After turning back challenger Bryant Jennings by unanimous decision last month in his first bout in the United States in seven years, heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (64-3, 54 KO) is now obligated to face the United Kingdom’s Tyson Fury (24-0, 18 KO) in his next bout.
Yet the potential matchup boxing fans around the globe might anticipate more could be a little further down the road against Alabama native and recently crowned WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (33-0, 32 KO).
Klitschko, 39, outpointed Jennings 118-109, 116-111, and 116-111 at Madison Square Garden in New York last month, and soon afterwards the WBA decreed the Ukrainian must next fight the undefeated Fury within the next six months. Though the fight hasn’t officially been announced, it’s expected to take place in either the UK or Germany, where Klitschko is immensely popular and has fought 48 times before.
A behemoth at 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds, even when compared to Klitschko’s 6-foot-6 frame, Fury has already started poking the champion from afar.
"I still haven't seen anything he does to concern or worry me at all," Fury said according to ESPN. "I'm just supremely confident that I'll be the man to end his reign on the throne and begin the Fury era. The heavyweight division has been dull for over a decade. I'm going to shake it up and bring back the sparkle."
Based off his size alone, the 26-year-old Fury would be one of the largest opponents Klitschko’s faced in his career, especially with an 85-inch reach that surpasses Klitschko’s by four inches and is capable of tagging him with less risk of retaliation.
Fury also has tremendous punching power with 18 knockouts to his credit, but Wilder possesses something that was given up by Klitschko’s brother Vitali nearly three years ago. Though Klitschko did stipulate that another defense by Wilder would be necessary.
"That's true -- one belt is missing. It was in the Klitschko family, but I never owned the WBC championship," Klitschko said. "A unification fight against Wilder would be fantastic. It's not going to happen in the next fight, because I think Deontay needs to defend his title first. After that probably such a fight can happen sometime in the beginning of next year."
Wilder, 33, is also undefeated after smashing Canada’s Bermane Stiverne in a 12-round decision in January, the longest anyone has lasted in the ring against him in his career. It was the first time an American has claimed a heavyweight belt in nine years, and before Stiverne, no fighter withstood Wilder’s brutal punching power for more than four rounds.
Though Wilder’s yet to face a serious challenge, he has the requisite size (6-foot-7, 220 pounds, 84-inch reach) to hang with Klitschko and Fury. And if he can turn back Eric Molina on June 13 in Birmingham, Klitschko has all but guaranteed the two will meet in the near future.
Fury even recognized how high Wilder has risen in the ranks, suggesting after the Stiverne bout that if he matched up with Wilder it would rival the mega-clash between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao held earlier this month, according to Daily Mail.
“Wilder did a good job on Stiverne and he's now got the WBC title,” Fury told The Mail. “That puts him in line for big fights against people like me, Wladimir Klitschko and whoever else.
“It was definitely the result I wanted. Stiverne, although a good champion, was a bit of an unknown. Nobody knew who he was and nobody cared. Now America has a new heavyweight champion. Also, Wilder is undefeated and a knockout artist. That means the division has been given a lift and we're all back in business.
“I don't like Deontay Wilder and he doesn't like me. I think he's a big hype-job. We once had a bit of a falling out in Sheffield at one of Mick Hennessy's boxing shows and I told him one day I will get him in the ring and knock him out. That is still my plan.”
Seemingly incapable of toning down his rhetoric, its clear Fury sees Wilder as his main competition for a bout with Klitschko as the division regains some speed. But unless Fury can snap Klitschko’s run of 18 consecutive title defenses, Wilder should be next on the docket.