By Mikko Salo:The Achievement Award: Klitschko Brothers` Undisputed Championship
It took five long years, but now their task is complete: The Klitschko Brothers are The Undisputed Heavyweight Champions of the World. The Klitschko Era started in April 2006 with Wladimir crushing Chris Byrd for the IBF belt and reached its culmination in July 2011, when little brother added the final piece of the puzzle by outpointing David Haye for the WBA belt. In between Byrd and Haye Wladimir and comeback-making Vitali gathered the WBO and WBC belts and The Ring Magazine Championship in dominant fashion. During The Klitschko Era the brothers have gone 19-0 (15 KO) in Championship (5-0) and title (14-0) fights against opponents with a fight-time combined record of 622-30-12 - average of 33-2-1 per opponent - and a combined record of 23-7-1 in previous heavyweight Championship (2-2) and title (21-5-1) fights and a combined record of 19-1 in previous light heavyweight and cruiserweight Championship (5-0) and title (14-1) fights. During the last couple of years, The Klitschkos have also invaded the various Pound-for-Pound rating lists. Wladimir`s #6 ranking in The Ring 100 for 2011 is the third highest ever for a heavyweight during The Ring 100`s 15-year existence, behind only Evander Holyfield`s #3 in 1998 and #5 in 1997. With Vitali ranked #12 in the 2011 list, 2010 (Wladimir #8, Vitali #12) and 2011 are the only years with more than one heavyweight ranked in The Ring 100`s top 15.
In The Ring Magazine`s Pound-for-Pound top 10, The Brothers finish 2011 at #7 (Wladimir) and #10 (Vitali). Before The Klitschkos cracked the top 10, there were only two years in The Ring P4P-list`s history (starting in 1989) that had two heavyweights in the top 10 (1990 with Holyfield at #6, Mike Tyson at #7 and 1991 with Holyfield at #4, Riddick Bowe at #6).
Pretty impressive, I have to say.
The Up-and-Comer Award: Robert Helenius` Rise to Top 10
Year 2011 was The Nordic Nightmare`s third full year as a pro and what a year it was. The 27-year-old Finn blasted through two former beltholders in Samuel Peter (KO 9) and Sergei Liakhovich (TKO 9) and finished the year by outpointing former British and Commonwealth titlist Dereck Chisora (SD 12) for the vacant European title despite a bum shoulder and injured right hand. In the process Helenius cracked The Ring top 10, being the #6 heavyweight contender at the end of the year. Helenius` punching power has proved to be frightening and after his hand heals, he will be tough to beat while he is gearing up for his chance at the Klitschkos maybe in 2013.
The Roller Coaster Ride Award: Dereck Chisora`s Ups and Downs
Dereck Chisora will definitely remember 2011 for some good and some bad. First he got bounced around by Wladimir Klitschko in the cabinets, with The Champ postponing a December 2010 date, then pulling out of an April 2011 date citing injuries, only to announce a couple of days later that he will be fighting David Haye for all the marbles in July.
After this ordeal Chisora experienced some personal issues, ballooned up and came in to fight Tyson Fury in July at over 260 pounds, dropping a lackluster unanimous decision and losing his British and Commonwealth belts. The immediate future looked pretty bleak for the Londoner.
Redemption waited around the corner in the form of a situation around Alexander Dimitrenko`s defense of his European title. The result was that a couple of lucky strikes later Chisora found himself fighting for the vacant European crown against Robert Helenius in Helsinki. This time he came in at 243 hard pounds and fought the fight of his life against the injured Finn, only to fall short through a home-cooked split decision loss. All he was left with were promises of a rematch from Team Sauerland. Again it seemed that Chisora`s path to bigger paydays was cut short.
Enter Vitali Klitschko, who needed a marketable opponent for an early 2012 defense of The Klitschko Undisputed Championship while he was pursuing the chance to demolish David Haye later in 2012. Chisora talks a good game and had just showed that he belongs in the same ring with the top 10 heavyweights. Plus he had just rekindled the interest and sympathy of the British fight fans with his gallant effort against Helenius. So after all the ups and downs it all turned out well for Chisora. He is about to get a crack at a Klitschko after all and pocket the paycheck of his life. Congratulations, Del Boy!
The Shared Sense of Shame Award: David Haye`s Pinky Toe
It was bad enough that after all the world class trash-talk he put in, David Haye decided to employ a tactic of run-hide-hope-for-mistake-from-Wlad for his career-defining fight with Wladimir Klitschko. But the press conference with the flashing of the pinky toe was just bizarre. Why didn`t anyone shout at Haye “NOOOO!!!! DON`T DO IT, DAVID, DON`T DO IT!!!!” But he did and he will be forever remembered for not the fact that he was The Ring Cruiserweight Champion or that he actually held a heavyweight belt for a while or that he had 23 KO victories in his 27 fights or that he really did an entertaining job talking himself into a megafight with Wladimir Klitschko. Instead he will be remembered from running, hiding and whining, which is a shame. Let`s hope he fights Vitali, gives The Champ a good go and redeems himself in the process because David Haye actually is a good fighter.
The Fan Frustration Award: The Stiff-Fighting Contenders
Question: What was in common with these three heavyweight fights in 2011: Klitschko vs Haye, Povetkin vs Chagaev, Klitschko vs Adamek?
Answer: They were the only three heavyweight contests in 2011 that pitted against each other two fighters rated in the top 10 by The Ring Magazine at fight-time.
Top 10 guys clinging to their various alphabet belts and not fighting each other to decide who`s the boss in a given division is the same old song we have heard many times in every weight class. But in the heavyweight division nearing and after The Klitschko Unification, the ducking circuit has taken on a new tactical twist to it. Now the contenders below The Champs are not fighting each other but biding their time fighting stiffs and waiting for the Klitschko payday. It makes the fan sick!
To illustrate this problem, I will utilize Boxrec`s computerized ranking list (I know it is only for entertainment purposes, but it gives us some indication of a fighter`s status) in posing the next question. How many fighters from Boxrec`s current top 40 did top 10 heavyweights Eddie Chambers, Alexander Dimitrenko, Denis Boytsov, Chris Arreola and Kubrat Pulev face in their combined 13 contests in 2011? The answer: None.
There are of course different reasons for this, some of them more valid than others. Chambers got injured before his eliminator against Tony Thompson, Dimitrenko got injured and couldn`t defend the Euro title against Helenius, Boytsov`s hands have been falling apart, Arreola is rebuilding, Pulev has been a pro for only a little over two years and so on. And of course, boxing is a business and losing (or even taking a risk of it happening) is not good business. Anyway, it frustrates the boxing fan if the top heavyweights don`t fight each other. So quit fighting stiffs and get in the ring with each other in 2012!