The Big Guys are waking up

07.08.06 – By Cesar R.: The trio of best heavyweights today is composed, according to the Ring ratings, by Wladimir Klitschko, Hasim Rahman and, surprisingly, James Toney. While Klitschko and Rahman are also the consensus Top Heavyweights, many criticize the Ring’s rating of Toney at #3; they think that he lost against Rahman and that guys like Lyakhovich or even Valuev deserve that place. In my opinion, the Rock of Baltimore (to differ him from the one of Brockton) won that fight by 2 rounds.. However, that fight was close and a draw isn’t so hard to conceive, considering the punch stats and Toney’s subtle moves. So ranking Toney just below Rahman isn’t hard to visualize. These three fighters also have a common factor: all of them fell from the top and returned to it.

Wladimir Klitschko’s return to the Top of the Heavyweight division has been the best since the one of Mike Tyson (from jail) in the mid 90s.

And I’m not counting the comeback of George Foreman, since he retired at will in 1977. After being quickly demolished by ‘The Sniper’ Sanders, Wladimir lost his heir apparent status and much of his prestige. So he started adjusting his style to a more conservative one, but it took long before he mastered it…and he lost again, against Lamon Brewster. That was the worst part of everything: the miserable excuses, being excluded from the Top10, the jokes from the media, the lack of support from his own fans, etc.

People of his own entourage were telling him to quit boxing, but he decided to give it one more try. He has had relative success ever since. His toughest challenge came in 2005 against Samuel Peter. The Nigerian was seen by some like the next great heavyweight, even some vehement fans considered him to be the next Tyson (!!). Peter has nothing that resembles Tyson, except very good punching power; but he is slower, fatter and cruder. Nevertheless, it was a big challenge for Klitschko and he showed heart by standing up after some knockdowns and rocking Peter, then winning a comfortable UD. At the end, Wladimir recovered a lot of prestige and Peter ended virtually disfigured. Then he rematched Chris Byrd and now we have Klitschko again as the #1 heavyweight, after three terrible years for him. Nobody can deny he has made a great effort.

Hasim Rahman is a different story because he was given a shot at the Title of Lennox Lewis, when he wasn’t a high-ranked fighter. Then he became “Rahman the Champion” for 7 months before turning into “Has-been Rahman”. He also had bad times and couldn’t score a win from April 2001 until March 2004, losing to a well-prepared Lennox Lewis, an old Evander Holyfield and John Ruiz. Don’t forget Hasim’s dubious draw against an overweight David Tua, while being at overweight himself. The former Champ started his “comeback” and was very active in 2004. Then in 2005 he defeated a Top10 fighter for the second time in his life (Monte Barrett) and last April he took the best part of that draw against another Top10 fighter, James Toney. Now Rahman is the #2 heavyweight, he has earned that place and he is more mature and more focused than before. Has he peaked?

Speaking about James Toney…he also had his “Dark Ages” between 1996 and 2003, so his return to the spotlight was even more dramatic than the one of Klitschko or Rahman. He did look impressive against Holyfield and that win included him in the Heavyweight Top10. After that, I’m afraid he has been more about trash talking than about getting concrete results in the ring. However, he has the chance to reaffirm himself against Samuel Peter, and then aim to a rematch with Rahman or challenge another titlist. He is also ranked high at the WBA, so maybe he could fight Nikolay Valuev. The size difference is tremendous, but I think Toney wins that fight on points. He still has good counterattacking skills, measures well the distance, has an A grade chin and knows how to use the angles. Valuev would put him against the ropes and Toney would do what he knows to win the fight on points. It would be his third chance at a belt, he must not ruin it…and if he does then it is all over for him in boxing.

On the other hand, Klitschko and Rahman are busy with their own fights, which could be considered “easier”. The first one is fighting the former Champion Shannon Briggs, the latter will try to avenge a loss against the former #1 contender (6 years ago): Oleg Maskaev. There are rumors that they will meet each other in early 2007, if they win their respective fights. It must happen, Rahman is predestined to fight a Klitschko…and it would also reestablish the championship lineage. If a good undercard is included, I’d pay a lot of money to watch it.

Some notes:

-With his draw against Ray Austin, Sultan Ibragimov gave more reasons to the fans of why the Ibragimovs are not the new Klitschkos. Take a look at Ruslan Chagaev, in my opinion he is the best Eastern European fighter after Wladimir Klitschko.

-My prediction for Rahman-Maskaev: Rahman UD12

Article posted on 07.08.2006

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