HEAVYWEIGHT boxing is a funny old game with the division’s biggest stars reigning at the top – supported by some rapidly rising starlets and the odd clown.
Boxing bible BoxRec still has 54-year-old Oliver McCall in their top 65 after he last boxed in 2019 in a small-hall Italy show and Oleksandr Usyk is a mandatory challenger ranked No3, despite just one fight at heavyweight for the cruiserweight legend.
Dillian Whyte has been the WBC’s No1 ranked challenger for almost three years and – thanks to the Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder trilogy – is still miles off a shot at the green and gold he has invested a fortune in chasing.
And Adam Kowncaki – the red-hot Polish ticket seller tipped to rise to the top – was walloped by average Finnish contender Robert Helenius last time out, to prove once again that one punch really can change everything in the blue riband division.
Who fancied Andy Ruiz Jr to stun Anthony Joshua last June or Tyson Fury to walk down and destroy Deontay Wilder like a Mexican gunslinger in their rematch?
With Fury, AJ and Wilder now tied up in rematches, mandatories and hopefully an undisputed decider in the next year, SunSport looks at the young bucks who could burst on the scene and make serious cash.
Record: 10-0 [eight KOs]
The 6ft 6in ace is no spring chicken but is fresh in professional boxing terms after focusing on his amateur career.
Last time out in Saudi Arabia, like a lot of the fighters on the Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz 2 undercard, he looked off his usual pace.
But solid names like Kevin Johnson and Eric Molina are now on his record – as is Brit gatekeeper Tom Little – after a celebrated amateur stretch.
Hrgovic’s amateur career peaked with a bronze at the 2016 Olympics, leaving him with a record of 74-15.
Seen as Eastern Europe’s heir to Wladimir Klitschko, Hrgovic has a thunderous right hand but is lacking the speed or agility some of his peers on similar upward curves are boasting.
Record: 7-0 [Six KOs]
The 6ft 7in ace lost his first five amateur fights – against top opposition like Hrgovic and Erislandy Savon – but snatched the 2016 Olympic gold ahead of Englishman Joe Joyce in a very controversial decision.
But his professional career has been severely stunted by a ban after he missed three doping tests over a 12-month period.
The one-sided win over English warhorse Dave Allen is probably Yoka’s most impressive to date.
The prospect is the same height as monster-punching Deontay Wilder but weighs in at 17st for most fights and his greatest attribute is his lightning speed for such a towering frame.
And the fact he is trained by defensive mastermind and Andre Ward mentor – Virgil Hunter – means he could become the full package.
Record: 14-0 (13 KOs)
The Peacock Gym starlet’s future on this list hangs in the balance when he eventually faces Joe Joyce in a mouth-watering delayed fight, originally scheduled for April 11, but now happening October 24.
A win would catapult the Greenwich powerhouse into world title contention for the end of 2021- 2022, while a defeat against the 34-year-old Juggernaut will set his career back while boosting Joyce’s own underrated credentials.
With very little amateur experience, Dubois is learning on the job, rapidly.
Nathan Gorman was his biggest test to date – for the British title – and was dismantled inside five July rounds.
The 6ft 5in hulk is dripping with potential that only a dramatic step-up in levels will fulfil or debunk.
Victory against Joyce will confirm Dubois as the hottest heavyweight prospect on the planet.
Record: 6-0-1 [four KOs] at heavyweight – 12-1 [eight KOs] at cruiserweight
At only 6ft 2in and barely 16st, the Las Vegas-based Bounty Hunter spells push-over for most of the heavyweight division – on paper.
But inside the ring, where he is free to show off all of his technical excellence and cunning, Hunter is being avoided by anyone with a brain or a long-term plan.
The former cruiserweight has only been in the division for two years, after losing a tight decision against undisputed king Usyk, and already has scalps like Martin Bakole and Sergey Kuzmin.
He should also have 40-year-old veteran Alexander Povetkin’s name on his bedpost but a Russian judge backed his compatriot when they boxed in Saudi Arabia in December, so Hunter was left with a cruel draw.
The fearless technician battled Tyson Fury in a 2006 amateur show and gave him hell, the Brit hero got the decision, but the clash proved Hunter can hold his own with the biggest boys.
Hunter is the oldest name on the list but he is fresh to the division, brimming with talent and confidence and an absolute nightmare to deal with.
The predatory fighter has called out AJ and just about every other elite heavyweight, with hopes now focused on a meeting with ex-WBO king Joseph Parker soon.
Record: 13-0 [11 KOs]
Last month the Houston-based slugger made another giant step up, battering heavyweight journeyman Rozvan Cojanu in nine rounds.
The Romanian recently only lasted two with Daniel Dubois and Luis Ortiz but went 12 rounds with former WBO champ Joseph Parker, so Ajagba’s win has got people taking him seriously again.
In the fight prior to the Cojanu win, Ajagba’s stock had wobbled after he was dropped by Georgian unknown Iago Kiladze, before going on to land another stoppage win.
The 6ft 6in starlet hits seriously hard but his power is raw and his defence is porous, failings that elite boxers like Fury and Joshua would jump all over.
But with plenty of time on his side, and dozens of low-middle level US heavyweights queuing up for a payday against him, Ajagba has a free pass to learn on the job.
Record: 15-0 [11 KOs]
When the mentor of the biggest name in boxing signs you up, you know you are doing something right.
The Cuban Flash joined up with trainer of the year and Canelo coach Eddy Reynoso at the end of 2019 and got their partnership off to a flyer with a unanimous decision win last month.
Much like fellow Cuban heavyweight Luis Ortiz, Sanchez is already being accused of being older than his listed 27, and his management team are certainly not hanging around for him to slowly learn his trade.
The 6ft 4in ace had TEN fights in 2018 and totally dominated Joey Dawejko – the sparring partner who allegedly ruined AJ before his Ruiz Jr loss.
With communist Cuba usually ruling the amateur ranks with southpaw stylists, orthodox Sanchez likes to trade and bang in a refreshing change.
Few will fancy facing Sanchez, he won’t sell many tickets or give you an easy night, and he looks capable of springing a shock on someone.
Record: 24-3 [14 KOs]
If you can stop laughing and scoffing for a second, consider Tyson Fury’s cousin and former training partner has only lost decisions against then WBO world champ Joseph Parker, ex-champ Alexander Povetkin and Kubrat Pulev, who is mandatory for AJ and has only lost to a prime Wladimir Klitschko.
The 6ft 6in stick-and-move dancer has more experience than every other man on this list put together.
If the old adage that you learn more from a defeat than a win, then the younger Fury should be a phenomenal force one day soon.
Trained by his father Peter, who helped mastermind Tyson’s 2015 win over Klitschko, Hughie has all-too-often looked devoid of power, much like his cousin before February’s total demolition of Wilder.
If, and it is a giant IF, Hughie can maintain the positive approach that helped him clean out Pavel Sour and Sam Sexton, then he could be a serious talent.
Povetkin, Pulev and Parker never came anywhere close to stopping him so it is not taking the pee to suggest he has his fair share of potential still yet to fulfil.