Since Ali, Frazier, Foreman, and Norton in the 1970s, we haven't had that situation where we have had four really talented heavyweights that could fight one another without any degree of certainty about who would emerge the dominant fighter. We have that situation in boxing right now.
Let's say that we took 2020 and matched all of the "fab four" against one another in rotation, they would all have 3 fights in that year. Who would win the most fights?
It seems to be human nature to look back in time and think that things used to be better than they are now. In the heavyweight division of the 1970s Ali came out on top, but I doubt when he took the title from Sonny Liston in 1964, who weighed 218lb and was 6ft 1In tall, he would have believed that a 6ft 9In 256lb heavyweight champion of the world would ever exist, but in 2015 Tyson Luke Fury travelled to Dusseldorf, Germany and dethroned long-standing titleholder Wladimir Klitschko. Also, remember that Nikolay Valuev was 3 inches taller, and weighing 316lbs when he held the WBA title in 2008-2009. How would the 6ft 3In Ali, known as "The Greatest" have dealt with these giants?
So, are we living in the greatest ever era for heavyweight boxing? What will we be saying in 40 years time about Wilder, Joshua, Fury and Ruiz Jr?
Until they have all fought one another we will never know, and while money is normally the driving force behind any fight getting made, the jostling for position between these four has largely been fought on Twitter until recently and not inside the squared circle.
It could be said that Ruiz Jr is the odd one out here at the moment because he won his titles in a "Golden Ticket" opportunity whereas the others had established themselves as clearly the best heavyweights out there, but if the Mexican/American wins the Joshua rematch in December he will have cemented his place as one of the top 3 heavyweights in the world.
Wilder vs Fury II is mooted to be taking place in February 2020, so that will at least give us two answers to the puzzle. AJ and Ruiz will have fought twice and the same with Wilder and Fury. So, the fans will want to know about what would happen if the winners of those bouts then fought each other.
Boxing history tells us that these fights will take place at some stage, there is just too much money at stake to let the fiscal opportunities to go unyielded. Let's hope that Premiere Boxing Champions (Wilder and Ruiz Jr), Top Rank (Fury), and Matchroom (Joshua) don't wait so long that these great heavyweights go past their primes. By the time Mike Tyson fought Lennox Lewis in 2002, "Iron Mike" looked a shadow of the fearsome heavyweight champion of the mid to late 1980s. Lewis also missed out on the biggest heavyweight fight to never happen when he and arch-rival Riddick Bowe failed to get a contract inked.
The other dimension to this heavyweight rivalry is the quality of the current heavyweight contenders. Back in Ali's heyday, we had Patterson, Quarry, Bonevena, Chuvalo, Cooper, Bugner, Lyle, Shavers etc. How will Klitschko, Povetkin, Ortiz, Whyte, Chisora, Pulev, Parker, Breazeale etc shape up against their 1970s rivals?
The question of which was the better era will be best asked in 40 years from now. Sentiment can get in the way of the truth, especially when boxing is still morning the loss of Ali, Frazier, Norton, Quarry and others. We need the "Fab Four" to finish their rivalry before deliberating that question honestly. The same with who is the best heavyweight in the world right now?
Let's just enjoy the moment.