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Great Eight: Which champion is more likely to be dethroned, Tyson Fury or Dmitry Bivol?

The proliferation of titles makes it difficult for all but the most astute fans to determine the cream of the boxing crop.

That’s why Boxing Junkie came up with its “Great Eight” feature, which names the best fighter in each of the original eight weight classes –heavyweight, light heavyweight, middleweight, welterweight, lightweight, featherweight, bantamweight and flyweight.

Heavyweight includes cruiserweight (and the WBA and WBC’s bridgerweight), light heavyweight includes super middleweight, middleweight includes junior middleweight and so on down to flyweight, which includes junior flyweight and strawweight.

In this installment of “Great Eight,” we ask (and answer) the question: Which of our champions is most likely to lose his championship in his next fight?

Many might suggest it’s Tyson Fury, who struggled to defeat Francis Ngannou by a split decision last October even though the MMA star was making his pro boxing debut.

Fury’s performance led to comments suggesting the longtime heavyweight star has started his inevitable decline, criticism he deserved after a weak performance.

And now Fury (34-0-1, 24 KOs) set to face unbeaten boxing wizard Oleksandr Usyk (21-0, 14 KOs) for the undisputed championship on May 18 in Saudi Arabia. I had thought that would be an easy fight for Fury, who I believed was too big and good enough to handle the former 200-pound champ.

Now I’m not sure because of the Ngannou debacle even though I believe he struggled because he thought he could roll out of bed on any day — and in any condition — and defeat Ngannou with his eyes closed, which is no way to go into any fight.

I have no doubt that he’ll be fully prepared — physically and mentally — when he faces Usyk.

Still, Fury has to prove to me and everyone else that he’s not in decline by winning the most important fight of his career. In other words, Usyk poses an enormous threat to Fury.

So does that mean Fury is the Great Eight champion most likely to be dethroned? No.

I believe Dmitry Bivol, our light heavyweight champ, is most likely to get knocked off when he faces fellow titleholder Artur Beterbiev for the undisputed championship on June 1 in Saudi Arabia.

Bivol (22-0, 11 KOs) is a tremendous boxer with an outstanding resume, which is why he’s one of our champions. The fact he conquered Canelo Alvarez is his calling card but he has demonstrated repeatedly that he’s one of the best in the business.

He’s a better boxer than Beterbiev, which is why I pick him to win a close decision. However, Beterbiev (20-0, 20 KOs) is an underrated technician and a physical freak, one who seems to have superhuman strength, historic punching power and a sturdy chin.

And the Canada-based Russian demonstrated in his most recent fight that he hasn’t slipped even though he’s 39, as he beat up, twice dropped and finally stopped capable Callum Smith in seven rounds on Jan. 13.

Bivol can win only if he can prevent Beterbiev from walking through his punches, which will be difficult. Indeed, Bivol had better be at the top of his game or he could become Beterbiev’s 21st knockout victim in as many fights and lose his position here.

Here are the top fighters in the original eight divisions:

HEAVYWEIGHT

Tyson Fury (34-0-1, 24 KOs) – Fury appeared to be fit before his showdown with Usyk (originally scheduled for Feb. 17) was postponed because Fury suffered a cut in sparring. That’s a good sign for the Englishman, who seemed to have taken victory for granted when he eked out a decision over Ngannou.

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT

Dmitry Bivol (22-0, 11 KOs) – The winner of the Bivol-Beterbiev showdown on June 1 will determine not only the Great Eight champion but also the best 175-pounder of the era. Few possible matchups in boxing are better or more significant than this one.

MIDDLEWEIGHT

Jermell Charlo (35-2-1, 19 KOs) – The 154-pounder came up short against 168-pound champ Canelo Alvarez but he remains the best at 160 and 154. He wants to fight pound-for-pound and welterweight king Terence Crawford, who would take Charlo’s place in this division with a victory.

WELTERWEIGHT

Terence Crawford (40-0, 31 KOs) – Crawford, coming off his epic beat down of Errol Spence Jr., could be poised to move up to 154 to challenge titleholder Charlo, which would create an opening here. Only talented Jaron Ennis would appear to be a genuine threat at 147.

LIGHTWEIGHT

Gervonta Davis (29-0, 27 KOs) – “Tank” remains the most-complete fighter at 135 and 130 but boxing wizards Shakur Stevenson and Vasiliy Lomachenko might have something to say about who reigns in Great Eight before all is said and done. Now we need to see these pivotal matchups.

FEATHERWEIGHT

Naoya Inoue (26-0, 23 KOs) – Inoue gave another dominating performance against Marlon Tapales on Dec. 26, stopping the Filipino in the 10th round to become undisputed champion in a second weight class. Can anyone compete with him? Luis Nery will be the next one to try. They meet on May 6.

BANTAMWEIGHT

Juan Francisco Estrada (44-3, 28 KOs) – The 33-year-old future Hall of Famer from Mexico didn’t fight last year but he presumably will get back to work soon. He has hinted that he might move up from junior bantamweight to bantamweight, which would make him eligible to retain his title here.

FLYWEIGHT

Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez (19-0, 12 KOs) – Rodriguez supplanted Edwards as champion here after leaving no doubt about who is the best 112-pounder in the world. However, he has said he plans to move up to junior bantamweight. We’ll wait until he schedules a fight to remove him.

Story originally appeared on Boxing Junkie