The Best Heavyweights of this decade
13.09.06 - By Cesar R. - In less than 4 months we will arrive to 2007, hopefully. This means that the first two thirds of this decade (2000-2009) will have passed. At this point, it is already acceptable to start making rankings about the best fighters of the decade. Probably, in three years, there will be some changes, but not as much as you think. It is time to start judging.
Article posted on 13.09.2006
1. Lennox Lewis: He is arguably the greatest heavyweight of the last 15 years, competing only against Evander Holyfield for that recognition. The Lion defended the Title in 5 opportunities in the 2000-2003 period. He defeated a young tiger called Michael Grant, Frans Botha (an ‘easy’ defence in England), a dangerous contender with foremanesque power in David Tua, an old and sluggish Mike Tyson and also Vitali Klitschko. Lewis also lost and regained the Title, making his reign even more epical. His greatness reached a part of this decade and allowed us to enjoy from a dominance we hadn’t seen since the late 1980s.
2. Vitali Klitschko: After his fierce perfomance versus Herbie Hide, in England, he was mauled by the claws of unpopularity for quitting against Chris Byrd in 2000, while being comfortably ahead on the scorecards. After that, he kept fighting fringe contenders and knocking out practically all his opponents. It was fun to watch him fight due to his fighting tempo and agression. After brawling and losing to Lewis, in 2003, he became very popular and was considered the most important element in the division for a couple of years. He ranks high in this list because he was one of the most important, popular and dominant (in his fights) heavyweights of 2000-2005.
3. Wladimir Klitschko: The younger Klitschko has many supporters and detractors, most boxing aficionados talk about him. In the years 2000, 2001 and 2002, Wladimir built a very good image for himself and gained the status of ‘heir apparent’. But a hook from Corrie Sanders showed his main weakness and ended the ‘dream’. Then the tenacity of Lamon Brewster knocked him out of the rankings. After being three years in the boxing hell, he returned to the Top of the rankings. If he defeats Calvin Brock it will be his third consecutive victory against a ranked contender. The last heavyweights that did that were Lennox Lewis (several times during his career, the final one being against Rahman-Tyson-V.Klitschko) and Vitali Klitschko (however, in this case the quality was criticized). The ‘Steelhammer’ has been definetely one of the most important heavyweights of the last six years and he is still active.
4. Chris Byrd: He is the most important american heavyweight since Evander Holyfield, it is a shame that Rahman became Champion and Byrd didn’t. Chris is a natural cruiserweight (at best a small heavyweight) and his defensive/elusive style is highly uneffective. However, he had a lot of success. Many of his wins were questioned because he took the worst part on those fights (especially against V. Klitschko, Oquendo, Golota, McCline), however, Byrd has one of the best resumes of the last years and was a solid contender since the late 90s. His accomplishments were finally recognized when he was considered the consensus #1 fighter during a brief period in April 2006 (after V. Klitschko retired and Brewster lost). I rank him below Wladimir because of their two fights, also below Vitali because he was never viewed as ‘that’ kind of fighter and due to the circumstances that encircled the outcome of their fight.
5. John Ruiz: ‘The Quietman’ is arguably the most successful latino in heavyweight history. If you consider strictly his resume (without any other kind of analysis) and forget about Lennox Lewis, then Ruiz has the best heavyweight record of the last few years. You can say that his style is imprudent, filthy, boring and even sinister...but he was determined to face anybody you put in front of him. He fought Tua, Holyfield, Johnson, Jones, Rahman, Oquendo, Golota, Toney, Valuev, etc. Don’t watch him fight, but give him some respect for ducking nobody.
6. Hasim Rahman: Former World Champion, some would say because of luck This is another man who was willing to face anybody: from Sanders to Tua, Lewis, Ruiz, Toney and many other recognizable names. The problem is that most times he faced contenders, he lost. After his Luciferian fall from boxing heaven (the Heavyweight Championship), he constructed a good comeback, which ended last August. I don’t think he can have that kind of success again.
7. James Toney: He has done some very good displays of boxing in the three years he has been part of the ‘glamour division’ – remember his showdowns with Holyfield, Ruiz, Guinn and also Peter. ‘Lights Out’ has been a contender for three years (one third of the decade), so I think he has the right to be included in this list. Toney was a Middleweight during four years, Super Middleweight during two years, Light Heavyweight during two years, Cruiserweight during eight years and Heavyweight during three. His heavyweight campaign has been for real and relatively successful.
8. Lamon Brewster: He came into the picture after his Phyrric victory over Wladimir Klitschko. Then, after demolishing Golota, the public surrendered to him. Brewster is also considered one of the most exciting heavyweights of the last years and had a pretty good 2004-2005. His fights against Klitschko, Krasniqi and Liakhovich are some of the best of recent times. Lamon controls a lot of power in both hands, has a big heart and his chin is an igneous rock.
9. Kirk Johnson: A lot of talent that was wasted by lack of dedication. Johnson has been one of the most remarkable Canadian Heavyweights ever and had all the talent in the world, but decided to come out of shape to some of his most important fights. He was a legitimate contender, a very good fighter during 2000-2003 and holds a nice record of 36-2. I was glad when I heard that the verdict of the Mora fight had changed to NC.
10. Oleg Maskaev: It is accurate to say that he is a ‘Cinderella Man’ like Jimmy Braddock was in the mid-30s. The ‘Big O’ was one of the first successful russians in heavyweight boxing and became the Top contender at the start of the century. A loss to Kirk Johnson was the start of the downfall, and he was virtually forgotten. Maskaev defeated Rahman and has climbed again to the Top3 of the world, but many still give him few chances against other contenders. To reach Braddock he has to win the Heavyweight Title, the WBC belt is not enough.
Close but didn’t make it: Andrew Golota, Jameel McCline, David Tua, Fres Oquendo.
Names for the next years: Calvin Brock, Nikolay Valuev, Sergei Liakhovich, Samuel Peter, Alexander Povetkin, Ruslan Chagaev.
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