There was a heavyweight title fight last weekend that nobody outside of Britain cared about. David Haye vs. Audley Harrison was a joke of a match up because Harrison was a fraud of a contender. Audley has shown time and time again that he is not worthy of being ranked in the top 25 heavyweights. That was a glaring example of heavyweight fights that did not need to, or should not have been made. The heavyweight division, and all of boxing right now to be honest, is full of those kinds of silly matchups.
As a request from a friend, this week’s column is the anti-thesis of Audley Harrison vs. David Haye. These are the ten heavyweight fights that should be made, either because they are interesting, unique, or that they finally bring clarity to the title picture. What I didn’t quite realize when I agreed to write this column was how hard it was going to be. The heavyweight division is incredibly shallow and pathetic right now. You have the Klitschko brothers who stand head and shoulders above the rest, and then a very small handful of serviceable contenders. That’s it, thus compiling a list of 10 heavyweight match ups that look good or interesting was hard, and I had to stretch on a few of them (see #10 for example).
Still, even with the non-talent that this era has given us, the heavyweight division would be entertaining and fun if these 10 match ups were signed and delivered to the fans.
10 – Antonio Tarver vs. Evander Holyfield
I know what you are thinking. Evander Holyfield should retire and has no business being in the ring. I’m not going to disagree with that statement. Evander should retire since he is nearing 50 years old, however, I am not his daddy and since he chooses to continue boxing (which is his right) then I will factor him into the discussion. Holyfield says that he will not retire until he has unified the belts again. He has no chance of that as long as the Klitschko brothers hold the belts, but to his credit he should be the WBA Heavyweight Champion right now because he was robbed against Nikolay Valuev in Germany two years ago. Holyfield has lost most of his speed and reflexes but he is still a wily veteran with a lot of tricks and knows how to box.
Why do I want to see him fight Antonio Tarver? We all think of Tarver as a light heavyweight, but the former Roy Jones conqueror is officially campaigning as a heavyweight now, winning his first fight against journeyman Nagy Aguilera earlier this year. Beating Aguilera doesn’t prove a whole lot but it puts him in the discussion in the heavyweight division simply because the pool of legitimate contenders is so few. Beating Holyfield would move Tarver up the rankings and further make his case that he can do damage against the big boys. Both men come from lighter weight classes and are old by boxing standards so this should be a pretty even match up. I see this as a fair fight between two aging household names so it could get lot of press; think George Foreman vs. Gerry Cooney. Why not?
9 & 8 – Denis Boytsov vs. Oleh Platov and Robert Helenius vs. Alexander Ustinov
The term European heavyweight used to be a derogatory term in boxing since one would assume that all European heavyweights were no good. That is obviously not the case anymore with the Eastern European movement, primarily the Klitschko brothers, ruling the division. There are a good number of other European heavyweights that are not on the worldwide spotlight because they do not fight outside of their home country and rarely against ranked opponents. The above mentioned boxers fall into that category and the only reason that I mention them is because who else can I mention? The pool of talent is so extremely shallow right now. Boytsov, Platov, Helenius, and Ustinov all have glossy records and are somewhat relevant to the division because they might turn out to be decent, but we have no way of knowing due to the lack of big names on their resumes. We might as well have the largely unknown foreign heavyweights fight each other instead of the same recycled no-hopers. Then we will know who is the best of the unheralded European and Soviet heavyweights and get some clarity on that front. Out of the four heavyweights I mentioned I think that Helenius has the most promise. He looks like the heavyweight version of Kelly Pavlik and already has a stoppage win over Lamon Brewster.
7 – Odlanier Solis vs. Ruslan Chagaev
Chagaev is not an exciting heavyweight but there is no denying that he is a tough guy to fight. Nobody has looked good fighting Chagaev even when they beat him. I liken him to John Ruiz in that watching him fight is a chore but you can’t deny his grit and toughness, nor his success. Despite looking terrible, Chagaev usually finds a way to win.
Odlanier Solis is a former Olympic Gold medalist from Cuba who recently defected. He is an intriguing talent with the kind of pure boxing skills and amateur pedigree that you rarely see anymore in today’s heavyweight division. I would match him up against Chagaev to see exactly what he is made of in the pro ranks and exactly how ready he is to face the upper echelon of the division. If he can have a statement win against Chagaev, beating him convincingly and looking good in the process, then Solis is ready for a shot at the Klitschko brothers. Solis could be the blue chip prospect that the heavyweight division has been looking for. Or he could fizzle out when pitted against a hardy tactician like Chagaev. Solis’s potential is fascinating and this match up would allow us gauge just how good he is or can become.
6 – Tomasz Adamek vs. Alexander Dimitrenko
Adamek is a former light heavyweight and cruiserweight champion who fights in a crowd-pleasing style. At 33 years old, he realizes that time is running out on his career so as far as making a splash in the heavyweight division it is now or never. He has seized the moment, recording a string of good wins in the glamor division, including a surprising decision win over Chris Arreola that made him a legitimate top 5 heavyweight. I match him against Dimitrenko because Alexander is a big heavyweight, at 6’7” and 260 pounds, who would be able to see if Adamek really could hang with the big boys. If Adamek is going to be a heavyweight champion he is not going to be able to pick and choose the smaller sized heavyweights to fight. He is going to have to fight, slug it out, and stand up to the giants as well. Dimitrenko is an experienced and steady contender so I think we would see an action fight with Adamek fighting to prove that his top 5 rankings is deserved.
5 – Alexander Povetkin vs. Tony Thompson
Thompson is a good fighter; probably the most underrated of all of today’s heavyweight contenders. I’d rate him as the best American heavyweight. Tony isn’t good enough to beat a Klitschko brother but he is among the best of the rest. Thompson’s southpaw stance, effective jab, and elusive footwork make him a formidable challenge for most.
Alexander Povetkin is more deserving of a title shot than everyone. He won a four person IBF eliminator tournament and already has some impressive wins in his very young pro career. Povetkin, a former Olympic gold medalist, is a short, stocky boxer-puncher with excellent ring generalship. Because of Povetkin’s vast amateur experience, he was rushed up the pro ranks and earned a title shot well before his 20th fight. His handlers wisely side stepped the opportunity though, feeling like he still needed more time as a pro to test his abilities. Tony Thompson would be the perfect test for Povetkin right now, allowing him to gain valuable experience against a top notch caliber opponent. A win would surely secure his spot as the #1 contender whenever he decides that it is time to challenge a Klitschko.
4 – Chris Arreola vs. Samuel Peter
Arreola and Peter are two aggressive, hard-hitting pressure fighters. Their strategy in every match is to stalk their opponent and try to get them stand and fend off the attacks. They get annoyed when their opponents box and run away, but can you blame them? Nobody has ever and would ever want to stand in the center of the ring and trade punches with killer punchers who have good chins like Peter and Arreola. Well, whats happens if you put them in against each other? Surely neither would take a step backwards because they’ve never done that ever in their careers. I have a feeling that we would get a brutal slug-fest here that would resemble a Toughman contest. Blood and testosterone would be splashing about the ring with the fans in a frenzy if Arreola and Peter came together.
3 – Winner of #4 vs. David Tua
In past columns I’ve called Sam Peter a poor man’s David Tua, and the same goes for Chris Arreola. All three are short, stocky, massive-punching sluggers. They are slow on their feet, plodding, and lack the fine arts of pugilism. However they are effective fighters because of their uncanny ability to take a punch, and their ability to administer pain. With their skill sets, against 99% of opponents, getting into a brawl is advantageous to them. If their opponent’s punches bounce off their chins without doing damage and one of their punches will end the night, naturally they would want to cut off the ring and force their opponent’s to fight. Something has to give if you put them in the ring with each other. David Tua is past his prime, having lost some of his speed and quickness, but punching power is the last thing to leave a boxer. Tua wouldn’t need any of his old speed against Peter or Arreola, although his slippage in skills would level the playing field. Tua would just need his legendary chin and crippling left hook. Almost every generation has a couple of these types of fighters and they never seem to want to fight each other. Fights like Tyson vs. Mercer, Tyson vs. Tua, or Chuvalo vs. Liston could have been made but they never happened. Most likely because the handlers of said fighters did not want to prematurely age their fighters with such a savage bout. These fights would be bad for the boxers but great for the fans!
2 – Vitali Klitschko vs. Nikolay Valuev
This one has almost happened a few times but the financial demands from Valuev’s camp were deemed unrealistic by Klitschko’s camp. Though Valuev would still enjoy a healthy size advantage as always, at least Vitali, the bigger of the two Klitschko brothers, would be in the same ball park. We would finally find out if Valuev had any actual boxing skills or if his success is based solely on his extreme girth. My guess is that Vitali trounces the slow plodder, having no trouble finding his large Russian target.
1 – Wladimir Klitschko vs. David Haye
David Haye, the subject of the introduction to this column, is the WBA belt holder and the highest ranked heavyweight not named Klitschko. He is an exciting, power punching brawler. Though undersized for a heavyweight by today’s standards, Haye has the speed, quickness, reflexes, and killer instinct that is rarely seen in the glamor division these days. His opponent selection is questionable though. Haye needs to fight one of the Klitschko brothers, no exceptions, no excuses. Either will do, but I picked Wladimir because the younger Klitschko brother has had chin issues in the past so this match could turn out to be very exciting. The tough chinned Vitali, I’m afraid would win without providing any drama. The combination of big punching power and extremely fast hands, which Haye possesses, has given Wladimir issues in the past (see the Corrie Sanders fight for one).
David Haye vs. Wladimir Klitschko is the best heavyweight fight that could possibly be made right now because of the potential for fireworks, the titles would be unified, and the number one contender would be pitted against the widely recognized champion. Enough with the excuses David, man up and sign on the dotted line! The heavyweight division needs a fight like this!