By Mikko Salo: The heavyweight division is doing well. One of eight divisions in boxing with an Undisputed Champion holding both Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (TBRB) and The Ring Magazine Championships, the division boasts The Ring #3 and TBRB #8 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Wladimir Klitschko will go down in history as one of the greatest heavyweights, there is no doubt about that.
Despite the all-timer-level success of Wladimir and his now-retired brother Vitali promoting themselves, negotiating their own multi-million euro TV deals and filling out 50 000-seat stadiums in Europe, most of the US boxing press has cried ”Heavyweight division is dead!” over and over again during the last ten years.
The truth is that the heavyweight division has been dead only in America. The collapse of the iron curtain and the co-inciding decline of success by American amateur boxers gradually resulted in a shift of geographical power balance in the heavies during the 2000s. In continental Europe and the UK the heavyweights have been alive and well all this time - lead by the greatest pair of brothers to ever lace gloves. With the heavyweight scene highlighted by soccer stadium megafights like Klitschko vs Haye (in Germany), Klitschko vs Adamek (in Poland) or Haye vs Chisora (in Britain), there is nothing wrong with the heavyweights on this side of the pond.
This has of course been a tough pill to swallow for the US boxing press and public, who grew accustomed to American domination during the 38 consecutive years from 1960 to 1998, during which US fighters controlled the lineal heavyweight championship. The last American lineal champion was Hasim Rahman, who held the throne briefly in 2001.
That brings us to next Saturday which marks the beginning of what I call the Heavyweight Division`s Tournament of America. If this tournament succeeds it will be very good for the heavyweight division. That will mean good things for boxing as a whole.
The script of The Tournament is to stage four fights to determine the most credible American-based contender to eventually challenge the Undisputed Champion. The script reads as follows:
Fight #1: TBRB #5, The Ring #3 contender Bermane Stiverne (23-1-1, 20 KO) vs The Ring #6 contender Chris Arreola (36-3, 31 KO), 10th May in Galen Center, Los Angeles, California.
Fight #2: The Ring #10 contender Bryant Jennings (18-0, 10 KO) vs Mike Perez (20-0-1, 12 KO), 24th May in American Bank Center, Corpus Christi, Texas.
Fight #3: The winner of Fight #1 vs TBRB #7, The Ring #9 contender Deontay Wilder (31-0, 31 KO).
Fight #4: Winner of Fight #3 vs winner of Fight #2.
Truth is that only three of the five fighters taking part in the tournament are US citizens, but Stiverne (Haitian-Canadien) lives in Las Vegas and Perez (Cuban-Irish) fights in the US nowadays so I will take the freedom to call them both ”American-based” in this instance.
Fight #5 is then hopefully staged in the US between The Undisputed Champion Wladimir Klitschko and the winner of The Tournamant of America. Who knows, Klitschko might want to step in already in the middle of the tournament to make a grand return to US, where he has not fought since defeating Sultan Ibragimov in Madison Square Garden in 2008.
The first fight of the tournament takes place this Saturday and features a rematch between Stiverne and Arreola. Much has been made of how the broken nose Arreola suffered in their first encounter back in April 2013 changed the course of that fight and the better physical shape Arreola seems to be in this time out. The fight is a toss-up, but unless Arreola lands something fight-altering expect more of the same, that being Stiverne outboxing and outmaneuvering limited Arreola for another points victory.
The most significant achievement regarding Stiverne vs Arreola II has already been reached before the fight by promoters Dan Goossen and Don King. The fight is televised by sports giant ESPN in prime time. If the fight itself delivers, it could mean more of the much-needed mainstream coverage for heavyweight boxing in the US. It will also mean that The Tournament of America will have a running start on the way to re-establishing the heavyweight division in the eyes of the American boxing public.
The Undisputed Champion and all-time-great Wladimir Klitschko squaring off with a credible American opponent on US soil will be just what is needed to revive the casual American fan`s interest in boxing. Let`s hope the Tournament of America will provide us just that.
It was announce today that the IBF have ordered heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko to defend his title against mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev.
May 8, 2014