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01 AUGUST 2014

 

The State of the Heavyweights: Top 10 Year in Review


Klitschko beats  Charr to retain WBC title
Klitschko beats Charr to retain WBC title

By Mikko Salo: The Fabulous Klitschko Boys continued their unprecedented heavyweight dominance in 2012, but unlike the previous year, when they dismissed the then Ring #2 and #3 contenders David Haye and Tomasz Adamek in consecutive soccer stadium megafights, their opposition in 2012 left a lot to be desired. The Undisputed Champs defended five times, but only one of the defenses was against an opponent ranked in The Ring top 10 (Tony Thompson, #10 at fight time). While the Champs` matches were one-sided affairs, the contenders provided us with some memorable heavyweight drama with Alexander Povetkin and Marco Huck getting it on for twelve action-packed rounds early in the year, David Haye and Dereck Chisora brawling out of the ring and then in the ring, and finally Tomasz Adamek and Steve Cunningham giving us a heavyweight rerun of their 2008 fight-of-the-year caliber cruiserweight match-up.

This year a new ranking entity rose to provide us with credible ratings alongside Ring Magazine. The Transnational Boxing Rankings (TBR) started its operations in October and we shall include in this top 10 Year in Review fighters who are ranked in the top 10 by both The Ring and TBR.

 

The Ring Champion, TBR #1 contender (TBR Heavyweight Championship is vacant), The Ring #8 Pound-for-Pound Wladimir Klitschko (59-3, 51 KO)

After fighting only once during an injury-plagued 2011, the 36-year-old Heavyweight Ruler made three visits to the squared circle defending his Ring Magazine throne he has now held for 3,5 years. The Champ`s activity was definitely a positive, but this year`s opposition was fairly weak compared to some of the previous years when Wlad dismantled a pile of top 10 heavyweights with his brother. Pretty much the worst mismatch of any division`s Championship fights was Wladimir`s four-round March destruction of faded former Cruiserweight Champion Jean Marc Mormeck, who couldn`t land anything on the Champ before Wlad dropped him for the TKO. The only top 10-rated challenger (The Ring #10 at fight time), 40-year-old Tony Thompson lasted into sixth round in a rematch with Wladimir in July after standing for nearly eleven in their first encounter in 2008. In the end the most courageous of Wlad`s challengers was unrated, previously undefeated Polish giant Mariusz Wach, who took all the Champ could throw and stood for the full twelve rounds for a terrible beating and a lopsided decision loss in November. Reportedly a superfight between Wlad and Ring #2, TBR #4 contender Alexander Povetkin is finally in the works for early 2013, either in Germany or Russia.

 

The Ring #1, TBR #2 contender Vitali Klitschko (45-2, 41 KO)

The big bro couldn`t secure the blockbuster with David Haye in 2012 and had to settle for defending the brothers` Undisputed Heavyweight Championship twice against weak opposition. For his February opponent, Vitali picked the ever-entertaining Briton Dereck Chisora fresh off a disputed European title fight loss against Robert Helenius. Despite injuring his right shoulder early in the fight, the older Klitschko boxed his way to a clear decision victory in a fight more remembered for the pre and post-fight action than the action in the ring. In September Vitali made a defense in Moscow against an unrated and unknown Manuel Charr, scoring a TKO on cuts after four rounds. In the Ukrainian parliamental elections held in October, Vitali Klitschko-led UDAR (PUNCH) party won 14 % of the vote and Klitschko himself was elected to the parliament. After the successful election speculations about the 41-year-old legend`s possible retirement from boxing have been running wild. If a megafight with David Haye can be agreed upon, we might see the Ukrainian all-time great once more in the ring, otherwise he will probably end his Hall of Fame career in 2013 and leave his little brother to continue the Klitschko Era of heavyweight boxing.

 

The Ring #2, TBR #4 contender Alexander Povetkin (25-0, 17 KO)

The most accomplished current heavyweight outside the Klitschko Brothers fought twice in 2012, the first fight being one of the best heavyweight slugfests of the year while the other was a mismatch maybe even more appalling than Klitschko vs Mormeck. In February, Povetkin took on Ring cruiserweight #1 contender Marco Huck in an entertaining brawl in Stuttgart, Germany. Povetkin escaped via a majority decision in a close contest that saw him coming to fight in lackluster condition, almost costing him his spot in the heavyweight ratings. In September Povetkin was pitted in a laughable match-up with completely over-the-hill 39-year-old Hasim Rahman, the last American Heavyweight Champ (for a 9-month period in 2001). Povetkin seemed to be disgusted himself as he pummeled his hapless foe for a little over a round before the ref stopped the debacle in the 2nd round. Povetkin, 33, has already twice declined a chance to fight Wladimir Klitschko, but now we might be closer than ever of getting the two former Olympic Champions to share a ring together. If the Klitschko bout finally happens, it will be make-or-break for Povetkin, whose quiet persona is not attracting a large fan following.

 

The Ring #3, TBR #3 contender David Haye (26-2, 24 KO)

The biggest heavyweight headlines of the year belonged once again to the motor mouth from Bermondsey even though he already retired last year. In the Klitschko vs Chisora post-fight press conference David Haye and Dereck Chisora engaged in a bare-knuckle contest that resulted in one of the biggest all-British blockbusters ever. In July The Crazy British Brawlers squared off at London`s Upton Park in a match-up that created an amusing pre-fight debacle in the alphabet politics. Luckily for the fight fans Haye and Chisora got the chance to settle their “feud” once and for all in the ring with Haye emphatically KOing his nemesis in the 5th round. The win, although against an unrated opponent coming off three straight losses, was convincing enough to catapult the semi-retired former Cruiserweight King back in the hunt for a date with Vitali Klitschko. For fight fans` sake it would be interesting to see Vitali Klitschko in his farewell fight against Haye whom the Klitschko Brothers seem to have a genuine disdain for after his trash talk before and excuses after the lopsided loss to Wladimir in the super fight of 2011.

 

The Ring #4, TBR #6 contender Kubrat Pulev (17-0, 9 KO)

The 31-year-old Bulgarian with an excellent amateur pedigree had a productive 2012, continuing his steady rise towards a shot at the Klitschko Brothers´ Heavyweight Championship. Pulev recorded three stoppage wins during the year, first making the dependable Michael Sprott retire in his stool after nine rounds in January, then in May breaking down another top 10 contender in Alexander Dimitrenko for the European title and finally in similar slow-grinding fashion beating up previously unbeaten Russian giant Alexander Ustinov in his first Euro title defense in September. Pulev is ready for his shot at the Klitschko throne and might just get his chance in 2013.

 

 


The Ring #5, TBR #5 contender Tomasz Adamek (48-2, 29 KO)

The US-based Polish former Cruiserweight Champion had a busy year in today`s standards, fighting four times in rebuilding his heavyweight career after a devastating 2011 beat-down suffered in the hands of Vitali Klitschko. He started by decisioning journeyman Nagy Aguilera in March and then taking on injury-riddled former Ring Championship challenger Eddie Chambers, who gave Adamek a fairly good fight despite not being able to throw a left hand after injuring his shoulder in the first round. After decisioning Chambers Adamek TKOed Travis Walker in the fifth round in September before taking on former cruiserweight standout Steve Cunningham in a rematch of a barnburner the two men put on for the Ring Cruiserweight Championship in 2008. Adamek was at times baffled by Cunningham`s boxing skills but was able to escape with a split decision victory mainly due to his aggressiveness and better output of power shots against Cunningham`s pitty-pat jabbing. The 36-year-old veteran is nearing the twilight of his career looking for his last shot at heavyweight glory in 2013.

 

The Ring #6, TBR #9 contender Robert Helenius (18-0, 11 KO)

The 28-year-old Finnish prospect was one of the heavyweight stories of 2011, but he took a step back in 2012. The reason for it was a serious shoulder injury suffered in training before a December 2011 European title fight which Helenius won with a disputed split decision over Dereck Chisora. The shoulder was operated on in January and Helenius spent the better part of the year rehabbing. Finally he made his ring return in November against Bahamian journeyman Sherman Williams in Helsinki, Finland. The ring rust showed as Helenius scored a clear but uneventful decision over his opponent. There has been talk about a possible European title fight for Helenius in the case Kubrat Pulev relinquishes his Euro belt for a shot at the Klitschkos.  

 

The Ring #7 contender Denis Boytsov (31-0, 25 KO)

A couple of years ago the now 26-year-old Russian Denis Boytsov was touted as one of the hottest young heavyweight prospects as he shot up the ratings with an exciting fighting style and devastating punching power. Unfortunately, for the last two years his career has been in total limbo, sidetracked by injury problems and incompetent management. Boytsov fought twice in the spring of 2012, against American journeymen Darnell Wilson (KO 4) and Dominick Guinn (UD 10), but has since had among other things one fight canceled due to illness, his elbow surgically repaired and his promoter Universum go bankrupt. There has been some talk about Boytsov stepping in the ring in early 2013 against another top 10 contender Tyson Fury – a fight that was originally planned for December 2012.

 

 

 

TBR #7 contender Eddie Chambers (36-3, 18 KO)

One of the better American heavyweights during recent times, Eddie Chambers has had a tough couple of years battling injuries. Chambers has fought only twice since his March 2010 KO loss to Wladimir Klitschko. In 2012 he fought once, against Tomasz Adamek in June. In that fight he tore a tendon in his shoulder in the first round and couldn`t throw a left hand in the rest of the fight. Still, he managed to keep the fight fairly close, losing a unanimous decision. In November Chambers, who for several years hasn`t weighed in over 210 pounds, informed that he was going to set his sights on the Cruiserweight Championship, leaving the heavyweight division to the naturally bigger men. 

 

TBR #8, The Ring #10 contender Tyson Fury (20-0, 14 KO)

The rising British prospect entered the top 10 rankings with a strong showing in 2012. In April he TKOed Martin Rogan in the fifth and the same fate came to Vinny Maddalone in July. Finally in December Fury stepped up the competition, fighting Kevin Johnson whose only loss in a full fight had come against Vitali Klitschko in 2009 (the other loss was a three-rounder in a Prizefighter tournament). The 24-year-old Briton showed maturity, patience and boxing skills in recording a clear decision victory against the American veteran, raising his stock considerably. Fury is a marketable character, so lucrative fights loom in his horizon possibly already in 2013, namely challenging Wladimir Klitschko for The Ring Heavyweight Throne or a blockbuster domestic clash with another rising British star, David Price.

 

The Ring #8 contender Ruslan Chagaev (30-2-1, 19 KO)

After losing to Alexander Povetkin in his only fight of 2011, Ruslan Chagaev, who fought Wladimir Klitschko for the vacant Ring Heavyweight Championship in 2009, started rebuilding in 2012 with three fights against journeyman opposition. The 34-year-old native of Uzbekistan decisioned Kertson Manswell in January, TKOed Billy Zumbrun in three in April and Werner Kreiskott in seven in September. Chagaev was also mired in the Universum troubles, bolting the company in July. Since then the Uzbek has been in search of a background team. A fight scheduled in December against Cuban prospect Mike Perez fell through due to Perez shoulder injury but during 2013 we could see Chagaev in a fight against a rising prospect. It is doubtful, though, that the veteran will ever again get a chance to fight for the biggest prize.

 

The Ring #9 contender Chris Arreola (35-2, 30 KO)

After an active five-fight rebuilding year of 2011, Chris Arreola`s pace slowed down in 2012. The American, whose only losses are against Vitali Klitschko and Tomasz Adamek, ended up fighting only once this year, KOing Eric Molina in the first round in February. Injuries derailed the latter part of Arreola`s year, but he is now slated to face Canadian Bermane Stiverne in March 2013 in a meaningful match-up with alphabet soup considerations.

 

 

TBR #10 contender Steve Cunningham (25-5, 12 KO)

Former cruiserweight standout had a trying 2012. After losing the fight for the vacant Ring Cruiserweight Championship against Yoan Pablo Hernandez in February, Cunningham decided to join David Haye, Tomasz Adamek, Jean Marc Mormeck and Marco Huck as yet another cruiser trying his hand in boxing`s glamour division. In his heavyweight debut he decisioned Jason Gavern over 10 rounds in September. Then he took a leap in the level of opposition by taking on top 10 contender and former cruiser foe Tomasz Adamek. Despite a 20-pound weight disadvantage Cunningham was able to hold his own by boxing cleverly and frustrating Adamek from time to time. In the end Adamek was able to escape with a split decision victory that didn`t sit well with Cunningham. Despite the loss the 36-year-old veteran`s spirited showing was rewarded with a top 10 ranking by TBR. Cunningham`s future in the heavies looks cloudy, since he would not be an easy opponent for any American heavyweight.     

 

January 3, 2012



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