By: Sean Crose
I remember hearing repeatedly that heavyweights of the past, no matter how great or dominant, simply could not hold up against today’s supersized heavies. I recall wondering if the theory of bigger means better was actually true when the supersized, and very skilled, heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko battled Bryant Jennings in 2015. Klitschko certainly got the better of his opponent that night, but I asked myself how well the towering Ukraine would have done against a prime Mike Tyson. I couldn’t help conclude that Iron Mike would have been able to get in on his man.
The same question of size equaling dominance had popped into my head way back in 2013, as well, when Tyson Fury got dropped hard by the much smaller Steve Cunningham. No matter. The relentless drum beat thumped along for years… Ali, Foreman, Holmes, Louis, and who knows how many others simply couldn’t best guys like Klitschko, Anthony Joshua, Fury, Deontay Wilder, and the rest of the supersized gang due to all the inches and pounds they’d have had to give up in order to face these modern day titans. Then came last Saturday’s heavyweight throwdown in England and the voices suddenly fell silent. That’s when traditionally sized former cruiserweight kingpin Oleksandr Usyk soundly defeated Joshua in gloved combat at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Joshua, who was defending his WBC, WBA, and IBF heavyweight tiles, certainly didn’t fight poorly. Yet he didn’t fight well enough. Usyk, simply put, was able to get inside on his man and land – not just land, really, but land effectively. So much for the theory that a large man with skill bests a smaller man with skill. Ultimately, it seems, skill level still holds the trump card – or at least it can. Just because bigger fighters can box effectively in a way they historically and generally couldn’t (think Jess Willard, Primo Canera, et…) doesn’t mean they have the market cornered at heavyweight in the here and now. Indeed, it’s Usyk – who stands under 6’4 – who now holds the majority of the division’s titles.
Of course none this means that a 175 pound former heavyweight champion like Jim Corbett could could stand much of a chance against a Deontay Wilder. What it means, however, is that super sized heavyweights are not always guaranteed to control the the division. The days of some (let’s face it, not everyone has believed the super sized theory) declaring any current or former heavyweight under six and a half feet tall is persona non grata at heavyweight is over – at least for the time being. And that’s not a bad thing.