By Tris Dixon
Dominic Breazeale, Andy Ruiz Jnr and Tom Schwarz are an unlikely heavyweight trio.
They might be the answer in a boardgame years from now, with the question who in 2019 did the three leading heavyweights box when all the fans wanted was for them to face each other?
We can only hope that this interim period of out-of-the-ring jostling is concluded swiftly and only then may we have a better indication of what the future holds for Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury. Three weeks from now, Fury-Schwarz would have completed the last round of heavyweight mismatches and then the bartering, the haggling, the name-calling and the charades will begin in earnest again.
It doesn’t bode to well for Ruiz or Schwarz in that Breazeale was the one many thought would present the stiffest challenge of the three blue corner opponents.
While he may have had momentary success against Wilder his challenge was emphatically concluded in just 137 seconds. Wilder turned Breazeale into a GIF, causing him to delete his social media accounts to avoid the kind of modern day ridicule boxers are sadly subjected to.
Despite positive noises from the Wilder’s camp about Wilder-Joshua and Wilder-Fury II being incoming, there’s more than a hint of the ‘We’ll believe it when we see it’ eye rolling from boxing fans.
The top three seem to be only interested in circumnavigating their way to the pinnacle rather than taking the fastest, more direct route, which is through one another. Because without facing each other we can only speculate who deserves that top spot. Fury fans will point to the lineage, Joshua fans might herald that spectacular night when he sent Wladimir Klitschko into retirement and the longest-reigning, Wilder, will point to his number of defences. They will all make their cases to be the best, to be the A-side, but the simple truth is they are not worth nearly as much alone as they are with one another no matter how hard that is for them to swallow. Yet with the money they are already making do they care? We will, of course, get the soundbites about how they want to fight one another but there is a well-worn phrase we all know about actions and words.
There will be speculation about the end of this year, there will be chatter of early next year and it will go on and while they may grow commercially, as sporting contests – which is how we want the game best represented – they will lose value. Often people look at Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao and Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson for the rare examples of competing networks holding hands to create a big night and a showpiece event. But neither of those fights are what they should have been. Tyson and Lewis were ghosts, Mayweather was nearly 40 and Pacquiao’s most awesome form was long, long gone. As a reminder, Joshua is 30 in October, Fury 31 in August and Wilder turn 34 in October. Gone are the days of us hoping for meaningful heavyweight trilogies. We haven’t had one since Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield ripped into one another through the early 1990s, more than a quarter of a century ago for those keeping count.
And who knows what will happen should one of the current big three slip up against an Ortiz or a Whyte? Will they be out of the running altogether? Will the big fights be gone? Would a losing fighter suck it up and accept comparative chump change to try and get back on top?
Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, and that none of the big three takes their eye off the ball.
But there will certainly be a shelf life of these guys fighting anyone but each other. The TV and streaming companies will have to make their money back somehow and at some point.
This week Joshua begins Mission America, his bid to become a commercial goliath in the United States and improve his visibility there, too. Along with the usual pre-fight engagements there will be post-fight formalities, talk shows, breakfast shows and so forth. And as that starts to subside in New York, attention will switch to Las Vegas where Fury faces the little-known Schwarz on June 15. Fury and Top Rank are already cranking up the hype machine on social media, and you can see that increasing exponentially, certainly when the press have written their final sentences about Wilder launching Breazeale into the next stratosphere and Joshua bludgeoning Andy Ruiz Jr into the convincing defeat the bookmakers are universally anticipating.
When all three of them have fought on this merry-go-round one may have greater value, which means the other two may want to spin that heavyweight roulette wheel again in order to bring more bargaining power to the table. That could be the default setting. Fight until one clearly has more chips to negotiate with and while that’s a clumsy business model for the fans it’s a gamble they all seem prepared to take in order to get one over on each other. But, of course, there is only one place where their dominance can be proved, where they can categorically announce that they are the best of this era, and that is in the ring. We won’t be talking about percentages decades from now, we will be talking about greatness – or how greed cost us a series of fights we all wanted.