Who is Who in the Heavyweight Division
24.08.05 - By Geoffrey Ciani: Recently, there’s not much to be excited about in the heavyweight division. Since the retirement of Lennox Lewis, nobody seems capable of taking control and proving himself the best in this lackluster group. With the lineage broken and the titles splintered, boxing fans have longed for someone to step up and proclaim himself king, and causal fans are completely uninterested.
Article posted on 24.08.2005
Even worse, it seems unlikely that anyone will emerge as the top dog anytime soon. The best the division has to offer is a collection of perennial contenders who were never able to achieve true greatness in the sport. Indeed, today’s top ten is a sorry bunch.
My top ten would probably look something like this:
1. Vitali “ Doctor Ironfist” Klitschko: The elder Klitschko brother is the reigning WBC champion. His biggest claims to fame are quitting on his stool against Chris Byrd and losing against an unmotivated, overweight, out-of-shape Lennox Lewis. Sadly, this is probably the division’s best chance for a unified champion. Since losing to Lewis, Klitschko won the vacant WBC title by defeating a 40 year old golfer and he defended the title once against Danny Williams, after Williams had beaten a shot Mike Tyson. All of this since April of 2003! Clearly, activity is not a strong point for the elder Klitschko, who seems injury prone. Standing nearly 6’8” tall at age 34, it may very well be the case that Klitschko’s body is deteriorating. It will be interesting to see how he bounces back from back surgery in his next fight, supposedly against Hasim Rahman.
2. Chris “Rapid Fire” Byrd: Byrd is the reigning IBF champion. However, he’s extremely lucky to still hold a version of the heavyweight throne. He has barely survived his last three matches, receiving controversial victories over Fres Oquendo and Jameel McCline along with a controversial draw against Andrew Golota. Ever since winning the vacant IBF belt from an ancient Evander Holyfield, it seems Byrd – who was once considered one of the bravest fighters in all of boxing – has chosen to take the path of least resistance (by refusing rematches with both Golota and Wladimir Klitschko). Byrd’s biggest victories were against Vitali Klitschko (way back in April of 2000) and David Tua. Much like Vitali Klitschko, activity level has not been a strong point for Byrd.
3. John “The Quiet Man” Ruiz: Ruiz is the reigning WBA champion, and like the other three belt holders, he never had to beat a champion to obtain his belt. Instead, he won the vacant title against an aging Evander Holyfield (anyone see a pattern here?) in one of the most unmemorable trilogies in boxing history. He would subsequently lose this title to then light heavyweight king, Roy Jones Jr, before winning back the vacant belt against Hasim Rahman in a fight which was for the interim belt—until Jones fled the division. The fact that Ruiz can even still claim to be champion is nothing short of amazing! This man has held onto the belt in most unusual fashion. He has won via disqualification against Kirk Johnson, via extremely controversial decision against Andrew Golota, and retained his title after losing to former middleweight James Toney, who subsequently tested positive for steroids. Ruiz is the least talented and most boring of all of the champions – yet somehow or another, he keeps finding ways to hold onto this belt.
4. “Relentless” Lamon Brewster: Brewster is the reigning WBO champion, which is a minor belt compared to the big three. Like those three, Brewster never defeated a legitimate champion to win his version of the heavyweight prize. In one of the most unusual fights I’d ever seen, Brewster won the title after being pounded mercilessly for 4 plus rounds before Wladimir Klitschko punched himself out. Since winning the title, Brewster received a gift decision against unheralded Kali Meehan and he literally destroyed Golota in under a minute. Brewster has a ton of heart, an outstanding chin, and excellent power. However, he lacks basic boxing skills and is extremely inconsistent. Can any heavyweight who’s lost matches against journeymen like Clifford Etienne and Charles Shufford become a major force in the heavyweight division?
5. Hasim “The Rock” Rahman: Rahman is best known for landing a lottery punch against then IBF/WBC champion Lennox Lewis. However, since landing that tremendous punch, things have gone mostly downhill for “The Rock”. He was destroyed in his subsequent rematch with Lewis, and has also lost against both Holyfield and Ruiz. He does hold a draw against Tua and a win against Monte Barrett. Apparently, this is enough to warrant another title shot. Rachman is tentatively slated to face off against reigning WBC champion Vitali Klitschko. It will be interesting to see whether or not “The Rock” can pull things together and reclaim a portion of the heavyweight throne.
6. Wladimir “Doctor Steelhammer” Klitschko: The younger Klitschko’s biggest claim to fame is losing to inferior opponents. He was destroyed by the semi-retired Corrie Sanders during a match-up which was supposed to propel Wlad into a match with then champion, Lennox Lewis. He has also succumbed to exhaustion in his bouts against Brewster and the grossly inferior Ross “The Boss” Purrity. However, when he can keep his stamina issues under control, Wlad has proven to be one of the most talented offensive fighters in the division, as can be evidenced by his one-sided destruction of Chris Byrd. Like most of those ranked above him, Wlad runs hot and cold. He’s also been exposed as having a less-than-stellar chin and questionable stamina. He’s due to face the number 7 guy on my list, and it will be interesting to see if Wlad can get a hold of his stamina problems – hopefully, he’s doing lots of road work.
7. Samuel Peter: Peter is the youngest fighter on my list of top ten heavyweights, and the undefeated prospect might very well have the best chance of cleaning house in this lackluster division. Against limited opposition, Peter has shown tremendous power, heart, and determination. However, questions still remain regarding how his chin will hold up against a powerful puncher and how his stamina will hold up against elite opposition. Furthermore, Peter’s about as fast as a turtle, and often telegraphs his punches. A lot of questions will be answered when Peter squares off against Wladimir Klitschko this September.
8. Andrew Golota: Golota’s biggest claim to fame was twice being disqualified for repeated low blows against the man who was considered the best in the division at the time, Riddick “Big Daddy” Bowe – but that was back in 1996! Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, promoter Don King has successfully resurrected the Golota’s career. Strong arguments can be made that Golota defeated two reigning champions in both Byrd and Ruiz. However, Golota didn’t get the nod in either fight, having drawn with Byrd and having inexplicably lost a unanimous decision at the hands of “The Quiet Man”. Many viewed Golota as the uncrowned unified champion, but that didn’t last for long. Golota was stopped a mere 53 seconds of the first round in his bout with Brewster, having been caught cold just 10 seconds into the match. However, impressive recent performances against two of the three major belt holders will keep this perennial contender in the title picture a bit longer.
9. Calvin Brock: The undefeated prospect has shown decent power, stopping 21 of his 26 opponents inside the distance. However, aside from a unanimous decision victory against Jameel “Big Time” McCline earlier this year, he has yet to face any top tier heavyweights. At age 30, Brock had better make a move soon if he wants to make some noise.
10. James “Lights Out” Toney: I reluctantly place Toney in the final slot of my top ten, if for no other reason than there’s not much else to choose from. Toney has had a sensational career, but he doesn’t have much experience as heavyweight and it’s still difficult to discern whether or not he can be successful here. Since moving to heavyweight, Toney has beaten an ancient Holyfield and an unheralded prospect, Rydell Booker. Apparently, this was enough to warrant a title shot for Toney, and he went on to defeat John “The Quiet Man” Ruiz for his WBA portion of the heavyweight title. Or did he? The bout was subsequently ruled a no contest when it was discovered that Toney had cheated by testing positive for steroids. Toney was promptly stripped of the title, which was given back to Ruiz. After being fined and serving his suspension, Toney will likely become a player in the division once again.
The popularity of the sport of boxing is often dependent upon the state of the heavyweight division, and right now the division isn’t so hot. In the absence of a dominant champion, casual fans just aren’t interested in the sport, and sadly, I don’t see anyone on the horizon likely to emerge as such anytime in the near future.
Can someone save the heavyweight division?
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