The Heavyweight Division: Never As Bad As They Say

by Damon Ealy (AKA PghWindmill)

Paul Magno, el administrador espectacular at the Boxing Times Blue Corner, recently pinched his nose with his left hand and one-finger-typed his top 10 heavyweights with his right (asking, “Are there even 10 worth ranking?” at the top of his post).

Well, Paul did manage to wince and keck through 10 of them. That’s okay. I’m used to everyone griping about the heavyweight division. So is everyone. It’s so cliché to complain about the heavyweights that it’s cliché to complain about people complaining about the heavyweights.

Hey, I’ll not try to pass this off as a golden age of heavies. But I’m not the only one who follows the division no matter what kind of shape it’s in. And not only am I loyal, I’m an optimist. On top of my 10 best, I’ve added another 10 I think will keep the division exciting in the near future and who could (or should) move into the top tier.

By the way, Paul knows his stuff, so I’m not surprised to find I pretty much mirror his rankings (though, c’mon–John Ruiz in the top five?!)

The top 10:

1. Wladimir Klitschko – You think he needs to prove something after his decision win in February over Sultan Ibragimov that defined playing it safe? He’ll bounce back against his mandatory, Tony Thompson, in July.
2. Samuel Peter – No way, Jose Sulaiman. We want Peter-Wladimir II, not Peter-Vitali I.
3. Ruslan Chagaev – A rematch with Nikolai Valuev on May 31 in Germany should clear things up-hopefully.
4. Nikolai Valuev
5. Sultan Ibragimov – I’m not going to penalize him as much as others want to for his subpar show against Klitschko.
6. Alexander Povetkin – Povetkin’s fought only 15 fights as a professional, but he’s got a mess of amateur experience-and an Olympic gold medal. He’s here by virtue of a win over Eddie Chambers and for thumping former IBF titleholder Chris Byrd. Povetkin’s scheduled for a July bout, but an opponent remains TBA. It’s disappointing that there’s not a name-a name-brand name-in place by now.
7. John Ruiz – Always puts on a bad show. Complains a lot. Past his prime. But his level of competition and a decision win in March over Jameel McCline keeps him here. For now.
8. Alexander Dimitrenko – He’s young and relatively busy. By most accounts, he’s got talent. What he needs is to beat a name. A win over Derric Rossy last weekend is a start, but he needs to raise it up from there.
9. Tony Thompson – The Tiger has a 31-1 record and hasn’t lost since Bill Clinton was the prez. Nice, but the names along the way don’t add up to a top-10 ranking. Thompson’s a good cat, but he’ll have to be better than gr-r-r-r-r-r-eat on July 12 in Germany. Otherwise, Wladimir Klitschko squashes him.
10. Eddie Chambers – Took his first pro loss in January versus Povetkin. He’s scheduled to fight a rebounder in June versus Raphael Butler in the Caymans. The next two or three fights should tell us what we need to know.

Ten on the fringe:

Chris Arreola – I can’t put the Nightmare in the top 10 just on potential. If he beats Chazz Witherspoon on June 21, he’s there. His résumé isn’t illustrious, but it’s not soft, either. What I note is that there are no losses on it, and there’s exactly one decision win. The rest of the results have K’s and O’s in them. And he could be fighting bodies, sure. We’ll know when we see him tested. But I’m thinking look out, top 10.

David Haye – Though it seems it’s only a question of when Haye moves into the top echelon, I’ve got to apply the same rules to him that I do Arreola. The big difference is that Haye has beaten some of the best at his weight and looked dynamite doing it. The excitement over his move to heavyweight is justified.
Vitali Klitschko – Only because he could return a month from today and take out the bottom half of the top 10, assuming his body held up. As it is, he’s got the much-derided WBC “champion emeritus” label and as such would be Peter’s mandatory should he return. But for now, he’s running for mayor of Kiev. Apparently Vitali wants to take over and clean up a shady, corrupt enterprise previously run by shysters. Once he shows us he can lick Kiev, maybe he can move on to the WBC.

Andrew Golota – Wins in the last year against Jeremy Bates, Kevin McBride, and Mike Mollo don’t necessarily indicate a bona fide comeback. But Golota has looked good in all three and outright impressive against the younger Mollo. And, like big brother Vitali, tell me he couldn’t step in and wipe out half of my top 10. Don King will line Golota up with someone this summer, possibly Shannon Briggs.

Odlanier Solis – So talented and much more experienced than his 9-0 record as a pro suggests. As an amateur, Solis defeated David Haye and Sultan Ibragimov (twice). Solis will fight a TBA opponent in Las Vegas later in June on the same card as fellow Cuban Olympic gold medalist (and Blue Corner favorite) Yuriorkis Gamboa.

Tye Fields – There’s no place in the top 10 for the Versus house heavyweight until he’s fought genuine competition, but Monte Barrett is a baby step in the right direction for Big Sky.

Vladimir Virchis – At 34, he’s more than likely peaked. He’s fought only 25 professional fights, all in Europe, but his only loss is an MD to Chagaev. He’s been inactive for six months, so it’s time to get busy. Patience should not be a Virchis-and a name win would do him some good. Otherwise he sinks from here.

Juan Carlos Gomez – Also 34. Has the mo’ better pro experience, but he’s otherwise in the same boat as Virchis. And he’s got an inactive streak of his own going, approaching seven months.

Matt Skelton – Haye is still a cruiser, so call Skelton my token British heavyweight, but he is 21-2 and has only lost to Chagaev and Danny Williams (aka Remember Me? I Beat Mike Tyson). Skelton’s got gatekeeper-type Sinan Samil Sam at the end of this month for the EBU European heavyweight title. It’s make or break for Skelton, ’cause he’s 41, and his best victories are two over Michael Sprott and a revenge win over the aforementioned Danny Williams.

Oleg Maskaev – Unless he were to pull out a flukish upset, there’s nowhere for Maskaev to go but down to shot-fighter territory. His physical ailments were evident against Samuel Peter, and though he had some moments, he didn’t look like he belonged in the ring that night. The Big O might consider calling it a day. But he has surprised us a couple of times over a 15-year career, and he’s one “big” reason that Hasim Rahman didn’t make my second 10.


One response to “The Heavyweight Division: Never As Bad As They Say

  1. Just to update this one a bit:

    – Ruslan Chagaev’s viral infection has postponed his rematch with Nikolai Valuev for just over a month (July 5).

    – Of course I groaned when I saw the news that arrangements for Peter-Vitali Klitschko had been made. But I’m over it. We knew it was coming. It’ll be interesting to see where the fight happens and who gets matched up with Peter in a summer tune-up. Despite Don King being a co-promoter here, I’m guessing that Peter takes the safest route and does not fight Andrew Golota, as has been rumored. Just a guess, though. But if not, I have to think Golota will be on the undercard.

    – David Tua is to get the winner of Arreola-Witherspoon. Right now, Witherspoon may be the one to give him the better go. Tua’s been fighting pretty safe for the last three years, but the only fighters to beat him are quality ones: Chris Byrd (2001), Lennox Lewis (2000), and Ike Ibeabuchi (1997)–all by decision. Yeah, it’s been a while since Tua had to face a quality opponent, but if I’m either Arreola or Witherspoon, I’m still doing that roadwork and perfecting my outside game all summer.

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