While we all enjoy a big fight feel, boxing is about the journey as well as the destination and without heavyweight division prospects – or indeed those of any class – there’d be no future to this sport.
That’s why undercards exist. Building up to Anthony Joshua’s recent victory over Joseph Parker there were some boxers with big futures in different weight categories on show.
It’s heavyweight that often garners the greatest attention though, so we thought we’d take a look at how the future of that class is shaping up. Check out our top five heavyweight division prospects for pro boxing.
1. Tony Yoka
A logical place to start is with those men who fought as amateurs at the last Olympic Games held in Rio de Janeiro during the summer of 2016. Super heavyweight gold medallist Tony Yoka has subsequently turned professional after triumphing in that over 91kg category.
The Paris born fighter, who turns 26 at the end of April, is three out of three since joining the paid ranks, winning two of those encounters by knockout. Yoka made headlines for all the wrong reasons in March, however, when French anti-doping authorities slapped him with a one-year suspended ban after missing multiple drug tests.
In the current climate where any person in sport can so easily tarnish their image if there’s even a hint of a scandal relating to drugs, it hasn’t done Yoka’s burgeoning reputation much good. This isn’t the first time he’s courted controversy either.
Many commentators felt the gold medal in Rio should’ve gone to Joe Joyce, who boxed Yoka in the super heavyweight final. The judges scored otherwise. All that aside, Yoka is clearly one of the top heavyweight division prospects and boxing fans should follow his future career with great interest.
2. Joe Joyce
But for that questionable decision in Yoka’s favour, Joe Joyce would’ve followed in the footsteps of fellow British boxer Anthony Joshua as an Olympic gold medallist. His previous amateur exploits included triumphs at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2015 European Games in Baku, also in the super heavyweight class.
Such an extensive amateur background was always going to stand Joyce in good stead when he turned professional and, as with Yoka, he is three wins from three since doing so. Joyce knocked out fellow London boxer Ian Lewison on his pro debut in October 2017 and is set for another hometown fight at The O2 Arena in May.
He’s been professional less than a year after signing with David Haye’s promotion Hayemaker Ringstar in July, then aged 31, but Joyce is already embroiled in a feud with Dereck Chisora alongside his manager. Whether at this still very early stage of his pro career they’ll come to blows in the ring remains to be seen.
In time, and provided his career continues with wins, Joyce should emerge as a clear contender for the British heavyweight title. Looking at Joshua’s success in the paid ranks, however, there may be even greater ambitions than that and it marks Joyce out as one to watch.
3. Filip Hrgovic
Another Rio Olympics medallist, Filip Hrgovic of Croatia, also warrants attention. He bagged bronze after losing to Yoka in the semi-finals in Brazil and had also previously suffered defeat to Joyce as an amateur.
As with those rivals, an extensive background in the sport before turning pro has helped Hrgovic when he joined the paid ranks and debuted in September 2017. His professional career began with consecutive first-round knockouts and he has three KO victories from four winning fights so far.
Long before he stepped between the ropes as a pro, however, Hrgovic has been well-regarded behind the scenes. Kubrat Pulev’s camp used him as a sparring partner when the Bulgarian boxer was preparing to fight Wladimir Klitschko back in 2014.
It’s also said Hrgovic was the cause of David Haye cancelling his bout against fellow Briton and subsequent world heavyweight champ Tyson Fury in 2013 when the Croatian cut The Hayemaker in a sparring session. If leading professional boxers have been training with him, it leaves Hrgovic as perhaps the most serious of heavyweight division prospects.
4. Daniel Dubois
Moving away from the Olympic route now and Daniel Dubois is just 20 years old. However, this Londoner already has seven knockouts to his name and the British Boxing Board of Control Southern Area heavyweight title. The youngster from Greenwich looks to have a bright future ahead of him.
Dubois hasn’t been taken beyond the third round by his opponents so far and, while you can’t help but feel sterner tests lie ahead, he is also building up a decent reputation for himself. Boxing promoter Frank Warren spotted his potential early and signed him up in January 2017 while still a teenager.
As well as his British belt, Dubois has also held the WBC youth heavyweight title. With a global boxing organisation already recognising him, that’s further evidence of the impression he’s made in the sport already.
Alongside fellow Briton Joyce, Dubois looks to be a major hope for the future. He may lack the extensive amateur experience of his compatriot, but it demonstrates there’s more than one way to skin the proverbial cat and get into pro boxing.
5. Oleksandr Teslenko
Ukraine-born Canadian representative Oleksandr Teslenko completes our list and is arguably the best known of heavyweight division prospects in the whole of North America. Through an extensive junior and amateur career, he already has over 250 fights under his belt.
Teslenko has knocked 10 of his 12 opponents out since turning professional in 2015 after emigrating to Toronto. Wherever he trains and whatever nation he represents, he is part of the rich boxing heritage that is tied to Ukrainian sport through the Klitschko brothers and others.
Already earning The Panther as his nickname, Teslenko has even travelled south for a few bouts in the United States and returned to Canada victorious. He looks a dangerous opponent for any up-and-coming heavyweight on that side of the Atlantic.
With so much experience already accrued in his native Ukraine and now in the paid ranks, Teslenko will soon be staking a serious claim for a title shot.