It hasn't happened in over 20 years, but as of November 29th the top three ranked boxers in SportsRatings' Heavyweight Top 100 are considered 'inactive', meaning that #4 Deontay Wilder is the interim Heavyweight Champion.
With the rematch between #1 Tyson Fury and #2 Wladimir Klitschko being postponed twice, it has now been over a year since either boxer fought (and over a year and a half since Klitschko won a fight). #3 Alexander Povetkin was scheduled to fight Wilder, but that fight was cancelled due to the meldonium fiasco and now Povetkin hasn't fought since last November 4th.
That leaves Wilder as the interim champion, as seen in our rankings through November 29, 2016:
|Rated Record||November results;
|5||1||1||1||1||TYSON FURY||62.77||15-0-0||last rated win -12 months.|
|1||2||2||2||2||WLAD KLITSCHKO||51.30||42-4-0||last rated win -19 months.|
|3||3||3||3||3||ALEX POVETKIN||32.66||24-1-0|| last rated win -12 months;
•12-17 vs. #19 BERMANE STIVERNE
|16||6||5||4||4||DEONTAY WILDER||27.28||13-0-0||[interim HW title holder]|
|--||22||6||5||5||ANTHONY JOSHUA||25.71||10-0-0||•12-10 vs. #77 ERIC MOLINA|
|2||4||4||6||6||VITALI KLITSCHKO||21.36||27-2-0||last rated win -50 months.|
|52||16||8||9||7||LUIS ORTIZ||21.05||11-0-0|| UD 12 #20 MALIK SCOTT
•12-10 vs. #100 DAVID ALLEN
|47||15||12||8||9||JOSEPH PARKER||18.91||10-0-0||•12-10 vs. #12 ANDY RUIZ JR|
|4||13||10||10||10||KUBRAT PULEV||18.32||16-1-0||•12-3 vs. Samuel Peter|
If December pans out, however, there will be a lot of action in the top ten and potentially a change in the interim titleholder. First, Anthony Joshua—#5, and therefore #2 in interim terms—fights Eric Molina on the 10th. Even if he wins, however, he won't pass Wilder. Neither would #9 Joseph Parker by beating #12 Andy Ruiz Jr. So the interim-title-change will have to happen on December 17th when #3 Alex Povetkin fights #19 Bermane Stiverne. A win by Povetkin, though it would leave him #3 overall, would give him the interim title, his first in a career that has seen him rank at #3 for the past seven years straight, save for a 1-month stint at #2 before Fury defeated Klitschko to knock Povetkin back to #3.
Speaking of Fury and Klitschko, it will be the winner of their rematch who reclaims the undisputed title—if a rematch happens. Failing that, Fury will have to recover from his illness and defend his title, or Klitschko will have to fight again and gain enough points to pass Fury. It's also possible that someone who defeated Klitschko could surpass Fury. Eventually, of course, Fury and Klitschko will lose enough points if they remain inactive that someone else will hold the outright title, but that would take some time—years perhaps. As for Wilder, he is injured and expected to resume his career some time in the first half of 2017.
It's interesting to look back at the last time this happened in our ratings' history. In November of 1994, the top three spots were also held by inactive fighters. To set the stage, in October of that year, Michael Moorer held the title; he had previously knocked Evander Holyfield to #2. Fighting an aging George Foreman, Moorer won every round until the last seconds of the 10th when a shot from Foreman dropped him. Moorer fell to #5, but Foreman—previously #57—only jumped to #4 behind three inactive fighters:
SportsRatings Heavyweight Rankings from November, 1994:
-3y -1y -6m -1m Rnk Fighter Record Rating
1 3 3 3 1. EVANDER HOLYFIELD (16- 2- 0) 39.47 last rated win -12 months.
2 2 2 2 2. MIKE TYSON (26- 1- 0) 39.00 last rated win -41 months.
3 4 4 4 3. RIDDICK BOWE (14- 1- 0) 33.88 last rated win -18 months.
32 49 54 57 4. GEORGE FOREMAN (41- 4- 0) 33.01 KO 10 #1 MICHAEL MOORER
12 1 1 1 5. MICHAEL MOORER (10- 1- 0) 31.01 L KO 10 #57 GEORGE FOREMAN
The very next month, Riddick Bowe took over the interim title from Foreman by beating Larry Donald, then in March he claimed the undisputed title by beating Herbie Hide, which put him ahead of Holyfield. Foreman never made it to our top spot in his 90s comeback, but he held onto the lineal title until losing to Shannon Briggs a few years later.
The only other time the top three heavyweights were inactive was almost 100 years earlier, from September 1895 to January of 1896:
-3y -1y -6m -1m Rnk Fighter Record Rating
2 1 1 1 1. BOB FITZSIMMONS (15- 1- 2) 19.13 last rated win -16 months.
1 2 2 2 2. PETER JACKSON (14- 0- 3) 18.17 last rated win -38 months.
3 3 3 3 3. JAMES J CORBETT ( 9- 0- 4) 16.07 last rated win -24 months.
10 12 12 12 4. TOMMY RYAN ( 3- 0- 0) 14.76 W 3 #5 HENRY BAKER
6 6 6 6 5. JOE CHOYNSKI (15- 4- 3) 14.62 KO 13 #30 JIM HALL
Here in January of 1896, though 19th century records aren't 100% accurate, we see all-time greats Bob Fitzsimmons, Peter Jackson, and James Corbett all inactive for over a year, making Tommy Ryan the interim champ with his win over #5 Henry Baker. Previously, Baker and Dan Creedon had held the interim belt. But the very next month Fitzsimmons beat #9 Peter Maher to re-establish a proper champion.
It's an interesting time in the heavyweight division, with popular favorites like Anthony Joshua, Luis Ortiz, and Joseph Parker all vying for a title that seems up for grabs. It's ironic that Wilder is our interim champion, after Povetkin has been at #3 for so long, and the Povetkin-Wilder fight was cancelled earlier this year. If Klitschko and Fury can't get it together, it could be the rescheduling of that fight that decides the interim champ, and maybe eventually the undisputed champ. There are many others waiting in the wings, but someone will have to beat Klitschko or Fury if he wants to be our real champ within the next several years!