2024 is shaping up to be an incredible year in the boxing Heavyweight division.
Despite an early set back with the Undisputed clash between pound for pound king’s Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury being postponed until May, the upcoming months offer boxing fans a mouthwatering schedule of heavyweight action.
Former unified Heavyweight world champion, ‘AJ’ Anthony Joshua (27-3-0) will face former UFC Heavyweight champion Francis “The Predator” Ngannou (0-1-0) on March 8th in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Joshua, coming off three important wins against Jermaine Franklin, Robert Helenius and Otto Wallin, will be eager to impress against Ngannou.
However this will be not walk over for AJ, with Ngannou proving his extreme punch power and boxing ability when dropped current WBC Champion Tyson Fury in their fight last year. He may not have got the decision in the end, but he certainly put the division on notice, hence why he’s been given this huge opportunity against Joshua.
If the Brit can overcome the challenge of Ngannou, he will in a prime position to challenge for the Heavyweight world championships again.
It’s unclear whether Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury will instantly have a rematch after their bout in May. If not, AJ will undoubtedly face the winner.
On the undercard of Joshua vs Ngannou, ‘Big Bang’ Zhilei Zhang (26-1-0) will fight Joseph Parker (34-3-0) in what is another incredible matchup. The Chinese southpaw, Zhang, is coming off two upset knockout wins over British star Joe Joyce, meanwhile Parker, is fresh from the biggest win of his career, beating knockout machine Deontay Wilder in a 12 round beat down last December.
Zhang currently holds the WBO Interim world heavyweight title, and with Parker ranked no.3 with the WBO, the winner will be mandatory to fight for the WBO world title, which at the moment is property of Oleksandr Usyk, however depending his future fights, that could all change.
3 weeks after the AJ vs Ngannou card in Saudi Arabia, attentions turn to the UK, where Fabio Wardley (17-0-0) will defend the British and Commonwealth Heavyweight titles against Olympic bronze medalist Fraser Clarke (8-0-0) at the 02 Arena in London.
This will be by far the biggest test of Clarke’s profesional career. Wardley has wins over Eric Molina, Nick Webb, Nathan Gorman and most recently over British rival David Adeleye, who at the time was undefeated.
The fight is coming a great time for British boxing, with more and more big fights moving abroad, especially to the Middle-East.
As already mentioned, May 18th will be a historic day not only in boxing, but in sport as a whole as Oleksandr Usyk (21-0-0) will meet Tyson Fury (34-0-1) for the Undisputed Heavweight world championships.
Many fans will still be sceptical that this bout goes ahead, as it has already been rescheduled once following Fury suffering a horrific cut just two weeks out from the original date the fight was planned for. The cut, caused by Fury’s sparring partner Agron Smakici, required 11 stitches.
However, orchestrator of the Saudi Arabian boxing takeover Turki Alalshikh, has introduced a $10 million penalty clause for either fighter if they pull out of the bout on May 18th.
Fury will be looking to significantly improve on his lacklustre performance against Francis Ngannou last year, which saw him hit the canvas for the first time since his trilogy bout with Deontay Wilder.
Usyk, despite coming off a successful defense of his world titles against ‘Dynamite’ Daniel Dubois, was undoubtedly questioned in the bout, after being dropped by a thunderous punch by Dubois which the referee deemed to be a low blow, but it was extremely tight and seemed to be just open the belt-line.
The Ukrainian superstar went on to stop Dubois, but by the time he faces Fury, he would’ve been out the ring for nine months.
With many more fights to be announced, this year is shaping up to be extremely exciting and finally boxing fans will get what they want and countless years of mega fights failing to come to fruition.