Fury vs Ngannou 2? Joshua vs Wilder? The heavyweight fights we need in 2024

Let’s be clear, this is the No 1 fight that must take place at heavyweight in 2024. Two years ago, Joshua and Fury had ‘agreed’ to a two-fight series to crown an undisputed champion, but this time, a bout has actually been signed. Legal issues thwarted Joshua vs Fury, but there must be no collapse or retreat this time. It is frustrating enough for fans that the mooted date of 23 December looks to be off the cards for Fury vs Usyk, but strictly speaking, the Briton and the Ukrainian have until the end of Riyadh Season in Saudi Arabia – until the end of March – to get it on.

If the contest, which is set to crown the first undisputed heavyweight champion in 23 (or 24…) years, falls apart now, it will be nothing less than farcical. The little faith that exists in boxing would evaporate in an instant.

Tyson Fury vs Francis Ngannou 2

This is where things get controversial.

If Fury beats Usyk, he will either have to vacate the IBF belt or face mandatory challenger Filip Hrgovic before fighting the southpaw in a rematch. The same applies to Usyk, but let’s focus on Fury for a moment. No one has any interest in seeing Fury vs Hrgovic, so the Briton should vacate the IBF belt in this scenario and box Usyk again. Win or lose, Fury will then be 36 and have one major match-up left: against Anthony Joshua.

Except, that is never going to happen, and fans should accept that now. Joshua’s priority should be facing a different foe (more on that in a moment), while Fury’s should be duelling Usyk then giving a rematch to the man who embarrassed him: Ngannou.

Is this wishful thinking? Yes, but Ngannou deserves another shot at Fury – perhaps with a title or two on the line next time?! – after arguably beating the WBC heavyweight champion in Saudi.

Anthony Joshua vs Deontay Wilder

Onto Joshua. As mentioned above, Joshua vs Fury looks unlikely to ever materialise, but furthermore, the idea that it would be a competitive clash has long seemed erroneous. Now, Fury’s poor showing vs Ngannou suggests that “AJ”, 33, might have a better shot than many have believed for some time now, however: The more electric proposition is power puncher vs power puncher – Britain’s Joshua vs American Wilder.

That bout was first mentioned close to seven years ago, and it is shameful that it has never been agreed. Time is running out, too, with Wilder now 38 and far less active than Joshua. Eddie Hearn continues to claim that it will come together, sooner rather than later, but fans are rightly cynical. If this fight finally takes place, however, the boxing world – the sporting world, even – will stand still. This would be like something out of a comic book.

Andy Ruiz Jr vs Martin Bakole

Andy Ruiz Jr could have been so much more. After shocking Joshua and all those watching in June 2019, his lacklustre performance in their rematch was a great disappointment. But still, the Mexican-American had the time and talent to firmly establish himself as a top player at heavyweight.

Instead, he has fought just twice in the four years since, winning decisions against Chris Arreola and an aged Luis Ortiz. Ruiz, now 34, has seemingly missed his shot at a clash with Wilder, but he could reinsert himself in the title picture by taking on the dangerous, much-avoided Bakole.

Bakole, 30, is a sparring partner of Fury and stopped Carlos Takam in fine fashion on the Fury vs Ngannou undercard. The Congolese has earned a big fight.

Fabio Wardley vs Daniel Dubois

Wardley, left, and Daniel Dubois are two of the better-known, young heavyweights in Britain

Wardley was an emphatic winner in his grudge match with British rival David Adeleye on the Fury vs Ngannou undercard. Not only did Wardley, 28, mark himself out as the slicker of the two boxers, but he floored Adeleye before wrapping up a TKO on the feet.

There was genuine needle ahead of that bout between (then-)unbeaten fighters, the prelude to which saw Wardley sustain a cut over his eye in a press-conference skirmish; and while the fight we’re proposing wouldn’t necessarily lead to the same kind of feud, it would have the same all-British angle.

Dubois is coming off his second career defeat, a failed world-title challenge, having been stopped by Usyk in August. However, he is still young at 26 and could get right back on track with a win over the undefeated Wardley, who in turn could benefit massively from a victory over a name like Dubois.

Arslanbek Makhmudov vs Jermaine Franklin

Makhmudov, left, and Jermaine Franklin

Makhmudov is scary, even among a division of many scary fighters. The Russian, almost the heavyweight Artur Beterbiev, ran through Junior Anthony Wright in just over one minute on the Fury vs Ngannou undercard. In doing so, he improved his pro record to 18-0 (17 KOs), with several of those stoppages having come inside 60 seconds.

What Makhmudov does lack, however, are notable names on his resume. And at 34, it’s time for him to add one. Franklin feels like a decent choice, given the American has established himself as a solid, known quantity in the division over the last year after facing Dillian Whyte and Joshua.

What else?

Some readers will argue against the exclusion of Joshua vs Fury here, and what of a tantalising clash between Ngannou and Wilder? Let us know, in the comments below, which heavyweight fights you want to see in 2024.

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