The term “loser leaves town” dates back to the territorial days of pro wrestling, when promotions stuck to particular regions and the ultimate way to finish off a long-running feud was with a loser-leaves-town match. It was a way to artificially inflate the stakes before a wrestler who was planning to go elsewhere for a while anyway packed his bags.

The loser-leaves-town phrase is sometimes thrown around in other walks of life without necessarily meaning anyone literally leaves the town they’re in. It basically just means if someone loses, they’re effectively finished at a certain level.

In boxing, it’s a variation on what has long been called a “crossroads fight.”

And the heavyweight division is bursting with these crossroads fights or loser-leaves-town matches these days, including a pair of them on Saturday’s “5 vs 5” card on pay-per-view.

Deontay Wilder vs. Zhilei Zhang, with both coming off upset losses to Joseph Parker, can be categorized as a crossroads fight. Same for Daniel Dubois vs. Filip Hrgovic, even though both men are young and neither is coming off a defeat. The recently announced July 27 Joe Joyce vs. Derek Chisora fight is a crossroads affair situated very much at the end of the road. And one week after that, on Aug. 3, Andy Ruiz meets Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller at the crossroads.

All of these can be described as loser-leaves-town matches, with the annotation that the town in question varies from one fight to the next. After each fight, the loser will leave … somewhere.

Wilder vs. Zhang: Loser leaves the championship circle

Proper rankings at the very top of the heavyweight division have rarely been so easy to compile. Oleksandr Usyk is the one and only champion. Tyson Fury, whose only loss came against Usyk by a single point and who is scheduled to rematch him on Dec. 21, is the No. 1 contender. Anthony Joshua, who has beaten every opponent he’s faced save for Usyk, is next.

That’s the superstar tier of the weight class. And next, fairly indisputably, based on recent results, is Parker.

What follows is a cluster that includes all four heavyweights on the 5 vs 5 card, Agit Kabayel, and maybe Jared Anderson.

Wilder and Zhang are, for now, one good win, one punch perhaps given their capabilities, from making sense as an opponent for one of the three superstars. But they are also each, on Saturday, one loss from exiting this picture for good. It’s not “loser leaves town” in the sense that the loser’s career is over. But the loser, should he choose to keep fighting, becomes a big-name opponent, nothing more.

Ages have a lot to do with the outlook: Wilder is 38, Zhang 41.

Wilder, after beginning his career 42-0-1, is 1-3 in his last four and may well be depleted from the physical toll of his two losses to Fury. When he lost in lopsided fashion to Parker, the excuse was that he was rusty after boxing just one round in the previous 26 months. That excuse won’t work against Zhang. If Wilder loses for the fourth time in five outings, he’s simply not a top-10 contender anymore.

Zhang’s loss to Parker seems less a sign of decline and more a sign of the flaws that limit him. Zhang came close to a knockout win in the third round, but quickly gassed out and lost a close decision — just as he had two years earlier against Hrgovic. Sandwiched in between his two defeats were his two best and biggest wins, a pair of stoppages of Joyce. Zhang is a massive man and a massive left-hand puncher with stamina issues, little versatility, and apparently the perfect style to overwhelm Joyce.

If he beats Wilder, then a fight with Joshua, the Usyk-Fury II winner, the Usyk-Fury II loser, Parker again, or anyone else in the top 10 is marketable. If he loses to Wilder, the Joyce wins go into the books as outliers and Zhang exits serious title contention.

Dubois vs. Hrgovic: Loser leaves the aspiration conversation

Hrgovic is 10 years younger than Zhang. Dubois is 12 years younger than Wilder. So these two are meeting on the same card in Riyadh on Saturday at a different kind of crossroads. A loss is packed with far less finality. It’s possible that three years from now, Usyk, Fury, Joshua, Wilder, and Zhang will all be retired, and both the winner and loser of Dubois-Hrgovic will be firmly in the division’s top five.

But for now, the winner seats himself just beyond that inner circle, while the loser takes a significant tumble — especially if that loser turns out to be Dubois, who is listed as a small underdog in the fight.

Dubois, seen at the time as possibly the division’s next major star, lost in shocking fashion to Joyce in 2020. He bounced back with four quickie KO wins over middling opposition, one of them a near-disaster against Kevin Lerena, got stopped by Usyk in a fight in which Dubois thought he’d scored a body shot KO, then tallied a career-best win against an overfed Miller.

The high-upside Londoner has two KO defeats in the last four years. A third loss, even if not by KO, silences talk of his upside. The next “L” figures to be a tipping point from contender to journeyman.

Hrgovic, with a record of 17-0, can more easily absorb a single defeat — although a defeat specifically to Dubois, who for all his talent has come up short in other bouts against world-class heavyweights, would signal something negative about the Croatian’s ceiling.

The scouting report on Hrgovic is that he’s stiff but sturdy. “Stiff” threatens to become a noun for the critics to use, not an adjective, if he can’t get past Dubois.

Ruiz vs. Miller: Loser leaves the last-chance saloon

I was tempted to write “loser puts on a shirt.” Good thing I didn’t give in to that temptation, huh?

But seriously, for very different reasons, these two mid-30s, salad-averse heavyweights are each down to their last strike.

For Ruiz, 34, the problem is mostly that he’s been inactive and slipped off people’s radar. He’ll have been off nearly two years when he steps into the ring on Aug. 3, for what will be just his third bout since the start of the pandemic. He has basically removed himself from contention.

If he’s still skilled enough to handle Miller — and the odds making him about a 3-to-1 favorite say he should be — then he’s positioned for one last go-round. But if he can’t get the better of Big Baby, Ruiz cements his status as his generation’s Buster Douglas or Leon Spinks, a one-hit wonder who could never produce a follow-up smash.

Miller, 35, has more serious image and opportunity problems. He failed his first drug test — for multiple substances — in 2019, opening the door, as it so happened, for Ruiz to replace him as Joshua’s opponent and shock the world. For his scheduled return fight, Miller flunked another pre-fight drug test. And oh, by the way, Big Baby also turned up a positive drug test way back in 2014 for a kickboxing match.

His reputation already in the gutter, Miller lost his unbeaten record in December against Dubois (while weighing 333 pounds), and he should have lost all relevance on the world stage with it — but he’s a big personality with a recognizable name, and the moral high ground is rarely taken in boxing, so he’s been granted this high-profile opportunity against Ruiz. One assumes Big Baby will not get to belly up to the bar at the last-chance saloon again if he spills this shot.

Joyce vs. Chisora: Loser leaves the sport, hopefully

That use of the word “hopefully” is not me being callous, wishing to be rid of one of these heavyweights for any reason of disdain. It’s out of concern for them as human beings.

Chisora is 40 years old with 13 losses — all 13 against quality opposition, to be fair, but there comes a time when the punishment goes past a point of no return. I have not given Chisora medical exams, so take this for what it is — a writer speculating without all the facts and evidence — but my hunch is the risk has begun to outweigh the reward.

Joyce shouldn’t be used up after just 18 pro fights, but everyone ages differently. He sure looked like a shell of himself in the second Zhang fight, and didn’t look much better getting back in the win column against Kash Ali in March. Was Zhang simply his Kryptonite? Or is Joyce’s once rock-solid chin eroded? If he falls to the 2024 version of Chisora, we’ll know.

And we’ll wish him the best as he departs for the next town, and hopefully a new, less dangerous career.

Eric Raskin is a veteran boxing journalist with more than 25 years of experience covering the sport for such outlets as BoxingScene, ESPN, Grantland, Playboy, Ringside Seat, and The Ring (where he served as managing editor for seven years). He also co-hosted The HBO Boxing Podcast, Showtime Boxing with Raskin & Mulvaney, and Ring Theory and currently co-hosts The Interim Champion Boxing Podcast with Raskin & Mulvaney. He has won three first-place writing awards from the BWAA, for his work with The Ring, Grantland, and HBO. Outside boxing, he is the senior editor of CasinoReports and the author of 2014’s The Moneymaker Effect. He can be reached on X or LinkedIn, or via email at