Boxing


Who Will Replace Wladimir Klitschko As The Number One Heavyweight?

wladimir klitschkoPaul McCreath: We all know that there is no undisputed world heavyweight champion but most fans would agree that Wladimir Klitschko is the best heavyweight in the world and many would call him the real world champion. What everyone, even his most loyal supporters can agree on, is that he will not be here forever. Most boxers reach their peak and remain there only for a short time, often about two or three years. It can be argued that Wladimir at 31 years of age is at his peak now but nobody really knows how much longer that peak will last. Decline could set in anytime or maybe not for a few years yet.

In trying to guess who might be the one to take his place at the top, we have to consider the timing of it all. Since we mostly all agree that none of the current crop of leading heavies would be likely to defeat Wladimir at this time, we must conclude that the best chance of success would belong to a fighter who is younger than Wladimir. That way he would be young enough to possibly see Wlad either retire or decline enough to be beatable.One of the younger ones might also improve enough to become a fighter who is simply better than Klitschko.

This article would be lacking if I did not mention the fighter who will next climb into the ring with Wladimir, the WBO belt holder, Sultan Ibragimov. Obviously if Iggy managed to win over Wladimir he would be considered number one by most fans. The problem is I don't think that is likely to happen. Wladimir will hold undisputed advantages in height, weight, experience, and punching power as well as some others that might be debatable. He should dispose of Ibragimov without too much trouble in my opinion.

Ruslan Chagaev, the WBA belt holder, is possibly the second best heavy out there right now but looking at his record his best three wins, over Vlad Virchis, John Ruiz, and Nicolay Valuev were all by either split or majority decision. Is he over rated? While he is a couple of years younger than Wladimir and may outlast him, it doesn't seem too probable. Ruslan is also on the small side at 6 foot one, the same height as Eddie Chambers whom many consider too small to be a serious contender. Chagaev does weigh around 230 pounds, which is about right for the division but I can't see Ruslan ever getting to number one.

Sam Peter is young enough at 27 to be considered but his previous bout with Klitschko and the last one with Jameel McCline, have cast a great deal of doubt on his potential which was once considered so high. His great punching power seems to have disappeared. Since he has never knocked out a top heavyweight, it is more likely that his power never was as good as his followers thought and he may have trouble getting by Oleg Maskaev in February. So with Sam eliminated from the probables who do we have left?

The most talked about future star without question is the young Russian Alex Povetkin. Alex has a great amateur pedigree including the world title at super heavy in 2003 and the Olympic crown in 2004. In two and a half years as a pro, he has progressed very rapidly and now has 14 wins, 11 by KO. His last victory was an eliminator over Chris Byrd and he now meets Eddie Chambers for the right to challenge Wladimir. Unfortunately, even if we assume he will get by Chambers, and that will not be easy, he faces a very tough task in hoping for a title win this soon in his career. While I believe he has an outstanding chance of someday winning at least an alphabet belt of some description and he may well unseat Wladimir in the future, I think his first try will just be too early. If his confidence is not ruined by his first attempt, he probably will return with more experience later and possibly reach the number one spot in the world ratings. Alex is only 28, is close to the right size at 6 foot 2 and around 225 pounds and he has lots of time.

Another name that often comes up among the top prospects is David Haye. Now David has had only one fight at heavyweight, a meaningless wipe-out of Tomasz Bonin in one round. Bonin was vastly over rated. Over all, Haye has 20 wins, 19 by KO and one early career loss. The big plus with David is that he has already established himself as the world's best cruiserweight. Now he can move up to his natural weight, around 225 or 230. At 6 foot 3, he will be a very solid heavy, just about the perfect size. The only big question mark is his chin. Well that didn't stop Wladimir, did it? David also has considerably better than average punching power. Don't count him out. At age 27, he too has lots of time.

It would not be fair to ignore Povetkin's next opponent, the undefeated Eddie Chambers who is at 30-0 and is a very skilled fighter. I don't doubt for a moment that Eddie may win a heavyweight belt in the next couple of years but at 6 foot 1 and around 210-215 pounds I really believe he is too small to ever be number one in the world as he is not a big puncher. If he dropped down to cruiserweight, that goal of reaching number one might be quite possible. He should consider it after he is done with Povetkin.

The only other fighter that some fans think has a good chance is Odlanier Solis, who is still in the very early stages of his career. He does like Povetkin have an outstanding amateur record, including three world titles, 2001 and 2003 at heavyweight and 2005 at super heavyweight. He also was the Olympic super heavyweight champ in 2004. There is surely a lot of talent there but he has had only five fights, all wins, four by KO. The major worry with Solis is his weight. In 2003, he was fighting at under 201 pounds. Today, he regularly fights at over 250. yet he stands only six feet tall. That does not speak well for his conditioning. While he no doubt has great potential, I don't believe he is dedicated enough to ever reach the top as a pro. That could change but he is 27 years-old now. It is a bit late to be finding dedication.

Now you have the names of the fighters I think most likely to become Wladimir Klitschko's successor as the best heavyweight on the planet. Clearly, I favor either Povetkin or Haye. What do you think?

Article posted on 21.12.2007



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