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The Klitschko Rule: A Look at the Heavyweight Division

By Geno McGahee

At this point, the heavyweight division is Klitschko. There aren’t any fighters out there currently generating any interest with the public and very few are given a chance to be competitive with either Klitschko, let alone defeat them. When you look at the long line of decent boxers that both men have easily destroyed, it’s hard to imagine them losing. They have momentum on their side and are continually improving.

The Champions

The WBO/IBO/IBF Heavyweight Champion, Wladimir “Dr. Steelhammer” Klitschko, 55-3, 49 KO’s, is viewed as the legitimate heavyweight champion. He has put together thirteen straight wins after his upset TKO loss to Lamon Brewster in 2004. He has beaten former heavyweight champions Sam Peter (twice), Chris Byrd (twice), Hasim Rahman, Sultan Ibragimov, Ray Mercer, Ruslan Chagaev, and Lamon Brewster in a rematch. He has stopped top contenders Tony Thompson, Calvin Brock, Eddie Chambers, and Ray Austin. He has adopted the Lennox Lewis style of fighting, measuring his opponents from a distance, keeping them at bay with a jab, and punishing them until they crumble. Nobody has come close to beating him lately and nobody has gotten close to him inside the ring.

Wlad is set to defend against the unknown Brit, Derek Chisora, 14-0, 9 KO’s, in December. Chisora is a long shot with very limited experience and some technical problems that Wlad will try to exploit. For the younger Klitschko, there aren’t many fighters left that pose a threat. Some like Alexander Povetkin have elected to let him age a little and slip before enforcing their mandatory challenge.

Big brother Vitali, 41-2, 38 KO’s, holds the WBC Title and has defended it five times since his brief retirement from the sport. It could be argued that he should be undefeated, losing due to a horrible gash above his eye in a brawl with Lennox Lewis and losing to Chris Byrd after a shoulder injury in a fight that he was clearly winning. He retired from the sport champion, but returned to take the title from Sam Peter, beating him up for eight rounds before he submitted. He defeated top contenders Chris Arreola and Kevin Johnson, and just recently battered former WBO Champion Shannon Briggs en route to a dominant decision win. Vitali is tough, imposing, and although he is not as smooth as his younger brother, he makes up for it in grit.

A distant third place to the Klitschko brothers is WBA Champion David “Hayemaker” Haye, 24-1, 22 KO’s. He was able to easily get under the skin of both Klitschkos with his antics, but when it came time to face one of them in the ring, he found better things to do. Granted, there is recurring talk of clauses in the Klitschko contracts similar to those of the old Don King “ownership” contracts, which has driven some challengers away. How much validity there are in these claims I don’t know, but we’ve heard it from more than one opponent.

Haye is quick, charismatic, powerful, and disappointing. He won the title with a decision over the gigantic former 2-Time WBA Champion Nikolay Valuev, and followed it up with a stoppage of another 2-Time Champ, John Ruiz. After those two fights, he has elected to take on Audley Harrison, a fighter that is not worthy of a title shot. Harrison is 8-4 in his last 12 fights and has no remarkable wins. He is getting this shot because of what we thought he may be rather than what he is. Harrison should crumble early against Haye and perhaps then we will see a showdown with either one of the Klitschkos.

The WBF Heavyweight Champion, Evander Holyfield, 43-10-2, 28 KO’s, and he will be defending the title against the #1 contender, I’m assuming, Sherman Williams, 34-11-2, 19 KO’s, on November 12th. The recent track record of Holyfield is 6-6-1, 3 KO’s, and he is not any threat to either Klitschko. In fact, he is not really a top 10 fighter at this point. He is somewhere in the top 30 or so, and is in the role of stepping stone for any up and comer that gets the fight. Some would argue that he beat Nikolay Valuev in 2008. I strongly disagree. It was hard to stay awake, but the champion did enough to win. Expect Holyfield to overcome Williams and then take on some other mediocrity as he awaits a crack at a recognized title.

The Top 3 Challengers

The biggest threat seems to be Odlanier Solis, 16-0, 12 KO’s. He has knocked out his last six opponents, including Monte Barrett (KO-2) and Carl Davis Drumond (KO-3), but his weight, ranging from 260 to 270 seems far too much for his 6’1” frame. He may just be another Sam Peter, impressive at first, but not dedicated enough to make it to that next level. He will be up against Ray Austin in a title eliminator in December and expect him to win it and get his shot. He is a man to watch.

Former cruiserweight champion, Tomasz Adamek, 42-1, 27 KO’s, is spoken of a lot and is on the verge of getting a title shot, most likely against Vitali Klitschko, should he get beyond a December showdown with journeyman Vinny Maddalone. Adamek has put together four wins in a row as a heavyweight, including victories over Andrew Golota (KO-5), Jason Estrada (UD-10), Chris Arreola (MD-12), and former title challenger Michael Grant (UD-12). As gutsy and determined as he is, it’s hard to imagine him giving either Klitschko serious trouble. He should aim for Haye, a man his own size. His bouts at heavyweight, though impressive in the sense that he came up from 175, a light heavyweight champion at one time, to defeat a giant like Grant, he still doesn’t have the defense or power to concern Wlad or Vitali.

Alexander Povetkin, 20-0, 15 KO’s, is being groomed by Teddy Atlas, famed trainer of Mike Tyson and Michael Moorer, two former heavyweight champions. He was in line for a crack himself at Wladimir, but Atlas decided that his fighter needed more experience. He is very promising and is sitting down on his punches more than he was pre-Atlas. I suspect that we will see him in the ring and a legitimate threat in about two years.

The IBF Tournament

Because Wladimir has been having a field day with his opposition, the IBF has decided to put together a tournament to decide just who is worthy to face him. Eddie Chambers, 35-2, 18 KO’s, a fighter that was totally dominated by Wlad was selected, shop worn former cruiserweight champion, Jean Marc Mormeck, 35-4, 22 KO’s, was another choice, followed by another cruiserweight making his way up, Jonathan Banks, 25-1-1, 17 KO’s, and Alexander Dimitrenko, 30-1, 20 KO’s, who was beaten by Chambers recently. None of these men are a true threat to Klitschko, but we can weed out two right now. Mormeck and Banks will lose, leading to a showdown between Dimitrenko and Chambers and we will most likely see another Chambers win. How many want to see Klitschko-Chambers II?

Don’t Count Them Out Just Yet

Only in boxing can one loss erase you from the game. Tony “The Tiger” Thompson, 34-2, 22 KO’s, froze in his title opportunity against Wlad, but even fighting poorly, he did better than most, and has since put together three straight victories against reasonable opposition. He is working his way back into title contention and a live dog against any of them.

Chris Arreola, 29-2, 25 KO’s, has the power and chin, but not the dedication. We keep asking him to take the sport more seriously because he is wasting his talent. Should he come into the fights in shape and focused, he may still find himself with a title.

Timur Ibragimov…where did he come from? Brother to former WBO Champion, Sultan, Timur has put together nine wins since his back to back losses to Calvin Brock and Tony Thompson, compiling a record of 30-2-1, 16 KO’s. He recently outpointed former WBC Champion, Oliver McCall, and upset the undefeated Gurcharan Singh by 10th round stoppage. He slowly earned his way back into the ranks and belongs there.

Nikolay Valuev, 50-2, 34 KO’s, has been inactive since his loss to David Haye in 2009 and has been sidelined with injuries since, but he is still a threat to any champion and his size and durability make him a player in the division. Should he return, he will need a tune up or two before going into a title opportunity. Some contend that he beat David Haye and should still be champion. A rematch may be in the cards.

Kevin Johnson, 22-1-1, 9 KO’s, was rushed into a title shot against Vitali Klitschko, and although he clearly lost, he was able to confuse and frustrate the champion. If he could improve offensively as a fighter, we could see him in the ring again with a champion and with a much better shot to win.

Name Value But Not Much of a Chance

David Tua, 51-3-2, 43 KO’s, seemed to have everything in order for one final run at the title. He is one of the best heavyweights never to win a title and it almost seemed owed to him. He could not fight off father time though, and in his last fight, he struggled to get a draw with shopworn Monte Barrett and was actually dropped and terribly hurt in the fight. Any thought of a fight with the Klitschkos should be out of the question after what we saw in the Barrett fight.

Antonio Tarver, 28-6, 19 KO’s, was a great light heavyweight, but didn’t perform well as a heavyweight, struggling with mediocrity Nagy Aguilera over the course of 10 rounds. His power shot, the straight left, did little damage, and he was far more open to the incoming then he was at 175. Tarver may get a shot at the title, but expect him to be stopped early. He is not a true heavyweight.

The Undefeated Unknowns

The most heavily hyped undefeated is Denis Boytsov, 27-0, 22 KO’s. He was originally offered a spot in the IBF Tournament but couldn’t participate due to the timing of the invite. He has power and is aggressive, but has yet to face anyone that would turn any heads.

The German giant, Robert Helenius, 13-0, 8 KO’s, has knocked out seven of his last eight opponents including an 8th round stoppage of former WBO Champion, Lamon Brewster. He plans to do the same to a former contender, Attila Levin in November, and he is certainly a man to watch.

Francesco Pianeta, 20-0-1, 12 KO’s, is making his way up the ranks after victories over Scott Gammer, Michael Marrone, and Matt Skelton, but he still has a ways to go before he can be taken seriously. His draw was against Albert Sosnowski, the recent punching bag for Vitali Klitschko.

The 6 foot, 7 inch, 22 year old, Tyson Fury, 12-0, 9 KO’s, has the right name to make it in boxing, but hasn’t been all that impressive inside the ring, although it needs to be said that he is showing improvement each and every time out. He has a lot of room to grow, but I would not totally disqualify him from potential future legitimate contender status in a few years.

Deontay Wilder is a giant at 6 foot, 7 inches, and has scored 13 straight knockouts. 13-0, 13 KO’s, is his record with nine of them in the first round. Although he has been fighting stiffs, the fact that he is dispatching of them so quickly is rather interesting. He has the power, but he may not have the chin, being dropped in his last fight. He got up and won via 4th round stoppage, and may be a fun fighter or even more as he moves up.

David Rodriguez, 33-0, 31 KO’s, 24 of them in the first round, has turned some heads, but after seeing the list of fighters he’s been in the ring with, the interest is lost. What is he waiting for? In his last fight, he stopped Daniel Bispo in 2 rounds, a fighter with a record of 22-12, and that’s pretty good by comparison to much of the rest of his opposition. Rodriguez is big, powerful, but untested. He has been brought along much the same way that Lou Savarese was in his early career.

The heavyweight division is still Klitschko country. We will have to see what Derek Chisora can accomplish against Wlad and what Vitali’s next move will be. At this point, it’s hard to imagine them losing.

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