Great Eight: Is Tyson Fury’s reign as heavyweight champion nearing an end?

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 explore the possibility that the biggest champion here will be dethroned on May 18.

Tyson Fury has been the Great Eight heavyweight champ since this feature was instituted in 2020, but his reign will be in serious jeopardy when he faces Oleksandr Usyk for the undisputed championship on pay-per-view May 18 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Fury (34-0-1, 24 KOs) is coming off arguably the worst performance of his career in October, when he got up from a knockdown to eke out a split decision victory over MMA star and boxing novice Francis Ngannou.

The stunning events of that night raised an obvious question: Has Fury, 35, begun to decline going into the biggest fight of his life?

If he’s not at his best against a gifted, experienced technician in Usyk, many believe he will suffer the first defeat in his long career and lose his Great Eight championship.

Even his longtime co-promoter Bob Arum has questions going into the fight in the Middle East.

“I always felt once this fight was made … that Fury was a big, big favorite because I thought his size and boxing ability would be too much for Usyk,” Arum said on the BoxNation podcast. “So I looked at it as a 3- to 4-1 fight in favor of Tyson Fury.

“But I’m very troubled with the way Tyson looked in his last fight with Ngannou in Riyadh. I was there. I just thought he looked dreadful. There are two [possible] explanations: He really didn’t train hard for that fight or, two, when we all put on years — and I should know — we don’t function as well as we do when we’re younger physically.

“Is that what we’re seeing with Tyson based on the Ngannou fight? Or he didn’t take it seriously and wasn’t prepared. That’s what we’ll find out on May 18.”

Arum still believes Fury will win the fight if he’s reverts to his previous form.

“If Tyson is on his ‘A’ game, if it’s the Tyson Fury that fought [Deontay] Wilder the last two times, that fought Dillian Whyte, there’s no way that Usyk or any heavyweight can beat him. But that’s a really big assumption.”

He went on: “To me, I look at the Ngannou fight Fury had and going back on it, I mean the way he labored with Ngannou, particularly when you saw how easily [Anthony] Joshua handled Ngannou, I have a lot of questions.”

Here are the top fighters in the original eight divisions:


Tyson Fury (34-0-1, 24 KOs) – Fury will have a chance to prove his subpar performance against Francis Ngannou was an aberration when he faces Oleksandr Usyk for the undisputed championship on pay-per-view May 18 in Saudi Arabia. Of course, the winner will be our Great Eight champ.


Dmitry Bivol (22-0, 11 KOs) – The winner of the Bivol-Artur 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.


Jermell Charlo (35-2-1, 19 KOs) – The 154-pounder came up short against 168-pound champ Canelo Alvarez in September but he remains the best at 160 and 154. He doesn’t appear to be negotiating with potential opponents, leaving his future up in the air.


Terence Crawford (40-0, 31 KOs) – Crawford hasn’t fought since his epic beat down of Errol Spence Jr. last July and has nothing solid in the works. The WBO has ordered new 154-pound beltholder Sebastian Fundora to fight him but Fundora might fight Tim Tszyu again first.


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.


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.


Juan Francisco Estrada (44-3, 28 KOs) – The Mexican 115-pound titleholder has agreed to face Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez, our Great Eight flyweight champion, in a blockbuster matchup June 29 in Phoenix. The winner will be the bantamweight king here.


Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez (19-0, 12 KOs) – Rodriguez will hold his position here until the 112-pounder steps into the ring to challenge Estrada at 115, meaning we are likely to have a new flyweight champ in early July.

Story originally appeared on Boxing Junkie