It’s almost too easy to pick on the heavyweight division. The fighters populating this weight class are often lumbering and unskilled, and sadly lack the name recognition to live up to the historical luster of boxing’s glamour division.
Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko have mercilessly controlled the division for several years and are in the midst of one of the most impressive simultaneous championship reigns in the sport.
Since the Klitschkos will obviously never fight each other, it’s time to look at a list of four exciting, young prospects/contenders who could be saddled with the burden of restoring the credibility of the sport’s most significant division.
For this list, I have decided to focus on two Americans and two Brits.
I’m convinced that if the heavyweight division is to ever regain its untouchable status of the 1970s, it will be partly due to a shift in attitude from its audience and writers. We need to get past the fact that the majority of the best heavyweights come from Eastern Europe and start covering and believing in the potential of heavyweight prospects.
If all we do is continue this vicious cycle of perpetuating negativity and endless criticism, heavyweight boxing will quickly become a more viable spectacle worthy of state-fair entertainment, as opposed to a pay-per-view attraction.
With that said, let’s meet some young heavyweights to get excited about.
Seth Mitchell (25-0-1, 19 KOs), 29, a former Michigan State linebacker, has innate relentlessness and power. His natural athleticism is also rare for a heavyweight, and he has excellent balance and a compact fighting stance.
Mitchell was last seen disposing of veteran Chazz Witherspoon (30-3, 22 KOs) via third-round TKO on the Chad Dawson-Bernard Hopkins II undercard. Mitchell survived a rocky first round where Witherspoon had him hurt and hanging on, and this experience will undoubtedly help the young heavyweight as he moves forward.
Most impressive in the Witherspoon fight was Mitchell’s heart and resolve. Before Witherspoon rocked him, audiences had yet to see how Mitchell could handle adversity.
The results were positive, as Mitchell gathered himself and was able to launch a relentless assault in Rounds 2 and 3, eventually dropping Witherspoon with a good mix of crisp hooks and commitment to body punching.
The variety in Mitchell’s attack was impressive, and the poise he showed while fighting on the inside—knowing when to hold, tight punches, a variety of combinations—bodes well for the future.
At this point, Mitchell’s best road to a title would be challenging Alexander Povetkin—who looked vulnerable against Marco Huck—for his WBA strap. While he might not be ready for the Klitschkos, Mitchell brings excitement to the division as the best young American heavyweight.
There’s a lot to like about Deontay Wilder (21-0, 21 KOs), 26, and while his ascension up the heavyweight ranks has been carefully plotted, it’s reasonable to expect big things from this former Olympian in the next year or two.
Wilder has natural, concussive power, and the evidence of that is in his perfect knockout record as a professional. Wilder got a relatively late start in boxing and was still the only American boxing medalist at the 2008 Olympics (he won a bronze).
Despite his brief amateur career, Wilder’s strong jab and devastating right hand give him the framework to continue polishing and refining fundamental aspects of his craft. A jab followed by a right hand is boxing’s most basic combination, and considering that those are two of Wilder’s best punches, he should be able fight effectively while minimizing the risks that come with throwing wild or off-balance combinations.
Wilder has been brought along slowly, and now is the time for him to start gradually stepping up in class. He needs opponents who can give him rounds and show him some of the tricks he can expect to see against elite fighters.
Still, if you like raw power, Wilder is already your man.
At 6’9", Tyson Fury (18-0, 13 KOs), 23, at least has the size to match the Klitschkos. Fury had a short but accomplished amateur career, and he has seemed willing to fight solid opposition early on as a professional.
Having beaten the likes of John McDermott (27-8, 18 KOs), Dereck Chisora (15-3, 9 KOs) and Martin Rogan (14-3, 7 KOs), Fury has already held the Commonwealth and British Empire heavyweight titles.
Fury demonstrates solid combination punching and decent hand speed for a man of his size. One of Fury’s best punches is his left hook to the body, which is an encouraging mode of attack for such a young fighter. He has a solid right hand and he throws good lead uppercuts.
At times, Fury’s stamina has been called into question, and he certainly allows his left hand to drop, which leaves him susceptible to right-hand counters. If these kinks can be ironed out, Fury stands a good chance of getting a title shot in the near future.
Fury has disposed of most of his domestic opponents, therefore, bigger fights on the European and, eventually, world-level seem within reach.
David Price (12-0, 10 KOs), 28, was a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist (alongside Deontay Wilder) and defeated countryman Tyson Fury in the amateurs.
Price was a decorated amateur and has stepped up his level of opposition in recent fights. His recent string of victims includes Raphael Butler (35-12, 28 KOs), Tom Dallas (15-2, 11 KOs) and John McDermott (27-8, 18 KOs). The win against McDermott was especially impressive as Price knocked his foe down three times on the way to a first round stoppage.
Even more impressive, is that McDermott arguably beat Tyson Fury in their first fight and extended him to nine rounds in their rematch. The fact that Price dismantled McDermott so comprehensively might have contributed to Fury vacating his titles when Price became his mandatory challenger.
Price’s right hand is his calling card, and his fluid movements suggest he is relaxed inside the ring. At 6’8" he has excellent size, and he uses his long jab to set up opponents for straight rights and a variety of hooks.
A domestic showdown with Fury would be huge, but it is unclear whether that fight will materialize soon. Regardless, Price is a heavyweight to keep an eye on.