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Wladimir Klitschko & David Haye: The Clean Up of the Heavyweight Division

By Geno McGahee

The Public Challenge

The IBO/IBF/WBO Heavyweight Champion, Wladimir Klitschko, 54-3, 48 KO’s, has done what a champion is supposed to do.  He is cleaning out the division, and although you can criticize the current state of boxing, Wlad’s safety first style, and the lack of appeal in the United States, you cannot argue with success.  One of the big problems with Wlad is that most of the opponents are not worthy of a title shot, but they are listed by the sanctioning bodies as the best of the worst and end up in the ring and then end up carried out of the ring.   None of them have captured the public’s imagination, but there is one guy out there that has made some noise. 

Fresh off his WBA Title defense against John Ruiz, David Haye, 24-1, 22 KO’s, has been rumored to be close to striking a deal with Wladimir in a unification bout.  They were close to fighting before, only to have it fall through, and the two have a history.  Haye’s antics have not impressed or amused “Dr. Steelhammer.”  The artwork that he had created featuring himself holding the severed head of Wladimir raised some eyebrows and when he realized that he offended both Klitschkos, he made a tee shirt, featuring both the brothers in a mangled heap with Haye standing above, holding both of their severed heads. 

In the prefight psychological warfare, Haye was winning easily, but Wlad has done something that will help his reputation in the states and help boxing as a whole.  He called out Haye via video, sent to every boxing publication and youtube, where he used the term “bitched out,” referring to two failed bouts, one with Wlad and one with older brother Vitali.  Now the ball is in Haye’s court.  Will he accept the challenge and will he take on Wlad in the biggest fight in the heavyweight division since Lennox Lewis – Vitali Klitschko?  Most likely yes.

Vitali in Their Sights

The WBC has ordered an eliminator between the “Russian Giant” Nikolay Valuev, 50-2, 34 KO’s, and Odlanier Solis, 16-0, 12 KO’s.  This is an incredibly compelling fight.  Valuev is the 2-Time WBA Heavyweight Champion, but he is also the most disrespected champion to come along since John Ruiz, remarkably the man that he won the title from in 2005.  Valuev has victories over Sergei Liakhovich, Evander Holyfield, John Ruiz (twice), and Jameel McCline, but the public is not sold on him at all.  Some contend that Holyfield and Ruiz both beat him, although when you watch the fights (if you can remain awake), you will have a hard time scoring them.  Whatever the case, the fights were close and Valuev came out on top.  He is a legitimate force in the division. 

Solis has a world of potential but there is also concern from his fan base team about his weight.  He stands just over six feet tall and has ranged from 247 to 271 in weight.  In his last fight, he came in at 268 and stopped Carl Drumond in three rounds.  He is a knockout puncher and is showing interest in a title shot.  This fight with Valuev is a huge step up for Solis, but if he were able to chop down the giant, it would send a message to the rest of the division.  Despite Valuev’s reputation, nobody has been able to make a dent in him.  David Haye came the closest to dropping him, but spent most of the fight on the retreat.  Solis only knows one way to fight and that is to come forward and come through his opponent. 

I’m in the vast minority that consider Valuev one of the top heavyweights in boxing today and a threat to the Klitschko rule.  He is enormous and confident.  His biggest issue is his inability to step up the tempo, and he tends to allow his opponents to set the pace.  Solis is a good fit for Valuev.  He should allow the big man to set his range and use his jab. Solis should really check the chin of Nikolay on several occasions but nobody has dropped him yet.  This fight is a pick’em at this point.  We should either see a Valuev decision win or a Solis KO win.  Either way, we have another good challenger emerging to challenge Vitali.

Good Small Man vs. Good Big Man

On April 24th, the former Cruiserweight Champion, Tomasz Adamek, 40-1, 27 KO’s, collides with Chris Arreola, 28-1, 25 KO’s, in a twelve round eliminator.  This bout will be featured on HBO and we will either see another former cruiserweight champion emerge as a true player in the heavyweight division or we will see a smaller man beaten down by a powerful and popular brawler.

Arreola has the same issues as Solis.  His dedication to the gym is constantly in question.  For his title opportunity against WBC Kingpin, Vitali Klitschko, he came in at a high 251.  He didn’t have the speed or stamina to push the champion and took a beating.  He cried after the fight and stated that he would be back and he was back…and he brought an extra twelve pounds with him.  Against the smaller Brian Minto, a 263 pound Arreola used his size to overwhelm and claim victory in four rounds.

The thought here may be to match Arreola against small men…men that he can easily crush.  Minto at 218 was easy prey.  Adamek at 220 or so, may be seen as the same, but is very skilled and has much more power in his shots than Minto possessed.   This will be a very heated match.  Arreola, from reports, is apparently in better shape than he has been in in a very long time.  Adamek is very motivated to follow in the footsteps of cruisers like Evander Holyfield and David Haye.  Don’t miss this fight.

Mismatch of the Year?

The WBC Champion, Vitali Klitschko, 39-2, 37 KO’s, is getting highly criticized for his choice of opponent in this upcoming May 29th defense.  Albert Sosnowski, 45-2-1, 27 KO’s, has a good record on the surface, but his opposition has been very weak and one of his defeats came to Zuri Lawrence.  Lawrence is a journeyman heavyweight, yet he dominated Sosnowski over eight rounds, winning a clear cut unanimous decision.  The biggest win for the Polish challenger was an eight round stoppage of a shot Danny Williams.   He is not, on paper, qualified for a title shot…but champions typically take an optional defense against somebody in the bottom of the top ten or so. 

Vitali should easily win this fight.  Sosnowski’s defense is minimal, his punching power is unremarkable, and he is rather small at 6 feet 2 inches, compared to the champion.  Even if he gets inside, can he do any damage to Vitali?  Probably not, but there is hope.  Kevin Johnson confused and frustrated Vitali.  He showed how mechanical he can be and if Sosnowski can take some pointers from Johnson’s performance, maybe he can outwork Vitali and pull a big upset.  Don’t bet on it though.

Evander Holyfield…Heavyweight Champion?

It happened, Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield, 43-10-2, 28 KO’s, regained the heavyweight title with a TKO over Frans Botha.  You didn’t know Botha was the champ?  No, not too many people did.  Yes, he was the holder of the WBF Heavyweight Title and you cannot argue that it is one of the top belts, but it may be a bargaining chip for the 4 ½ Time Heavyweight Champion.  The ½ is the WBF belt.  Maybe I’m giving it too much credit.

Holyfield stated after his victory that he wanted to unify the titles again and become the undisputed champion of the world. At least he didn’t say “or die trying.”  The sad truth is that the 47+ year old former champion has nothing left and had Botha came into the fight in any shape other than round, he would have won it.  Now, if a 44 year old Botha can control Holyfield, and hit him at will, what would the Klitschkos do?  What would David Haye do? 

Holyfield has a few options.  The most appealing to him and the fans is a rematch with the returning Iron Mike Tyson.  It would be a title fight, be a chance for redemption for Tyson, win or lose, and would sell well.  Holyfield proved he cannot sell a PPV anymore.  The Botha PPV crashed and burned with pitiful ticket sales.  Part of the problem was a horrible undercard, but Evander had stated in interviews recently that he could sell a fight and that Tyson would need him to make money…but it’s quite the contrary. 

The fear is that one of the top fighters in the division will look at Holyfield as a way to increase their marketability and the older fighter would get seriously hurt.  With Evander’s heart and lack of reflexes, he would be a lamb led to the slaughter. 

Remaining Factors

There are a few heavyweights right now that you should keep your eye on, even though you have probably dismissed a few of them already.  The former WBC Champion, Sam Peter, 34-3, 27 KO’s, was a very exciting heavyweight at one point and was getting compared to Mike Tyson and David Tua, but after losses to Vitali Klitschko and Eddie Chambers and an obvious lack of desire, people gave up on him.  Now he’s back, he’s in great shape, and he’s knocking people out with regularity.  Peter is pushing for a rematch with Wladimir Klitschko in a fight where he dropped “Dr. Steelhammer” on several occasions before losing a decision.  Peter, if he stays focused, he has everything it takes to be a huge factor in the division.

Alexander Povetkin, 19-0, 14 KO’s, will most likely take the million dollars to step aside and allow Haye-Klitschko.  Under the tutelage of Teddy Atlas, Povetkin is starting to resemble the Mike Tyson – crouching power-puncher style.  This will help him as he goes for the title.  Povetkin is a true top contender and a big threat, especially with Atlas in his corner.

Tony Thompson, 33-2, 21 KO’s, will be taking on Owen Beck this Friday night, and should come through with an easy victory.  Thompson is still a player in the division and his only recent defeat was a late KO loss to Wladimir Klitschko.  It was obvious that Thompson was overwhelmed by the event and did not fight that well.  Although he did not fight well, he had some good moments. He is still a player in the division.

David Tua, 51-3-1, 43 KO’s, one of the biggest underachievers in boxing, seems to have his head together and is planning to challenge for the title in the near future.  His power and good chin make him a big threat to any fighter and in the mediocre division, Tua could certainly realize his dream.

The top 10’s of the sanctioning bodies can be so strange at times, that I have come up with an RSR’s Heavyweight top 10, which is certainly debatable, but probably more realistic than the sanctioning bodies’ lists.

Champion: Wladimir Klitschko
1.Vitali Klitschko
2.David Haye
3.Alexander Povetkin
4.Nikolay Valuev
5.Tomasz Adamek
6.Chris Arreola
7.Tony Thompson
8.Samuel Peter
9.David Tua
10.Eddie Chambers

Heavyweight boxing has some new life and we are seeing some heavyweights define or redefine themselves.  We should have some interesting times ahead of us with the big men of boxing.

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