Top 5 upcoming heavyweight boxers
Outside of the biggest names in heavyweight boxing — so we’re talking the reigning champions and top contenders — who are the upcoming prospects who are nearly ready to make a challenge in the top echelons of the sport?
Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury hold all the world heavyweight titles between them, with Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua holding the No.1 and No.2 spots.
But below the level of world champs, interim titlists and former world champions, just who is part of the next heavyweight crop coming through?
In Britain, some of the prime contenders include British champ Fabio Wardley, English titleholder Solomon Dacres, Southern Area titlist Johnny Fisher, Frazer Clarke, David Adeleye, Moses Itauma and Tommy Welch, among others. However, all of these British prospects are ranked just outside of the world’s top 20, according to BoxRec, although Wardley (WBA #12) and Adeleye (WBO #10) do hold top 15 world rankings.
Boxing is one of the favourite sports to place a bet on. If you’re also keen on online gaming, first check out the best new online casinos in the UK according to talkSPORT, then see below for a list of five credible contenders on the cusp of championship chances:
Filip Hrgović (16-0, 13KO)
The 31-year-old undefeated Croatian is currently the mandatory challenger to Oleksandr Usyk’s IBF World title.
In his last two bouts, he has defeated Zhilei Zang by unanimous decision, albeit in a very close fight that some had the Chinese heavyweight just edging, and his last win was over unbeaten Aussie Demsey McKean, in a 12th-round knockout with just two minutes left to go in the fight.
He is currently next in line to fight for the unified world titles, as the WBA was the first in rotation, which ended with ‘Regular’ champion Daniel Dubois losing his challenge in August 2023.
Frank Sánchez (22-0, 15KO)
The Cuban No.1 has had 10 10-rounders in a row, with six ending early. ‘The Cuban Flash’ was an outstanding amateur and is more than ready for a word title shot, having already defeated Efe Ajagba, Christian Hammer and Carlos Negrón, who were 66-11 between them.
He is ranked in the top five with three of the four governing bodies, but is in a big queue lining up for a shot at Usyk, with Hrgović and Zhang currently in front of him. A shrewd but risky move would be to face WBC #3 Arslanbek Makhmudov to take his higher world ranking with the World Boxing Council, where he could put pressure on champion Tyson Fury for a shot.
Jared Anderson (16-0, 15KO)
Jared ‘Big Baby’ Anderson has a fine record of 16 wins, all but one coming by way of knockout, but it’s that sole points victory that has raised question marks over this 23-year-old’s prospects.
A few fans believed his performance against Charles Martin in his penultimate fight last July wasn’t very convincing, despite him scoring a third-round knockdown and winning widely on all three judges’ cards.
Less than two months later, he blew Rudenko away in five rounds.
He likes to work to the body but has a few weaknesses that can be exploited at the top level, like when he gets caught on the way out with his hands down.
Arslanbek Makhmudov (17-0, 16KO)
The Russian ‘Lion’ is a big, heavy clubber who has already won NABF and WBC Silver heavyweight titles.
The 34-year-old, based in Canada, has only been taken the distance by the durable Carlos Takam, but even he was knocked down twice in the process.
Despite not really taking on anyone truly noteworthy yet, Makhmudov does have a few decent gatekeepers on his record — Carlos Takam, Mariusz Wach, Erken Teper and Michael Wallisch.
Although he has a perfect record with plenty of stoppages, he doesn’t look like a definite world-beater. You can tell that when he steps up to a decent level, it could be a very different story for him. He will always have a puncher’s chance but you couldn’t put him in with the likes of Usyk or Fury yet. Perhaps a matchup with any of the others in this list will tell if he truly has what it takes.
13 of his 16 KOs have come within two rounds, so this big-hitter will need to be respected by whoever his future opponents may be.
Efe Ajagba (18-1, 14KO)
‘The Silent Roller’ represented Nigeria in the Rio 2016 Olympics and has won a WBC Silver heavyweight title as a pro.
It wasn’t long ago that Efe Ajagba was a name in the running to face Tyson Fury when he was struggling to find an opponent.
His roll of the dice against the aforementioned Frank Sánchez saw him beaten comprehensively by a faster, more reactive, harder-punching fighter on the night. He was knocked down in the seventh after keeping his head in the firing line for too long.
He came back strongly from that sole defeat to score a routine knockout win over Jozsef Darmos. He followed this up with an impressive victory against 18-0 Stephen Shaw, then he took the WBC Silver from Zhan Kossobutskiy, with all three wins coming within a year, from August 2022 to August 2023.
With the undisputed showdown between the only two heavyweight champions Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk looking increasingly unlikely to ever take place — at least anytime soon — and the Anthony Joshua vs Deontay Wilder talks having broken down, it’s up to the next crop coming through to reshape the disappointing heavyweight landscape.
You would hope that these aspiring champions will take note of the names above not fighting each other as they should be, and remember that when it’s their turn to take over, they will make the fights the fans want to see.