It has been a year since the last time Boxingtalk chronicled the heavyweight division. One year later and there have been several changes. Klitschko is still considered the best heavyweight, only his name is now Wladimir instead of Vitali. Hasim Rahman returned to champion status and all of a sudden the Eastern Europeans came out of nowhere to claim control of boxing’s flagship division. While older than usual fighters are still staying on top of the division, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson look as if it could be the end of their careers and Lennox Lewis has stayed retired. Yes, it is a different heavyweight division that seems to becoming more and more up for grabs every fight.
The Champions: Quite simply put, these are the fighters who hold a title from one of the major sanctioning bodies (WBC, WBA, WBO and IBF). Unfortunately for boxing fans, none of these titles were unified over the year, albeit, one area of the world brings us 3 of the 4 champions.
Wladimir Klitschko (IBF, Boxingtalk #1): One year ago most boxing reporters and fans started to dismiss the younger of the Klitschko Brothers as having no chin, stamina problems and a questionable will to fight. Who could blame them after disappointing outings against Lamon Brewster and DaVarryl Williamson? The show had come to a close for Wlad with one last curtain call against Samuel Peter, or so we all thought! Klitschko beat the young Peter, although tasting the canvas three times, and reclaimed his spot as a top contender. Klitschko followed up with a flawless performance against Chris Byrd to win the IBF Title and solidify momentarily the top spot in the heavyweight division. There still are questions on his chin and stamina, but for the time being Emmanuel Steward has taught the young Klitschko to protect his weaknesses. Next fight: TBA
Hasim Rahman (WBC, Boxingtalk #2): Rahman may have become an official world champion in a board room, nonetheless, the evidence proves Rahman deserves to be where he is. Vitali Klitschko habitually avoided fighting Rahman even after Rahman won an interim title to force Vitali to fight him. Combining the records of Rahman’s six opponents before becoming full champion will show a 195-46-5. The Rock’s first defense against James Toney he put on a jabbing clinic where he certainly deserved to bring home the victory against a legend of the ring. While his last couple of outings may not have displayed the best Hasim Rahman, he appears to be focused more than ever and coming into these fights in phenomenal shape. If he can make it to voluntary defense time he will have fought James Toney twice and Oleg Maskaev (who previously knocked Rahman out) and deserve to be touted as the best heavyweight. Next fight: August 12, Oleg Maskaev
Serguei Lyahovich (WBO, Boxingtalk #6): Thought to be a tune up for Dominic Guinn in December of 2004, Lyahovich walked away with a ticket to a world title fight. Don King attempted to put him in the ring with Chris Byrd, nonetheless, a legal entanglement brought on by the Klitschko’s prevented this fight from happening. Even then he was thought to be a tune up fight for Byrd. Patience was indeed a virtue for Lyahovich though as he stepped up this past April, having been out for over a year, from being a tune up fight for Lamon Brewster to being WBO heavyweight champ. Battle proven in the best heavyweight title fight in recent memory, Serguei has become a hot commodity. All he needs now is to stay busy so he can be sharper in the ring and possibly fight in a very lucrative bout in Europe. Next fight: TBA, Possibly in August
Nikolay Valuev (WBA, Boxingtalk #4): Who was the heaviest world champion ever? Who was the tallest heavyweight champion of all-time? Who was the man who finally ended the reign of Jawny? The answer is the seven-feet tall, 324 lbs. Nikolay Valuev! Pure boxing fans should all fall to their knees in praise for the man who finally stopped the Greco-boxing Jawny from being a world champ. While Valuev is not the best heavyweight right now, his size has given him an audience and fans want to finally see this guy in the ring as he has risen from being a “Butterbean-like” sideshow to being a legitimate heavyweight. If the tall Russian successfully defends over Owen Beck, it would not be surprising to if he finds himself in the ring with another one of the Eastern European heavyweight champions. Next fight: June 4, Owen Beck
The Contenders: These are the fighters who have earned in the ring the right to challenge a world champion. A fight or two more and they should be challenging for a world title if not already scheduled to do so.
James Toney (Boxingtalk #3): After going through the ranks of the heavyweight division, James Toney received a reward for his tenacity by becoming the WBC’s mandatory challenger to newly crowned champion Hasim Rahman. In a decent fight Toney showed that he may be “The Best Damn Heavyweight Period” if he came in shape. Instead the fight was declared a draw where most people had Rock winning. Immediately following the Rahman draw, the WBC stated the winner of Rahman-Maskaev must fight James Toney. Therefore Toney, who is considered the best boxer in the heavyweight division will get his third attempt at a world title. Next fight: TBA
Oleg Maskeav (Boxingtalk #16): Towards the end of 1999 a statement between two top heavyweight prospects was made when Oleg Maskeav knocked out Hasim Rahman. Maskeav received the reward of HBO showcases as they built him towards a world title opportunity, while Rahman was back to the drawing board. After a few key losses, Maskeav found himself boxing’s doghouse as he would be lucky to get a televised fight, during which time Rahman found himself challenging world champions and getting the opportunity to make a big name for himself. Fortunately for Maskeav after 10 straight victories, everything has come full circle after his defeat of Sinan Samil Sam last fall to become the top challenger to Hasim Rahman. After a questionable draw to Toney, several thought Oleg would have to sit out and watch a Rahman-Toney rematch, as it would come to pass, the WBC kept him in his rightful status and now Maskeav can make it a sweep for the Eastern Europeans holding all the heavyweight titles. Next fight: August 12, Hasim Rahman
Calvin Brock (Boxingtalk #8): Considered the best of the young heavyweights, the “Boxing Banker” has cemented his position as a top contender with victories over Jameel McCline and Zuri Lawrence. Those two victories in the spotlight Brock caught the eye of several in the media and boxing fans everywhere. Last fall Brock looked as if he would receive a shot at Vitali Klitschko, as it came to pass, that fight did not come through. After his spectacular knockout of Lawrence, the talk is he will fight Wladimir Klitschko if he can get past Timor Ibragimov. Don’t be surprised if Brock upsets Klitschko and becomes the best young heavyweight champion. Next fight: June 24, Timor Ibragimov
Lamon Brewster (Boxingtalk #7): Brewster did not fall completely off the map of being a contender after losing his WBO title mainly because his loss was in the best heavyweight title fight in recent memory. Victories over Golota and Krasniqi help Brewster stand fast in his position as a top contender. Due to the fact Brewster’s run came to an end against someone who was lightly regarded going in, his status has dropped, nonetheless, he was promised a rematch when he heals from a detached retina. Next fight: TBA
Samuel Peter (Boxingtalk #11): Dino Duva will send out a several press releases if Sam Peter is not mentioned as a top contender. Truthfully, Peter has freakish power that has propelled him into the spotlight. Peter’s lack of a few fundamental skills such as cutting off the ring cost him dearly in the biggest fight of his career against Wladimir Klitschko. Peter has plowed through C-level fighters and now it’s time for the “Nigerian Nightmare” to wake up and fight an A-level opponent. Peter has public demand behind him still, now his promoter and manager need to put him in against someone who will show whether he has it or not. Next fight: TBA
The Gatekeepers: These are the fighters who are either close to becoming a contender who has already been a contender or world champion. As you can see, they are the fighters who are either one win away from once again being considered a contender or one loss from being completely finished. Most commonly considered crossroads fighters.
Chris Byrd (Boxingtalk #5): Never really a crowd satisfying fight, Byrd is a great technical fighter. Unfortunately for Byrd his ability to make fighters look bad and not being real crowd pleasing has hurt him in the pocketbook. Recently Byrd went to Germany as IBF world champion as well as a very bad game plan and came home without his title and in the worst marketability shape of his career; nonetheless, he was a couple million dollars richer. Byrd has hinted his intentions towards continuing to fight and for his sake he can show flashes of the Chris Byrd of old to once again reign on top of the heavyweight division. Next fight: TBA
Jawny Ruiz (Boxingtalk #9): Over the last year the reign of Jawny finally came to an end. Ruiz, who is a two time WBA titlist was not the most entertaining fighter, however, to his credit it took a seven feet tall Russian to wrestle the title from Ruiz. There is talk of Ruiz fighting Sultan Ibragimov for a mandatory title fight, then again at this time it is just talk and hopefully Jawny will just fade into the sunset. Next fight: TBA, possible Sultan Ibragimov
Monte Barrett (Boxingtalk #12): Once upon a time Monte Barrett became the mandatory challenger for both the IBF title and WBC title. Times have changed after Monte lost a snoozer against Hasim Rahman last August. In the must see heavyweight fight of the year in 2005, everyone expected a fight except the two in the ring. Rahman won the fight and went on to become the WBC champion and Monte has sat it out to this point while waiting for the right opportunity. To this point opportunity has passed Barrett by as his age keeps going up opportunities may be gone for good. Next fight: TBA
Joe Mesi (Boxingtalk #23): These days Joe Mesi has much to celebrate as he has regained his boxing license through a loophole in the system. The always popular brain damaged heavyweight returned to action in April and won a unanimous decision over Ron Bellamy. Mesi showed ring rust, but nothing a few more tune fights won’t shake off. The biggest test of Mesi’s career is not becoming world champion as much as surviving after his subdural hematoma’s. Next fight: TBA
Danny Williams (Boxingtalk #10): The toast of Britain in the heavyweight division is Danny Williams. Following his failed attempt to win the WBC title from Vitali Klitschko, Williams wasted no time putting his name back in the minds of boxing fans by defeating super heavyweight gold medalist Audley Harrison and followed up by handing Matt Skeleton his first defeat. Williams, for now, is still a highly regarded heavyweight who will enjoy another title fight if he gets past Skeleton once again as the division is being transported to Europe. Next fight: July 8, Matt Skeleton
Luan Krasniqi (Boxingtalk #13): Krasniqi came very close to winning the WBO title from Lamon Brewster. Having built an early lead on the scorecards, Krasniqi saw just how relentless this sport can be as Brewster stopped him in the ninth round. Krasniqi followed up his title opportunity with a lopsided decision victory over David Bostice. Krasniqi remains high in the ratings and should land at least an eliminator bout soon. Next fight: TBA
The Prospects: These are fighters who have not reached being considered top contenders to this point and are considered very close towards becoming serious contenders to the throne. The fighters listed at knocking at the door (this category only) are the ones who are the best out of the crop the next generation of heavies.
Ray Austin (Boxingtalk #19): Austin is not a spring chicken who the majority of his career has been considered a journeyman at best. Recently Austin received the break every fighter dreams of when Serguei Lyakhovich dropped out of an IBF elimination bout with Owen Beck. Austin received the call and won the later rounds to become the #2 contender in the IBF ratings. After a showcase bout last month, Austin is ready for another elimination bout to attempt to declare himself as the mandatory challenger. Next fight: TBA
Sultan Ibragimov (Boxingtalk #14): Sultan came out of obscurity recently in his destruction of Goofi Whitaker last December. Sultan easily dispatched of the former contender in seven rounds to announce to the division that he is indeed a serious threat to anyone. Having defeated accomplished veterans on his way up, Sultan certainly deserves his chance at making it in his next few fights. Possible fights with John Ruiz or Ray Austin on the horizon, it won’t be long until champions are forced to take Sultan seriously. Next fight: TBA, possible Ray Austin or John Ruiz
Juan Carlos Gomez (Boxingtalk #15): The former ruler of the cruiserweight division has not found an easy road in the glamour division of boxing. After ten defense of his cruiserweight title, Gomez moved up to the heavyweight division and found success until he was knocked out in the first round against Yanqui Diaz. Gomez won two fights before facing Oliver McCall in a fight that was declared a no-contest after Gomez failed a drug test. After a battery of tests to clear his good name, Gomez is back in the ratings and reinstated to fight. Given where he currently fights out of, there should be no problem fighting a top heavyweight soon. Next fight: TBA
Owen Beck (Boxingtalk Unrated): For some reason this kid keeps getting opportunities. After losing to Ray Austin and Monte Barrett in title eliminator fights, Beck beat a journeyman and now is receiving a world title fight with Nicolay Valuev. Some justice for Austin and Barrett, the winners of those elimination bouts right? Beck is comparable to Bruce Seldon in getting his opportunity and if he does pull off an upset against the giant it will be shocking to see him last long as a champion. Next fight: June 3, Nicolay Valuev
Kevin McBride (Boxingtalk #34): After an intriguing match with the always entertaining Mike Tyson where McBride came away with the “W”, McBride certainly deserves a chance. Years ago a win over Mike Tyson meant something, nonetheless, many know that Lennox Lewis took all that remained. With that in mind, McBride did hold up under the pressure of a major fight he was expected to lose and that counts for something. McBride does not deserve a title fight, albeit, he has earned his spot. Next fight: TBA, rumored Serguei Lyakhovich
Honorable Mention: Timor Ibragimov, JD Chapman, Audley Harrison, Brian Minto, Malik Scott, Javier Mora, Shane Cameron and Michael Marrone
One & Done: These are fighters who have made it, failed, then made it again and failed. Pretty much they are on their last leg of their careers where one more defeat and they will be done and considered just a name on someone’s record.
David Tua (Boxingtalk #22): David Tua has done everything in boxing except win a world championship. For that very reason Tua’s wife threaten to beat him with a frying pan if he did not go out and follow his dream. Unfortunately for Tua, his disputes with former managers have kept him out of the ring for two years. Now that Tua is back he has not shown his old form especially in his latest fight against Cisse Salif where Tua won a harder than expected split decision. Since that time, Tua started dealing with accusations using ephedrine based weight-loss drugs before big fights by his former management. Passing on a fight with Shannon Briggs has put Tua on the outside looking in, needing a meaningful fight soon. Next fight: TBA
Fres Oquendo (Boxingtalk #24): Fast Fres became a very fortunate fighter by receiving two world title opportunities consecutively; as it would come to pass he would fail in both fights. Following his hugfest with John Ruiz, Oquendo took a two year sabbatical from the sport before returning this past February taking out Daniel Bispo. People once considered Fres one of the heirs to the throne; nonetheless, he has fallen short of his potential. To Oquendo’s credit, he is taking his comeback seriously taking on freak accident winner Javier Mora in a fight that will show just how much he has left. Next fight: May 25, Javier Mora
Shannon Briggs (Boxingtalk #27): Joe Louis used to fight “The bum of the month” back in the day to give a no-hoper a chance to fight for the title. Shannon Briggs has brought back this tradition, as a result he has reeled off ten straight knockouts all the while getting people excited to see him fight again. Negotiations failed so far for him to fight Sam Peter therefore Briggs will continue with his bum of the month challenge. Hey somewhere in there he defeated an old Ray Mercer in one of the most humorous looking knockouts in ages. Next fight: Chris Koval
Henry Akinwande (Boxingtalk #17): Oh Henry, you’re still around? Yes, the man who originated the Greco-boxing style we all have come to love from Jawny Ruiz has hung around for another year defeating journeymen in his attempt to find one more shot at the leaders of the division. A few interesting fights with the taller fighters in the division can be made and propel him into a meaningful fight. Next fight: TBA
Dominic Guinn (Boxingtalk #20): Formerly known as the best of the young heavyweights, Guinn displayed once again that he still knows how to beat the tall guys by defeating Audley Harrison. Guinn is still a fighter in high demand who has fought several decent fighters. Guinn is poised for one final run at a championship where a few more wins and he will find friendly fighters for his title with guys like Wladimir Klitschko and Nicolay Valuev at top. Next fight: TBA
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