Boxing’s cruiserweight division is going through a period of radical transition.
The thrilling contest between Tony Bellew and Oleksandr Usyk at the Manchester Arena turned the spotlight on what has often been seen as a weight class which the best fighters pass through en route to heavyweight riches.
‘With upheaval looming at cruiserweight, fighters at this level have a great opportunity to propel themselves to the division’s top table’
Usyk is expected to make the step up after conquering the division by winning all four world titles. And with former world champion ‘Bomber’ Bellew now retired, what is next for cruiserweight fight fans?
One notable thing about the Ukrainian’s imminent move above 200lbs is it means all of his belts will be up for grabs. Many of the top cruiserweight contenders will contest the next World Boxing Super Series, but Bellew won’t be one of them. His exit from the ring is a big loss for British boxing.
So, who will be the next British star at this weight? One of the belts the ‘Bomber’ won during his successful career was the Commonwealth title.
And after British champion Lawrence Okolie relinquished the Commonwealth title last month, the two main challengers for the vacant crown were Wadi ‘Machoman’ Camacho and Arfan ‘Major’ Iqbal.
Iqbal, 27, a 12-0 cruiserweight was one up on Camacho after stopping him last year in a rollercoaster war, but he had been fairly inactive after that win, fighting just once.
Camacho, with a record of 20 wins and seven losses, had just come off an impressive knock-out of Danny Couzens.
The 33-year-old, who was born in Spain but is a British citizen, is seasoned pro and also showed a decent level of skill when he took British cruiserweight contender Isaac Chamberlain the distance.
With the southpaw looking for revenge against Camacho, he jumped at the opportunity of a rematch, with the vacant Commonwealth crown at stake.
With upheaval looming at cruiserweight, fighters at this level have a great opportunity to propel themselves to the division’s top table.
So, Iqbal and Camacho’s recent Commonwealth clash at the York Hall in Bethnal Green took on a greater resonance.
Both fighters tried their best to dictate the pace of the fight in the early rounds, but Camacho began to get on top with his jab, and it seemed that Iqbal couldn’t get to grips with his southpaw stance.
The undefeated fighter was making rookie mistakes, taking steps to his right to avoid the Camacho’s blows but walking into left hands on a consistent basis.
Older fighters are never too old to learn new tricks, and Camacho showed his improvement on the inside, pounding Iqbal every time he tried to get close.
It wasn’t long before he was rewarded for his clean, sharp work up close as he dropped Iqbal in the fifth round after he walked into a left hand that clipped him on the top of his head.
Iqbal had come for one thing, to land power shots, and the sixth round was where he got the most success after he landed a sweet right that forced his rival into a clinch.
The 12-0 fighter had turned on the power from round one, planting his feet to put his bodyweight behind his swings. However, Camacho showed his experience throughout by keeping out of Iqbal’s range and making him miss.
The ‘Major’ began to look very minor as his sloppy and over-aggressive tactics resulted in him succumbing to fatigue. Then, Arfan Iqbal hit the wall, Arfan Iqbal had a great fall in the seventh round as he tumbled through the ropes and out of the ring.
The cruiserweights impersonation of Humpty Dumpty meant that he wasn’t able to continue due to an back injury he suffered after falling onto a table.
The fight was stopped and went to the judges’ scorecard which read 69-63, 68-64, 69-63 in Camacho’s favour. The ‘Machoman’ is now the new Commonwealth cruiserweight champion in what is a highly competitive and open division.
It is hard to see Lawrence Okolie, who is the top dog in the UK, come down a level and fight for a belt he just relinquished, Camacho would welcome the opportunity.
Then there’s heavyweight contender Dillian Whyte’s protege Richard Riakporhe, who notched up a thrilling win on the Usyk-Bellew undercard.
The fight that makes the most sense for both Camacho and Iqbal is the trilogy: Camacho vs Iqbal III. Each fighter has a win over the other, and a third bout would settle things between them once and for all.
Regardless of what path each fighter decides to take, the cruiserweight division is shaping up into something really spicy in the next few years and threatening to throw off its status as simply a stepping stone to the top division.
Feature image courtesy ofKristin Wall via Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0).