Heavyweights ’09

by Damon Ealy

Conventional wisdom goes that everything is slower in the heavyweight division, including change. Looking at the heavyweight overview I did a year ago, that’s borne out: same guy at the top (Wladimir Klitschko), same couple of young guys making noise somewhere else down the list (David Haye and Cristobal Arreola). This is a division so stodgy that the return of 37-year-old Vitali Klitschko counts as change.

But as I said a year ago, I love the division and I’m an optimist. I think Wladimir Klitschko is a better champion than most fans and writers give him credit for (I even think he warrants top-10 pound-for-pound inclusion, but that’s a different article), and I’m sure the young guys, Haye and Arreola, will do good things for the division in 2009. These are the top heavyweights as I see them with a look back at last year’s rankings. (Significant wins and losses are over the last three years.)  

 

1. Wladimir Klitschko – 52-3 (46 KO)

titles: IBF (six defenses), WBO (twice; three defenses), IBO (six defenses) klitschkowlad

wins: Calvin Brock, Lamon Brewster, Sultan Ibragimov, Tony Thompson

losses: none

a year ago: The same: #1. I said: “You think he needs to prove something after a decision win in February over Sultan Ibragimov that defined playing it safe? He’ll bounce back against his mandatory, Tony Thompson, in July.”

since then: Went 10-plus rounds with Thompson, then thrashed late fill-in Hasim Rahman (standing in—and really mostly just standing in—for IBF mandatory Alexander Povetkin). Steady Wlad didn’t do much to appease the critics; he just completely dominated overmatched competition.

next: David Haye/Cristobal Arreola/Alexander Povetkin, late spring/early summer

 

2. Vitali Klitschko – 36-2 (35 KO) vitali

titles: WBO, WBC (twice)

wins: Sam Peter

losses: none

a year ago: Inactive and unranked in the top 10. “[H]e could return a month from today and take out the bottom half of the top 10, assuming his body held up.”

since then: Well, how about returning to wipe out #2, WBC champion Samuel Peter, using a bit of #1? (Remember Diapergate! “Baby wee is good because it’s pure, doesn’t contain toxins and doesn’t smell,” Vitali Klitschko said after the fight. “I wrap diapers filled with my three-year-old son Max’s wee around my fists. The nappies hold the liquid and the swelling stays down.”) I’d call Vitali’s win over Peter a burial, but it was so much more a, um, piss-pounding

next: Juan Carlos Gomez, March 21

 

3. Ruslan Chagaev – 25-0-1 (17 KO) ruslan-chagaev

titles: WBA (two defenses, co-champion w/Nikolai Valuev)

wins: Vladimir Virchis, Michael Sprott, John Ruiz, Nikolai Valuev, Matt Skelton, Carl Davis Drumond

losses: none

a year ago: #3 “A rematch with Nikolai Valuev on May 31 in Germany should clear things up—hopefully.”

since then: Or not. After some injury issues, Chagaev is now in the rather demeaning position of having to share the WBA title with a man he’s already beaten by decision, Nikolai Valuev. Is “demeaning” too strong? Would you want to share top billing with the guy who showed up against Evander Holyfield on December 30 of last year? Chagaev returned from injury to win an unconvincing technical decision against the unproven, inexplicably ranked Carl Davis Drumond that same month.

next: Nikolai Valuev, TBA

 

4. Samuel Peter – 30-2 (23 KO) sam-peter

titles: NABF (twice), USBA, WBC

wins: James Toney, Jameel McCline, Oleg Maskaev

losses: Vitali Klitschko

a year ago: #2 “We want Peter-Wladimir II, not Peter-Vitali I.”

since then: Peter should’ve, too. His loss to the returning Vitali Klitschko was a debacle. But Peter has returned from adversity before. (Remember, his first career loss was to Wladimir Klitschko, and Jameel McCline had him dead to rights in their October ’07 bout that Peter won in a unanimous decision.) Peter’s face-off on ESPN with young gun Eddie Chambers is sink-or-swim.

next: Eddie Chambers, March 27

 

5. Cristobal Arreola – 26-0 (23 KO) arreola3

titles: NABF

wins: Chazz Witherspoon, Travis Walker

losses: none

a year ago: Unranked in the top 10. “If he beats Chazz Witherspoon on June 21, he’s [in the top 10]. 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. … We’ll know when we see him tested. But I’m thinking look out, top 10.”

since then: It’s was a good year for the Nightmare and a relatively busy one. He beat up on Chazz Witherspoon in June, ran through an overmatched Israel Garcia in September, and finished off the year by waxing Travis Walker in a barnburner that saw both boxers hit the deck early. Arreola passed his test by shaking that one off and dumping Walker to keep his stoppage streak intact.

Arreola claims to have seen the light (or is it the lite?) after the Walker bout and says he’ll come into his next bout at about 240 pounds. That’s what he weighed against Witherspoon, and he still didn’t exactly look svelte. Whatever works. But is now the time to come in lighter—against massive Jameel McCline? This is a guy he’s more likely to have to bang with than challenge to any kind of endurance race.

 

next: Jameel McCline, April 11

 

6. Nikolai Valuev – 50-1 (34 KO)

titles: WBA (co-champion w/Ruslan Chagaev)

wins: Monte Barrett, Jameel McCline, Sergei Liakhovich, John Ruiz

losses: Ruslan Chagaev

a year ago: #4

since then: A tough year for the tallest, heaviest heavyweight champ in history. Valuev decisioned John Ruiz in August—no easy feat considering that if you decision Ruiz, you’re apt to have to deal with litigation. And Valuev did. The result: The WBA has made Ruiz the mandatory for the winner of its championship bout between Valuev and Chagaev. (Nice, WBA. Real nice.) Just before the year’s end, Ruiz teamed with Evander Holyfield to put on a monumentally, historically bad bout that gained him a bizarre decision win and mainstream scorn.

 

next: Ruslan Chagaev, TBA

 

7. Tony Thompson31-2  (19 KO)

titles: WBC continental Americas, WBO intercontinental

wins: Dominick Guinn, Timor Ibragimov, Luan Krasniqi

losses: Wladimir Klitschko

a year ago: #9 “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.”

since then: Well, Tony was somewhat less than great, but he did represent the realest, most resilient competition Wladimir Klitschko has faced in years. Afterward, Thompson claimed knee injury. Either way, and despite the round-11 TKO loss, it was a performance he can take some pride in. He returns for a get-well fight on March 21 against 19-9-1 Adnan Serin. That’s a bout that’ll tell us nothing other than whether Tony T. has completely deteriorated during his eight-month ring absence.

next: Adnan Serin, March 21

 

8. Alexander Povetkin – 16-0 (12 KO)

titles: none

wins: Larry Donald, Eddie Chambers

losses: none

a year ago: #6 “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.”

since then: That opponent turned out to be noted workout warrior Taurus Sykes, who ended up being a pushover for Povetkin. (So much so that there were immediate rumors of a throw.) The amateur standout and Olympic gold medalist Povetkin was lined up as Wladimir Klitschko’s IBF mandatory, then managed to injure his foot on a tree root.

next: Jason Estrada, April 4

 

9. Eddie Chambers – 33-1 (18 KO) eddie-chambers

titles: USBA (twice)

wins: Dominick Guinn, Calvin Brock, Raphael Butler

losses: Alexander Povetkin

a year ago: #10 “Took his first pro loss in January versus Povetkin. … The next two or three fights should tell us what we need to know.”

since then: Who knew Chambers would get those two or three fights out of the way so quickly? Fast Eddie is the rare heavy (or pro, really) who’s stayed busy. He notched three wins after the January loss to Povetkin, albeit against B-level competition. Yet his only major ranking is with the IBF (#3). Now: the step-up, versus former WBC titlist Samuel Peter. This fight will tell us what we need to know.

next: Samuel Peter, March 27

 

10. Juan Carlos Gomez – 44-1 (35 KO)

titles: WBC cruiserweight, WBC intercontinental heavyweight

wins: Oliver McCall, Vladimir Virchis

losses: none

a year ago: unranked in the top 10

since then: Beat Vladimir Virchis in a bout nobody on the North American continent saw. More importantly, he showed up for Klitschko-bout promotion looking fit and somewhat intimidating. If we’re comparing moving-up cruiserweights, Gomez has plenty more experience than David Haye and has accomplished much more as a heavyweight. But he’s not been able to knock out established heavies (aside from 34-year-old former Olympian David Defiagbon). Can he last 12 rounds with the meaner Klitschko brother? Still, he’s the mandatory, he gets the title shot first. Tune in on Saturday and enjoy a weekend afternoon heavyweight bout, old-school style.

 

next: Vitali Klitschko, March 21 

 

11. David Haye – 22-1 (21 KO)haye4

titles: cruiserweight: EBU, WBC, WBA, WBO

wins: Tomasz Bonin, Monte Barrett

losses: none

a year ago: “[I]t seems it’s only a question of when Haye moves into the top echelon.”

since then: In today’s heavyweight scene, a win over Monte Barrett (and a steady stream of P.R.) will get you there. The WBC and BoxRec are overreacting by automatically installing Haye in their top fives, but only a true hater would leave Haye out at this point. Let’s make this matchup with Wladimir Klitschko already.

next: W. Klitschko?

 

12. Alexander Dimitrenko – 29-0 (19 KO)

titles: WBO intercontinental

wins: Timo Hoffman, Derric Rossy, Luan Krasniqi

losses: none

a year ago: “[Y]oung and relatively busy. By most accounts, he’s got talent. What he needs is to beat a name.”

since then: I guess if you consider Luan Krasniqi a name…

next: TBA

 

13. Taras Bidenko – 26-2 (12 KO)

titles: WBA intercontinental

wins: Cisse Salif, Michael Sprott

losses: none

a year ago: unranked in the top 10

since then: Has only managed a decision over Michael Sprott since last May, yet the WBA ranks him  #2. He’s attributed the inactivity to “sore hands.” (“Vitali, dear? Phone’s for you. It’s Taras Bidenko. He wants to know if he can borrow some of Max’s pee.”)

next: Possible eliminator bout with the WBA’s #1, Kali Meehan.

 

14. Jason Estrada – 15-1 (3 KO)

titles: none

wins: Lance Whitaker, Derek Bryant

losses: Travis Walker

a year ago: unranked in the top 10

since then: Big year for “Big Six”: Four bouts, four wins over decent competition.

next: Alexander Povetkin, April 4, in a bout featuring two 2004 super heavyweight Olympic representatives, Russia versus the States. This would’ve been huge 25 years ago. Still, an upset win would get Estrada into the top 10.

 

15. Kevin Johnson – 21-0-1 (8 KO) kevinjohnson

titles: none

wins: Damian Wills, Bruce Seldon

losses: none

a year ago: unranked in the top 10

since then: A relatively busy year, with three wins over decent but limited opponents, including former WBA titlist Bruce “Atlantic City Express” Seldon—in Atlantic City. Ouch.

next: TBA

 

five on the fringes:

Denis Boytsov – 24-0 (19 KO)

titles: none

wins: Robert Hawkins, Fernely Feliz, Vinny Maddalone, Israel Carlos Garcia

losses: none

next: TBA. Boytsov is young (23) and active (four bouts in ’08, three against recognizable names) and one already in ’09, a TKO win over Israel Garcia. It’s a decent-looking pro career so far.

 

Oleg Maskaev – 36-6 (27 KO)

titles: WBC

wins: Hasim Rahman, Robert Hawkins

losses: Samuel Peter

a year ago: unranked in the top 10, fresh off a stoppage loss to Samuel Peter in a WBC title bout.

since then: Beat up on two journeymen in Russia. Maskaev wouldn’t even warrant inclusion in a list of relevant heavyweights except that the WBC is hell-bent on keeping him involved. According to Sulaimán and Co., Maskaev is the mandatory defense for the winner of Vitali Klitschko-Juan Carlos Gomez…

next: …though Sulaimán later said he’d approve a Vitali-Valuev matchup if Klitschko beat Gomez. (Uh,  we’ll take Maskaev.) Anyone who saw his bout against Sam Peter knows that Maskaev is done as a contender. But anything from retirement to another WBC title shot could be next. 

 

Kali Meehan – 35-3 (29 KO)

titles: none

wins: DaVarryl Williamson, Dominique Alexander

losses: none

a year ago: unranked in the top 10

since then: Only gets a mention because of his bizarre #1 ranking from the WBA. He’s taken relatively soft bouts since upsetting DaVarryl Williamson late in 2007 (Jeremy Bates and Dominique Alexander in February and August of last year, respectively). With only five bouts in the last three years, he’s just not relevant.

next: In a move representative of almost everything wrong with the sport’s governing bodies, a possible WBA-mandated eliminator bout versus Taras Bidenko.

 

Vladimir Virchis – 24-2 (20 KO)

titles: EBU

wins: Paolo Vidoz, Robert Hawkins

losses: Juan Carlos Gomez, Ruslan Chagaev

a year ago: unranked in the top 10

since then: Lost a decision in a WBC title eliminator to Juan Carlos Gomez.

next: He’s 35. Retirement? TBA.

 

Martin Rogan – 12-0 (6 KO)

titles: British Commonwealth

wins: Audley Harrison, Matt Skelton

losses: none

a year ago: Unknown. Driving cab in Belfast.

since then: Rogan fought in five bouts in the last year. Three of those, of course, were on the same night last April when he won the Prizefighter heavyweight tournament in England and totaled less than eight rounds of boxing. More recently, more significantly, and more spectacularly, Rogan decisioned Audley Harrison in December and stopped Matt Skelton late in February. It’s enough for the WBO to put Rogan at #11. Now he’s calling out David Haye. Slow down, WBO. Slow down, Martin. Still, Rogan is as close to a true-life Rocky as we’re likely to see in a long while.

 

next: EBU title bout, May 9, in Ireland.  

 

WBC, WBA, WBO—WTF?!

rankings madness:


– WBA #1: Kali Meehan

– WBO #8: Shane Cameron

– WBA #3: John Ruiz

– WBC #9: Odlanier Solis

– WBO #14: Gonzalo Omar Basile

– IBF #13: Cedric Boswell*


 

*Call it the Monte Barrett rule: Knocking off a big-hype, little-delivery heavyweight should get you something (maybe something better than a beating in London by David Haye), and Boswell did well in upsetting Roman Greenberg in front of Boswell’s Atlanta crowd last summer. But not much else in his record suggests he deserves a ranking.

 

 

 

Hey, and what ever happened to…

…Sultan Ibragimov?

Last year’s #5 hasn’t fought since the one-sided loss to Klitschko. As a result, he may have taken less heat for the loss than Klitschko did for the win.

…John Ruiz?

Last year’s #7. You thought he’d go away? Thanks to the WBA, Ruiz will be back to harass either Nikolai Valuev or Ruslan Chagaev. Beyond farcical.

…Sergei Liakhovich?

Unranked here a year ago, coming off consecutive losses to Shannon Briggs and Nikolai Valuev. The former WBO titleholder hasn’t fought since.

 

Love or hate these ratings? Leave a comment. And check out the Boxing Times official heavyweight rankings: http://www.btbc.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=rankings&action=display&thread=54     

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4 responses to “Heavyweights ’09

  1. Hey now, let’s give Adnan Serin some credit. He’s a former IBU champion, and never lost the title in the ring. Plus the IBU website says they’re sanctioning a big, big cruiserweight title in April between Bash Ali and John Keaton. That’s money right there. Serin KO3 Thompson.

  2. To cavalierly dismiss Adnan Serin’s chances after his life-and-death battles with the likes of Jukka Jarvinen and Danny AC Williams — the latter of which he retired from only due to injury, it must be noted — is to commit a grave mistake in my opinion. Serin invariably puts on an electrifying show whenver he steps through the ropes, even when not at the peak of his game, but when he is properly prepared to boot, he is, simply put, electrifyingly *lethal*. And I believe “The Tiger” will know this all too well when he finds himself declawed at the masterful hands of the “ista man” come the 21st.

    Serin KO1 Thompson (1:04)

  3. What you jokers dont realize is that Adnan COULD beat Tony Thompson anyway he wants, IF he wanted to – the question is..does he?

    By winning a fight as big as this, he would elevate his status to a level that COULD break even the hardest of men. The pressure on him will be immense, and since he has already proven himself to be among the all time greats, it makes one wonder if he could handle the bombardment of media attention he would recieve.

    My prediction – a deliberate draw by Adnan, otherwise he’d have to go into hiding to maintain some sort of normal life (as normal as it can be when you are already pugilist-jesus).

  4. Adnan Serin? This is the silliest thread of comments ever on The BTBC Blog…I humbly submit that Thompson could fight Serin with two buckets on his feet and one over his head…and still cruise to an easy decision…

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