25.11.03 - By Rolando Matias: Looking back at the rich history of the most prestigious weight class in boxing, the heavyweight, it is easily notice that the pool of talent has fall short compare to other divisions. Itís been a while since we had a classic heavyweight match of the magnitude of an Ali-Frazier, or even a Cooney-Holmes fight. Yes we had Bowe-Holyfield, and Tyson-Lewis, but honestly we can compare the impact that an Ali or Foreman fight had in history to present days matches.
Article posted on 25.11.2003
Looking at the heavyweight division from 1951 on, from the days of Jersey Joe Walcott to the present, we can see a steady declined on the list of contenders for the title. In any era of boxing, you will always find a substantial gap between contenders and the journeymen. The talent that Walcott fought in his days was far deeper than the talent Lennox Lewis has to choose from. He fought the likes of the great Joe Louis, Joey Maxin, Ezzard Charles, and Rocky Marciano, twice! Thatís 3 world champions, over 370 win combined, and even though I would not call this era, the best era of the heavyweights, but by far outclass the present pool of talent in the division that Mr. Lewis have fought for the last 12 years or so.
Looking at the division in the 70ís, we see a strong field of boxer, the strongest competition the heavyweight division has ever seen: Frazier, Ali, Foreman, Ellis, Norton, Shavers, Ron Lyle and Larry Holmes. And looking at the 2nd tear of talent you had boxers of the quality of Ringo Bonavena, which we all know what he did against Ali and Frazier, Jerry Quarry, George Chuvalo, and Buster Mathis, far superior in talent than the Klitschko brothers, Oliver McCall, Briggs, Rahman, Golota, or John Ruiz; the accomplishments of these boxers is very minimal, and when you start matching them, you have parity, no boxer has outclass himself from the pack, not even Lennox, with two devastating losses via KO to McCall and Rahman, and his recent controversial win over Vitali Klitschko! You have a guy like Oliver McCall that loses his title to a bum fighter like Frank Bruno, or Rahman who after his loss to Lennox lost to Holyfield and draw Tua.
The division is starting to look like an asylum for former champions of lighter division, and you know what, these newcomers are the only ones that are keeping the possibilities open to redeem the division. Toney and Jones are great additions to the heavyweights, and they will make it interesting for a while. Both are in the last days of some credible careers, around late thirties each, a limited amount of bouts could be expected out of them.
This is not to say that any of the current guys might pull themselves together and excel against its competitors, is early to tell, only history will tell. Everyone claims that the Klitschko brothers are the redemption of the divison; well I am not so sure. Wladimir losing to Sanders only created more questions than answers, the most obvious, is not canít he take a punch, but how big of a heart the gigantic Wladimir has? In my book, a very small one.
And these bring us to the Tyson era, the time that most current boxing fans are familiar with. The devastating KOís against inflated opponents that came to the ring terrified of Tyson. Yes, Tyson can punch, but the first time that he tested against a bigger man he folded. Many claim that he did not trained correctly, that his corner didnít know what they were doing, and all these can be true, but the truth of the matter is that after Cus DíAmato died, Tysonís training regimen change drastically as so did his life! The anger that he had from his youth that DíAmato channel into the ring, started to show outside the ring, the Tyson that dismantle Trevor Berbick in 86, in just two rounds, was a well trained fighter, showing some excellent boxing skills, along with a devastating punch. Shortly after DíAmato death, everything change, he relied on his punching power rather than his skill he had learned from Cus. His wins over Bonecrusher Smith and Tucker showed a boxer that only wanted to KO his opponents, especially on the Tucker fight, which he so handily won. By 1989, everything that he learned from Cus was forgotten and out of his system, lesser competition, an out of control personal life, it all came together, and hit him like a freight train! Buster Douglass, put an end to the Tyson era!
Lennox Lewis, has been a champion since December 92, when after his KO over Razor Ruddock in 2, the WBC named him Champion, even though this fight was for the Commonwealth Title. After that he fought Tony Tucker and Frank Bruno, winning by decision and TKO. Then came the big let down versus McCall, getting KO in the 2 round! He wins the IBF title from Tommy Morrison, by KO. Tommy who? Tommy Morrison, with 46 inflated wins on his record, and 4 fights against the best of the division at the time, winning against the ageing Foreman and Ruddock ( 3 years past his prime), and getting KO by Lewis and Mercer. Ok, you may say, he fought Evander, and he beat him convincible on both fights, regardless of the decision on the first fight. But, letís examine Evander, he was never the same boxer after his first epic fight against Bowe. He went 3-2 in his next 5 fights, losing to Michael Moore and getting KO by Bowe, and winning over the ageing Ray Mercer, and the out of shape Bobby Czyz. He fought the fight of his life against a 30 years old and 8 years past his glory days, Mike Tyson. Not taking anything away from this win, it really solidify the fact that the division was and is thin of talent, since the most anticipated heavyweight fight of the90ís was between a 30 years over the hill, and a gutsy warrior fighting with his heart, with flashes of his early boxing days. Then 6 years later, we have the second most anticipated match in the heavyweights, Lewis versus Tyson. Lewis pummeling a boxer with eroded boxing skills, just a memory of his glory days.
Kirk Johnson, Vitali, and Wladimir everyone is talking about them as the new saviors of the division. All have limited boxing skills, stamina problems, and every time they fight you end up with more questions than answers. In this thin pool of talent, I strongly believe that Chris Byrd, and Fres Oquendo will be the class of the division, maybe we will see some great prospect coming up the ranks.
The heavyweight division is in trouble, itís been in trouble for 20 years, and I donít see any obvious solution to this issue. Maybe, just maybe, we will start seeing and increase of Latino heavyweights, with the same heart and skills we are used watching in the lighter weights. With demographics changing drastically in the USA, and the Latino community increasing on all mayor cities in the country, this might be the solution and the savior of not only the heavyweight division but of boxing in general. Yes, you guys can watch matches between inflated boxers, with minimal boxing skills, skills that on any other era of the heavyweights would have been considered average at best. No thanks, I rather watch the great amount of talent we now have in the lighter weight classes, why, because like I said before, when was the last time you watch a classic heavyweight match?