, together with the fact that the ‘Hitman’ is perhaps best known Stateside for two shattering KO defeats, suggests to me that he might well be overlooked this time around. I’d argue that it’s a group without any shoo-ins, and while Hatton – undoubtedly a modern British great – has an argument, there are a handful of others (Marquez, Calderon, Michalczewski, Jackson) that would be worthy of induction next summer.
LW: The Hall of Fame contains several names who aren’t really of sufficient quality to merit a place in Canastota. Hatton is a borderline case, but his win over Kostya Tszyu was monumental and swings it in his favour for me. Mind you, Nigel Benn has that great win over Gerald McClellan and isn’t in, so I get the feeling Hatton will also miss out. British fighters certainly seem to have a tougher time making it through the ballot compared to some other nationalities.
Finally this week, Tom and Luke also grapple with a question we threw out online recently, namely: with Oleskandr Gvozdyk’s knockout win over Adonis Stevenson, we have a new lineal light-heavyweight champion. With the departure of Andre Ward, and the entry and emergence of Gvozdyk, Bivol, and more, who do you see coming top of the new wave at 175 when all is said and done?
TC: Gvozdyk’s performance in Quebec on Saturday was nothing short of outstanding. Like his compatriot and friend, Oleksandr Usyk, ‘The Nail’ went on the road to wrest both the belt and lineage from a quality fighter, and left no room for argument. The head injury sustained by Stevenson during the fight is an unfortunate – and very real – reminder of the risks that boxers take every time they step into the ring, and the news that he’s since been upgraded to being in a stable condition is encouraging.
In a sense, 2018 has been a changing of the guard at 175lbs. In addition to Stevenson’s five-year reign ending, Sergey Kovalev’s rebuild after back-to-back defeats to Ward was derailed in brutal fashion by Eleider Alvarez, and the Russian – once so fearsome at the top of the divisional rankings – now appears to be on the outside looking in.
WBA champion Dmitry Bivol looks the most naturally gifted of the new generation, and comfortable wins over Barrera, Chilemba, and Pascal prove beyond any doubt that he’s a level above the bottom half top 10-15 guys. Gvozdyk is arguably the better all-rounder and, unlike Bivol, has shown his knockout power translates when in against the top tier.
It’s a loaded pack. The brute strength of Artur Beterbiev – and the fact that he can now put a stop-start spell of his pro career behind him – means he’ll be a horrible night for nearly anyone, while closer to home, Joshua Buatsi is a prodigious talent already desperately struggling to get a fight at British level. In 12-18 months, I expect him to be right in the mix, too.
Gun to my head, I’ll go with Bivol, who – with the best part of a decade on Alvarez, Beterbiev, Jack, et al – has time on his side to get even better.
LW: Light heavyweight is a quality division with strength in depth which badly needs some big unification fights or a WBSS tourney. Sadly, promotional issues make either of these occurrences unlikely right now. I would tip Gvozdyk to squeeze past Bivol in the final of a knockout tournament that featured the cream of the 175lbs crop, but it’s not a prediction I make with any great certainty at all. I'll settle for seeing any combination of Bivol, Beterbiev, Gvozdyk and Alvarez squaring off next year, but I'm not holding my breath.