The Heavyweight contenders are an interesting bunch which probably could be split into "veterans and established world level contenders" and "emerging novices". It's a relatively deep division on paper, but a number of the fighters are probably only a loss away from retirement, whilst a lot of the emerging talent still have some way to go to get a world title fight.
Tyson Fury (29-0-1, 20)
Lineal champion Tyson Fury is the most awkward boxer in the division but the 31 year old Englishman hasn't scored a win of note, officially, in over 4 years. His huge 2015 win over Wladimit Klitschko was the changing of the guard that the division needed in some ways, but his inactivity following that win, then his competition since it really have killed his momentum. An excellent performance in 2018 saw him controversially held to a draw by Deontay Wilder, and the two are set for a rematch later this month.
Oleksandr Usyk (17-0, 13)
Former undisputed Cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk is the WBO mandatory challenger for the and at 33 years old we don't expect him to wait long for his shot. We do wonder what Usyk will be like at Heavyweight, but stylistically he's the best pure boxer in the division, with a high out put, sharp punching, a lot of skill and high ring IQ. We do wonder if he will be under-sized, and whether he has the skills to over-come the size difference, but he is definitely a top contender, just based on what he did at Cruiserweight.
Kubrat Pulev (28-1, 14)
Bulgarian veteran Kubrat Pulev is lined up for a second world title fight, with a bout against Anthony Joshhua expected to take place in May. The 38 year old Pulev had one of the best jabs in the sport, but we do wonder what he has left given his age. In his only world title fight to date he was dismantled by Wladimir Klitschko way back in 2014, but has rebuilt with 8 straight wins to earn his second shot.
Luis Ortiz (31-2-0-2, 26)
We suspect we've probably seen the end of Cuban veteran Luis Ortiz, who has twice for world titles, as a world title challenger. The 40 year old "King Kong" has shown enough in both of his losses, both to Deontay Wilder, to suggest he belonged at world level, but with a brutal KO loss last year, and one in 2018, we suspect he'll be too much "risk" and not enough "reward" to get another big fight before he hangs them up.
Joseph Parker (26-2, 20)
Former WBO world champion Joseph Parker seems to have been around for years, but the 28 year old is more than young enough to mount another series run, if not a couple of runs, towards the top. Parker has proven to be skilled, tough, talented and deserves to be in the mix despite a 2018 loss to Dillian Whyte. Sadly his competition since losing to Whyte, in July 2018, have been poor and his February 2020 bout with Shawndell Terrell Winters has done little to get people excited in the former champion. Lets hope he begins to demand better from his team going forward.
Andy Ruiz Jr (33-2, 22)
Mexican-American Andy Ruiz Jr had a weird 2019. He reached the top of the world in June, stopping Anthony Jsohua to claim the WBA "super", WBO and IBF titles, with one one the biggest upsets in recent memory. Then put on 25lbs, and came in looking like a tub of large in December's rematch. He admitted there was issues with his commitment to training, then split with the trainer that had helped him beat Joshua. It's fair to say that 2020 is going to be a massive year for the 30 year old "Destroyer" who needs to find his hunger back in the ring, not the kitchen.
Dillian Whyte (27-1, 18)
Outspoken and controversial Jamaican born British fighter Dillian Whyte has one of the best records of anyone in the division, and on paper he certainly deserves a world title fight. The issue however is that he's offered opportunities and pulled out or turned them down, including fights with Joshua, and a world title eliminator with Kubrat Pulev. His fans will scream that Deontay Wilder has avoided him and Wilder's fans will scream that Whyte is all talk. At the end of the day Whyte is very much a controversial figure, despite his talent. He'll likely get a shot, but questions need to be asked in why he has turned down previous opportunities whilst suggesting he is being ducked.
Alexander Povetkin (35-2-1, 24)
Russian veteran Alexander Povetkin looked like he was pretty much spent last time out, when he fought to a draw with Michael Hunter in Saudi Arabia. Although still a very talented and heavy handed fighter Povetkin looked slow, old, and like a man who can no longer do 12 rounds at a comfortably pace. Expect him to retire in 2020 if he can't win a big fight. He's very talented, but father time has almost caught up with the 40 year old.
Michael Hunter (18-1-1, 12)
Former Cruiserweight world title challenger turned Heavyweight contender Michael Hunter has seen his career have a breathe of new life since moving up in weight and scoring wins over the likes of Iago Kiladze, Alexander Ustinov, Martin Bakole and Sergey Kuzmin. Technically Hunter is sound, sharp, quick and smart. Sadly a lack of real fire power at Cruiserweight and a relative lack of physicality is likely to be an issue going forward. In 2019 he fought to a draw with Alexander Povetkin and a rematch between the two would be great to see later this year.
Filip Hrgovic (10-0, 8)
Croation fighter Filip Hrgovic is a hard fighter to get a read on. He sometimes shows flashes of real potential, and was a very good amateur, but at other times it seems like he's going through the motions. We'd like to see him get a meaningful fight in 2020, though we suspect his slow burn rise to the top will continue. Sadly it seems like a lack of tests could prove to be a very series problem for Hrgovic who put on a significant amount of weight last year, adding over 16lbs between his first and third bout. If he doesn't get a serious test we expect his weight will continue to increase, taking away some of the fluidity that makes him a compelling prospect.
Efe Ajagba (12-0, 10)
US based Nigerian puncher Efe Ajagba is an interesting hopeful who had a rather curious 2019. He had entered the year 8-0 (7), with his only none T/KO win being an opening DQ win over Curtis Harper and looked like an invincible puncher. In 2019 however he was taken the distance by Ali Eren Demirezen and then dropped by Iago Kiladze, in a sensation December bout. Those two fights showed that Ajagba needs to be given time, and developmental fights, but they could be hard to land for such a perceived danger man.
Daniel Dubois (14-0, 13)
Englishman Daniel Dubois is one of the most interesting prospects in the division. Although he comes across as a genuinely boring person outside of the ring, he is as exciting as they come inside of it. Blessed with power in both hands, under-rated speed and skills that are developing well he is one of the true stars of the future in the division. At 22 years old he ticks every box inside the ring. Give the likes of Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder, who love to talk, Dubois is kinda refreshing in that he wants his work in the ring to speak for him. He'll be back in the ring on April 11th, when he faces Joe Joyce, in a mouth watering British showdown in London.
Joe Joyce (10-0, 9)
Olympic silver medal winner Joy Joyce is a very weird guy to get a read on. Watching him he looks slow, stationary, sluggish, and easy to beat. At 34 years old he's not going to get any quicker or more fluid in the ring. Despite that he's physically strong, power, rugged, tough and seems to just grind down fighters, taking wins over decent, though not great opponents. Last time out took a decision over Bryant Jennings, showing he could do 12 rounds, but looked like he was struggling at times with the faded American veteran. He'll be in action, as mentioned, in April against Daniel Dubois in a mouth watering clash. A loss there could well spell the end for the "Juggernaut"
The Heavyweight division might be seen as the division that sums up boxing's health, at least in some quarters, but in reality it's the division which has been the most frustrating over the last 20 years or so. We've had a lack of real stand out fights at the top level, with only a handful really being great, and although the division does bring excitement and attention to the sport, it also has a knack of not giving us the big bouts we, as fans, want to see. Despite the issues it does have some interesting fighters in it right now, and there are some good bouts on the docket.
WBC - Deontay Wilder (42-0-1, 41)
Heavy handed American Deontay Wilder is one of the sports longest reigning champions and the "Bronze Bomber" is also one of the sports most potent punchers. Although technically not the most polished man in the sport few will doubt the fire power in Wilder's right hand, and does have genuine fight changing power. It's also worth noting that he has got under-rated skills, without being a technical genius, lighting speed, freakish size and a lot of charisma, though he can rub people up the wrong way. Later this month he will be facing Tyson Fury in a rematch of their 2018 draw in what is one of the most anticipated bouts of 2020.
WBA "Super", WBO and IBF - Anthony Joshua (23-1, 21)
It could seem odd listing a unified champion below a single title holder but 2019 left us with more questions than answers for Englishman Anthony Joshua. The popular "AJ" went into 2019 looking like the best in the division, a power punching, offensive boxer-puncher. There was a robot look to him, but he was incredibly effective and seemed to be the second best boxer at the top, behind Tyson Fury, and the second best puncher, behind Wilder. A nightmare US debut saw him being stopped by big under-dog Andy Ruiz Jr in June and having his aura shattered. Although he bounced back to beat Ruiz in December, in Saudi Arabia, there was very much a feeling that his aura had gone...despite a much more polished performance in that December bout. His next bout is expected to be against Kubrat Pulev, in or around May, and it's going to be interesting to see what version of "AJ" turns up against the Bulgarian Cobra.
WBA "regular" - Manuel Charr (31-4, 17)
And we're back to crazy WBA territory here with the WBA still recognising German based Syrian Manuel Charr as their regular champion....more than 2 years after he last fought. In fact he won the title in November 2017 and has yet to defend it. Absolutely bizarre and time the WBA had a look at the 35 year old, and their recognition of him.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.