The heavyweight division, like plenty of its biggest stars, is enjoying something of a resurgence. The leaders suddenly can’t get enough of fighting each other as an exciting era verges on becoming a great one. Here we examine all the key players, their strengths and weaknesses, alongside what the future of those fighters – and the division as a whole – may look like. 


Oleksandr Usyk, 22-0 (14 KOs), 37 years old

Recent Form: The Ukrainian presented his latest exhibition in heavyweight wizardry when he deservedly outpointed Tyson Fury on May 18 to claim supremacy of the division in a titanic encounter. Before that, last August, came a ninth-round KO of Daniel Dubois which is a result – and let’s not reopen low-blow-gate – that suddenly looks even better when one considers the Englishman’s subsequent form.

Key Weapons: Perhaps the southpaw’s greatest strength is his brain. He can recalculate battle plans in the midst of an exchange, and despondency, even when in the toughest spots against the likes of Fury and Anthony Joshua (who he’s twice defeated), never enters his head. That brain is also responsible for ensuring he’s been dedicated to his craft his entire career. Supremely skilled with incredible feet, which allow him to acutely judge and then control even the widest of distances, he also has underrated power in both hands thanks to accuracy with which he throws punches.

Weaknesses: Can we stop saying he’s weak to the stomach now? Fury didn’t go easy on that particular area of his body and though (like anyone) he didn’t particularly enjoy being whacked there, Usyk didn’t come close to folding. His size could be labelled a disadvantage against the biggest heavies and at 37 one day soon he will quite naturally start to slip.

Next Fight: Rematch with Fury on December 21.

The Future: Though we’re all getting used to calling Usyk the king, it’s unlikely he’ll hang around too long. A contingency plan for his inevitable departure should be formulated. Don’t leave it to the sanctioning bodies, though. We don’t need to go back to the days when 46 different heavyweights were calling themselves world champion.

Tyson Fury, 34-1-1 (24 KOs), 35 years old

Recent Form: Though he ultimately lost to Usyk there were moments in that fight when he boxed brilliantly and thus fears about him being too far over the hill can be shelved – at least for now. Even so, it was a defeat. Throw in the woeful showing against debutant Francis Ngannou in October and even Fury himself would agree that only victory in the Usyk sequel will do.

Key Weapons: The sheer size of the man. And when a man that ginormous can box so balletically and bang with authority, he’s quite the adversary. Against Usyk, a highly skilled counter puncher, Fury was in the middle rounds bossing everything, whether up close in the danger zone or at a safer distance. Even so, there’s few cleverer than him in battle, he’s outrageously courageous and has recuperative powers that are as good as any heavyweight in history.

Weaknesses: At 35, there is evidence that his punch resistance is starting to fade. He can switch off at times as was evidenced in the first and third fights with Deontay Wilder, against Ngannou, and again when faced with Usyk. He’s never really corrected his tendency to get clouted with looping, overarm blows, either.

Next Fight: The Usyk return on December 21.

The Future: The future of any fighter is completely unpredictable. Yet with Fury, whose entire career continues to defy belief, trying to guess what might come next is a waste of time. One senses, however, that his well of miracles might soon run dry. 

Anthony Joshua, 28-3 (25 KOs), 34 years old

Recent Form: Enjoying something of a rejuvenation with impressive stoppage wins over Otto Wallin and Ngannou in December and March respectively. The old swagger has returned along with the confidence that fuelled his early march to the top. However, for as good as he looked against Wallin and Ngannou (now 0-2), one wonders if those results would be regarded so highly if Fury hadn’t looked so bad against those opponents in the first place.

Key Weapons: Arguably the best finisher in the division, particularly once he has his foe in trouble, with his straight right hand surely the most destructive shot of any active heavyweight. The jab that frequently sets it up is a thudding rangefinder and, even at 34, seems to be improving his all-round skillset with each passing training camp.

Weaknesses: Question marks over his punch resistance and stamina are unlikely to go away. Though new trainer Ben Davison has added some stability to his corner (and his mind), there is always a possibility that he’ll encounter a boxer with superior in-ring intelligence and versatility.

Next Fight: Set for a huge Wembley Stadium homecoming in September with Dubois the current likeliest opponent, particularly if the IBF strip Usyk and put that title on the line.

The Future: With the pressure off, and plenty already achieved, an Indian Summer could be approaching as he winds down his career. That said, one loss – say to Dubois, for example – and one doubts if, with ample cash in the bank, he’d attempt to rebuild again.


Daniel Dubois, 21-2 (19 KOs), 26 years old

Recent Form: Good grief. Now this is a turnaround. Dubois, in the space of 10 months, has gone from being perceived as a quitter to the division’s most fearsome badass. Though he performed well against Usyk last August, ultimately taking the full count on his knees only enlivened those critics who swooped following his capitulation against Joe Joyce in 2020. After Usyk, though, came victory over Jarrell Miller before this past weekend when he fought like a man possessed and steamrolled the highly ranked Filip Hrgovic to leave him a bloody, beaten mess inside eight rounds. Perhaps all he ever needed was a couple of losses to loosen him up.

Key Weapons: If you were to build a heavyweight from scratch, it’s likely you’d make him into the kind of 6ft 5ins muscle-bound lump that is Dubois. Both hands are exceptionally powerful and, when in full flow, he’s exceptionally hard to shake from his rhythm. He could still be described as robotic as he instinctively plunders forward but now he’s been programmed to believe in himself, that’s become a huge advantage. Add in his relative youth, and the improving 26-year-old is suddenly fulfilling his early promise. 

Weaknesses: He makes mistakes aplenty with his approach play. And though he swallowed the best shots of Miller and Hrgovic, taking flush right hand after flush right hand from someone like Joshua, for example, would be a different matter entirely. Had this been written eight months ago, his mental aptitude would rightly have been questioned. For now, he’s answered those queries.

Next Fight: It might depend on the IBF. Should they strip Usyk, a fight with Joshua in September is the likeliest for Dubois, the current Interim titlist.

The Future: Let’s not get too carried away yet. He’s brushed off his reverses with aplomb but he’s far from invincible. Even so, not many heavyweights will fancy sharing a ring with him in his current form. And should he lose again at some point, all evidence points to a fighter who won’t dwell too long upon it.

Joseph Parker, 35-3 (23 KOs), 32 years old

Recent Form: Until Dubois started peeling the skin from Hrgovic’s skull, Parker was THE heavyweight renaissance man. Though some gloss may have been taken from the New Zealander’s December points win over Wilder following the American’s one-sided KO loss to Zhilei Zhang, remembering that Parker outpointed Zhang as recently as March should only restore it. The September 2022 defeat to Joe Joyce seems like an awfully long time ago.

Key Weapons: The relationship with coach Andy Lee is flourishing. Though Parker wasn’t necessarily short of confidence, there was always a sense that he didn’t believe in himself quite enough and, therefore, was a little too happy just to take part. Today, his calm mindset allows him to negotiate his way through tricky moments and his quick combination punching, as he raids then artfully slips out of danger, also speaks of his intelligence. Showed bravery against Zhang, as he rose from two knockdowns, and his all-round skillset is among the best in the division. 

Weaknesses: Though he does a lot of things well, he perhaps lacks that one superpower that could see him truly rule the world. Can be outboxed and been known to coast against lesser opposition and thus invite trouble in bouts that should be straightforward. Though he’s only 32, he’s soaked up a fair bit of punishment already.

Next Fight: Is thought to be close to tying up with a rematch against Zhang.

The Future: Perhaps always destined to be the Ken Norton of this increasingly exciting era rather than the Ali, Frazier or Foreman. Which is no bad thing, of course.

Zhilei Zhang, 28-2-1 (22), 41 years old

Recent Form: Restored his position among the upper echelon with a knockout victory over the faded Wilder on June 1. The loss to Parker, when he curiously came in at his heaviest weight for a bout in which victory would surely have secured a title shot, thwarted his march that had gathered serious pace with his two stoppage wins over Joe Joyce in 2023.

Key Weapons: His size alone makes him a formidable proposition for any heavyweight. That he’s a southpaw also gives his rivals plenty to think about. Well-schooled, and capable of deft movements to orchestrate openings for his heavy artillery of which his left hand is likely the most powerful. Further, his short right hook is up there with the best in the weight class. Has absorbed heavy shots without as much as blinking.

Weaknesses: Stamina has long been an issue for the big man and a problem, given his size and age, he’s unlikely to solve. That may play into his seeming unwillingness to ever truly go ‘all out’. That reliance on pot-shotting and being economical with his output will surely hurt his chances of really troubling the elite. 

Next Fight: He said after beating Wilder that a rematch with Parker – whom Zhang beat in the amateur ranks in 2011 – is next.

The Future: All depends on the outcome of that sequel. A victory would likely set up a money-spinning showdown for a title but, even so, it’s hard to shift the feeling that Zhang has likely already hit his ceiling.


Agit Kabayel, 25-0 (17 KOs), 31 years old

The German contender seemed destined to stay at European level, where he defeated the likes of Derek Chisora and Andrii Rudenko, without becoming visible to the rest of the world. The archetypal ‘perennial fringe contender’, Kabayel was then invited to Saudi Arabia in December, shocked the unbeaten Arslanbek Makhmudov and then three months later, did the same to Frank Sanchez. A very effective all-rounder who could soon find himself in the mandatory spot in the WBC rankings if Joshua opts to go down the IBF route. 

Jared Anderson, 17-0 (15 KOs), 24 years old

Though making strides in the rankings, Anderson is yet to shake off his prospect tag for good reason. Though the level of his opposition has steadily improved over the last 12 months, his 10-round points win over Charles Martin remains his most noteworthy achievement. Rangy, powerful and fluent in attack he might be, but Anderson is some way below those already mentioned in terms of accomplishment. Nonetheless, we watch his progress with great interest.

Martin Bakole, 20-1 (15 KOs), 31 years old

If listening only to his coach Billy Nelson, one might conclude that Bakole is the most dangerous heavyweight since Ike Ibeabuchi. And who knows, he might well be. He’s rebounded well from his upset loss to Michael Hunter in 2018 and since 2022 has notched wins over then-unbeaten duo Tony Yoka and Ihor Shevadzutskyi as well as trouncing a past-it Carlos Takam. His number one ranking with the WBA would appear his best chance of snaring a fight with one of the leaders. 

Michael Hunter, 22-1-2 (16 KOs), 35 years old

Gate-crashed the landscape with that victory over Bakole and seemed on his way to a big fight when he then outscored Sergey Kuzmin the following year. A draw in a gruelling fight with the ageing Alexander Povetkin, in December 2019, remains his most recent dip into world class waters, however. Another draw two years later, with Jerry Forrest, did little for his appeal and now the stylist finds himself needing to beat Cassius Chaney to retain any kind of relevancy.  


Filip Hrgovic, 17-1 (14 KOs), 31 years old

Though we should all have learned by now to stop discarding the potential of boxers purely because of one defeat, the nature of the Croat’s stoppage defeat to Dubois will take some coming back from. Psychologically, it will be tough to rebound and whether he can muster the enthusiasm to try is unknown. However, Hrgovic – who may well have gone a little stale in recent years – is clearly talented. A rip-it-up-and-start-again approach might now be his best course of action.

Joe Joyce, 16-2 (15 KOs), 38 years old

That Joyce’s fall from grace has coincided with the rise of Dubois, the man he defeated so impressively in late 2020, highlights the musical chairs nature of the current heavyweight scene. Once thought to be something of a bionic man, seeing Joyce twice lose to Zhang in 2023 – the second time knocked out by one punch – was shocking. A subsequent victory over Kash Ali was laboured in the extreme and did little to shift the feeling that he’s on a downward trajectory. Fights Derek Chisora on July 27.

Deontay Wilder, 43-4-1 (42 KOs), 38 years old

It would be a surprise to see Wilder roll the dice again after his recent loss to Zhang which followed a lopsided points reverse to Parker. In both bouts he had his famed right hand cocked throughout but waited and waited to fire. Once such an instinctive beast, one who would attack knowing that sooner or later he’d catch his prey, Wilder now seems to overthink to the point he can’t let go of his punches. When opportunities arose, they’d disappeared by the time his brain had sent the signal to his arms. That stuttering uncertainty, born of fading reflexes and newfound fear of getting caught himself, can happen after suffering the kind of brutal defeats he endured against Fury.

Dillian Whyte, 30-3 (20 KOs), 36 years old

The situation regarding Whyte’s status, following his drug test failure in 2023 ahead of an aborted rematch with Joshua, is far from clear. Since then he’s fought only once, stopping the shot Christian Hammer in March on an obscure, low-key event in Ireland. Was fortuitous to get the decision over Jermaine Franklin in November 2022 and took a pasting against Fury six months prior to that. Though it only takes one well-timed shot to restore reputations in the heavyweight landscape, Whyte ever returning to the Top 5 seems the longest of longshots.


Fabio Wardley, 17-0-1 (16 KOs), 29 years old

The British and Commonwealth champion’s crash course in professional boxing has been an exciting ride. Yet there is only so far his exuberance for a scrap can take him. Even so, given how far he’s already got, it seems silly to write off his chances of rising further. The recent draw with Frazer Clarke, a truly brutal affair, will hopefully spawn a rematch.

Frazer Clarke, 8-0-1 (6 KOs), 32 years old

Any criticism levelled at the Olympic bronze medallist’s quality of opposition was forgotten after his gutsy showing against Wardley. When allowed to, he showed he was the fighter with the more versatile skills but, at 32, one wonders if he has the time to reach the level required to test the world’s best.

Efe Ajagba, 20-1 (14 KOs), 30 years old

Against a certain opponent the 6ft 6ins Nigerian makes the most of his frame but he was outfoxed by Frank Sanchez in 2021 and was lucky to get a split nod over former amateur standout Guido Vianello in April this year. Though he’s improved in recent years and has Top 10 rankings with three of the four sanctioning bodies, it’s a stretch to picture him proving he’s deserving  of them.

Justis Huni, 9-0 (4 KOs), 25 years old

The Australian won the national heavyweight title in his debut and eight of his nine bouts were scheduled for 10 rounds. The steep learning curve has seen him defeat Andrew Tabiti and Kevin Lerena though he encountered trouble late against the former. His plans to win all the belts and be retired by the age of 30 seem a little far-fetched but Huni can boast serious psychological fortitude.


Moses Itauma, 9-0 (7 KOs), 19 years old

The buzz that surrounds the teenager has been getting louder since he turned professional last year. His talent, which was being discussed by insiders long before he ditched the amateur vest, is obvious and his laidback but uber-confident nature should serve him well. It remains to be seen if he’s big and heavy-handed enough to rule this land of the giants but his versatility and style will take him far. These are very early days and one hopes he’s matched with better opposition in the coming year.

Bakhodir Jalolov, 14-0 (14 KOs), 29 years old

New rules that have allowed him to continue as an amateur while notching up professional wins surely need to be addressed but have likely assisted his development – while feasting on mediocre opposition in the paid code he’s kept himself sharp against some of the best in the world at amateur level. Once that chord is finally cut, he has all the tools to rise very quickly.

Richard Torrez Jr, 10-0 (10 KOs), 25 years old

The southpaw lost to Jalolov in the gold medal match of the 2020 Olympics and he’s made decent progress as a professional, winning all 10 of his bouts inside the distance. Clearly a talent but overdue a step up, the likeable Tulare, California 24-year-old – aligned with Top Rank – seems primed to make his play.