Recently, two of the best prospects in the heavyweight division, David Price and Seth Mitchell were knocked out by underdogs. The division is still seeking the next big thing to take over after the Klitschko reign is complete, which will be over when they elect to retire, apparently.
It is said that where the heavyweight division goes, so too goes boxing, and that has been a problem. As good as the Klitschkos are, they have not become the PPV attractions in the states as they had hoped. Lennox Lewis had established himself as a PPV entity by taking on the names that were already household names like Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. The Klitschkos didn’t have that benefit.
Wladimir Klitschko, 59-3, 50 KO’s, is one of the most dominant heavyweights in history, using his incredible reach and power to destroy his opposition. At 6’6”, and 250 pounds, he is a towering figure and most opponents lose the fight before the opening bell rings. He is not an intimidating guy like Mike Tyson was, but his in-ring abilities accomplish the same reaction from his challengers. He currently holds the IBO, IBF, WBA and WBO titles. In the unofficial grading system of RSR, he rates an A.
Vitali Klitschko, 45-2, 41 KO’s, is the other piece of the heavyweight title puzzle and he is another huge fighter at 6’7” and 250 pounds. He is not as smooth as his younger brother, but he makes up for it in grit. Currently, he holds onto the WBC title belt and has not lost a fight since 2003, when he came up short against Lennox Lewis. Many would contend that had he not been cut, he would have won the fight. Vitali would get a rating of a B+.
With these two big men standing atop the heavyweight division, it’s hard to imagine either one of them losing any time soon, but there are a group of hopeful contenders that plan to take their shot and take a the titles. What are the chances that they can defeat a Klitschko? Presented below are the legitimate challengers and pretenders that hope to topple one of the Brothers Klitschko.
Tyson Fury, 20-0, 14 KO’s, has not impressed many, but when you keep on winning, you begin to build credibility whether people like it or not. He has recorded wins over Kevin Johnson and Dereck Chisora and is ready to take on the capable Steve Cunningham in his next fight. Fury believes in himself and that adds to the reason why he has been so successful. At this point, there is no way that he could beat Wlad, but with his mobility, he may give the slow of foot and older Vitali some issues. Fury has yet to be tested but an impressive win over Cunningham may get him in there with Vitali. At this time, Fury’s rating would be a C+.
David Haye, 26-2, 24 KO’s, is the former WBA champion, but would embarrass himself when he finally stepped into the ring with Wlad, playing defense the entire time and then complaining about an injured toe. Haye rebounded with an impressive knockout over Dereck Chisora and is now looking at taking on Vitali in his next fight, which is a winnable fight for Haye. The problem is that he doesn’t fight regularly and talks a better game than he fights. He has all the ingredients to be a great champion, but he can’t fight scared as he did with Wlad. If he fights the same way with Vitali, he will lose, but it will be by knockout. Vitali won’t let him skate by for 12 rounds. Haye would rate a B.
Robert Helenius, 18-0, 11 KO’s, is big at 6’6 ½” and 250 pounds, but his stock has dropped dramatically with his last two performances. Against Dereck Chisora, he struggled for 12 rounds, eking by with a controversial split decision. In his next fight, journeyman Sherman Williams nearly dropped him, before losing a decision. Before the two fights with dramatic knockout wins over former champions Sam Peter and Sergei Liakhovich, he seemed like the top dog to challenge the Klitschkos. Now, he’s a forgotten challenger. A fight with Vitali is the best bet because Helenius has mobility, but he still doesn’t appear to have the right stuff to pose a real challenge to either champion. Helenius would rate a C+.
Johnathon Banks, 29-1-1, 19 KO’s, is a former cruiserweight that wasn’t taken too seriously as a heavyweight until his last fight when he starched Seth Mitchell in two rounds. Banks works as Wladimir Klitschko’s trainer and occupies a spot as a top contender to his throne, making him one of the most unique potentials. Although he defeated Mitchell, it may have been more of what Mitchell wasn’t than what Banks was. Banks will rematch Mitchell in the near future and will most likely win, but he seems to slow of foot and too small to really put up any fight with a Klitschko. For Banks, it may be a good idea to wait for the dust to settle on top and then make his move. Banks would rate a C+.
Alexander Povetkin, 25-0, 17 KO’s, has a “title,” but it was merely a way for the WBA to turn a buck on the side. Povetkin is not the champion and has avoided fighting Wlad at every turn. Realistically, most of the top contenders can beat Povetkin and that is why we are seeing him fight guys like Hasim Rahman and Cedric Boswell. The WBA is trying to force Povetkin into a match with Wlad, but don’t expect it to happen. Povetkin will keep fighting scrubs until one of them upset him. Povetkin would rate a C-.
Tomasz Adamek, 48-2, 29 KO’s, has been given two decisions that he has clearly lost recently. He got the nod against Eddie Chambers and Steve Cunningham when he should have lost both, which makes you wonder how corrupt the sport is and what the team that is pushing this Polish fighter is doing behind the scenes to get him back into the title picture. Adamek is a former cruiserweight with plenty of heart, but he is not a serious threat to either Wlad or Vitali. Vitali already beat him to a pulp and Wlad would send him out on a stretcher. For Tomasz to have any hope to be a champion, he must take on Povetkin. Adamek would rate a C-.
Tony Thompson, 37-3, 25 KO’s, at 41 years old, should be at the tail end of his career and that was probably the thought with Team Price when they hand-selected him as an opponent. Thompson’s only losses, outside of an early 4 round decision defeat, was to Wladimir Klitschko. He didn’t look good in the second outing with Wlad, but he was already mentally beat going in. He was stopped in the first fight and that mental picture plagued him in the rematch. Thompson could still be a viable challenger for Vitali. Vitali isn’t the puncher that Wlad is and doesn’t deal with mobility as well. Thompson should push for a showdown with Vitali. At 41, the clock is ticking and with the big win over David Price, he is back in the headlines. The time to strike is now. Thompson would rate a B-.
Kubrat Pulev, 17-0, 9 KO’s, is a dark horse contender out of Bulgaria, but he is highly ranked and has put together a couple of impressive wins. He knocked out both Alexander Dimintrenko and Alexander Ustinov, both in the 11th round, proving that he can bring it on late, which has hurt many Klitschko opponents in the past. Pulev is on the verge of challenging Wlad or Vitali and could be a problem. He would be a substantial underdog, but it would be interesting to see how he does on the big stage. Pulev would rate a C+.
Manuel Charr, 23-1, 13 KO’s, is a German heavyweight that proved a great deal in a loss with Vitali Klitschko. He got off the floor and began to gain momentum before a cut would stop him in the fourth round. Charr has come back with two knockout wins and plans to challenge again for a title and should not be overlooked. Had he not been cut against Vitali, he may have won the fight. Charr is rated at a C+.
Bryant Jennings, 16-0, 8 KO’s, has been throwing his name into the hat as a potential challenger to Wlad in his next fight, but he just doesn’t have what it takes. To his credit, he did impressively stop Sergei Liakhovich and Bowie Tupou, but Tupou did knock him down (un-credited) and there isn’t anything that Jennings does incredibly well. He is a gutsy fighter, but he just isn’t in the same league as the majority of the top 10 guys, let alone the Klitschkos. Jennings rates a C-.
Deontay Wilder, 27-0, 27 KO’s, is a fighter that has turned some heads due to his size, at 6’7” and perceived punching power, but he has been the most overprotected fighter that we’ve seen in some time. He is basically plowing down overmatched opponents. Wilder is a fighter to watch, but the jury is still out. He needs to step it up. Wilder is unrated due to level of opposition.
Bermane Stiverne, 22-1-1, 20 KO’s, will be facing Chris Arreola in the future…we hope, and brings excitement to the division. He knocked out the awkward but effective contender, Ray Austin in 2011, but has been on the shelf for nearly a year now. It has been due to the on again/off again fight with Arreola, but when it does happen, it will show where Stiverne places and if he is a true contender or a fraud. Stiverne’s rating at this time is a C-.
Chris Arreola, 35-2, 30 KO’s, has been his own worst enemy. Out of all the heavyweight contenders, he presents the most risk to the Klitschko brothers, but he elects to fight unprepared and give uninspired performances. He lost to Tomasz Adamek because he came in at an overweight 250 pounds. He fought for the title at 251, losing by TKO to Vitali. He regained focus and began coming in at 235, an ideal weight, but in recent outings, we have seen him creep back up. He recently pulled out against Stiverne citing medical reasons, but when he does face off with him, we should see if we are looking at a legitimate threat or a bloated pretender. Arreola is a B-.
The heavyweight division has plenty of activity and there is still hope for some of those that have fallen on hard times. David Price may have had too much too soon with Thompson and could still rebound as Wladimir did and Lennox had. Seth Mitchell seems to rough around the edges, but he is always one punch away from a victory. Steve Cunningham was robbed with Adamek. If he could secure a win over Tyson Fury, he is launched right into the title picture, and Odlanier Solis still has some potential to accomplish some things.
As of now, the Klitschkos still rule. It’s up to the men listed above to find a way to overcome the incredible skill and power of the two men. Vitali, the older brother, seems like the easier mark, but he has never really lost a fight decisively. Eventually they will lose or move on and some of the men listed above will make up the championship picture. Judging by the performances of Wlad and Vitali, it may be a good idea to wait for them to leave.