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14 NOVEMBER 2018

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The State Of The Heavyweights: Top 10 Year In Review

By Mikko Salo:We finally have clarity in at least one division of pro boxing. The heavyweight year 2011 saw a complete Championship Unification for the first time since 1999. This is definitely a good thing for pro boxing and its marquee division that has suffered from utter disorganization during recent years. The Klitschko Brothers have turned heavyweight boxing into a team sport by running the table during a five-year unification project culminating in Wladimir`s victory over David Haye in last July. The Brothers have also gradually earned the respect of the boxing world in general, finishing the year as The Ring Magazine Pound-for-Pound #7 (Wladimir) and #10 (Vitali). Here is a look back at the main heavyweight action of 2011 through the campaigns of The Ring top 10 fighters at the end of the year.

The Champion: Wladimir Klitschko (56-3, 49 KO)

The younger brother`s health problems lead to him eventually fighting only once in 2011, but that bout was the most meaningful heavyweight confrontation since Lewis vs Tyson in 2002. Wladimir added the final piece to The Klitschko Undisputed Heavyweight Championship puzzle by convincingly outpointing the last-non-Klitschko-beltholder-standing David Haye in front of over 50 000 fans at Hamburg`s Imtech Arena in July. The 35-year-old Champ shows no signs of slowing down and will defend The Klitschko Brothers` Undisputed Championship against former two-time Cruiserweight Champion Jean Marc Mormeck in March.

#1 Contender: Vitali Klitschko (43-2, 40 KO)

The big brother continued his remarkable second career in dominating fashion in 2011, further cementing his place as one of the all-time greats. In March he beat former Olympic champion Odlanier Solis, when the Cuban busted a knee in the 1st round. Then the big bro made the first defense of the Klitschko Undisputed Championship in memorable fashion, putting in a performance for the ages, completely dominating #3 contender Tomasz Adamek on the way to a 10th round TKO on the Pole`s home turf in Wroclaw. Vitali will return to defend his portion of The Klitschko Brothers` Undisputed Championship in February 2012 against Dereck Chisora while trying to secure a chance to finish off semi-retired David Haye once and for all later in the year.

#2 Contender: Alexander Povetkin (23-0, 16 KO)

The Russian former Olympic champion further established himself as one of the top contenders by outpointing then-#5 contender and former beltholder Ruslan Chagaev in August and convincingly KOing Cedric Boswell (KO 8) in December. The undefeated Povetkin, who also owns previous victories over Eddie Chambers and Chris Byrd, has to be considered the most qualified fighter to challenge The Champs right now, but he seems bizarrely reluctant to step in the ring with either one of them. Povetkin`s next fight is a February Team Sauerland in-house eliminator against Marco Huck, cruiserweight #1 contender and beltholder and yet another cruiser-turned-heavy-hopeful.

#3 Contender: Tomasz Adamek (44-2, 28 KO)

The granite-chinned former Cruiserweight Champion and light heavyweight beltholder has had a fairly successful stint at heavyweight. He easily outpointed Kevin McBride in April but discovered on a September night in front of 44 000 in Wroclaw that Vitali Klitschko is way out of his league, succumbing to a KO defeat for the first time in his distinguished career. The 35-year-old Adamek is still a big draw in Poland and in his adopted home of New Jersey, so let`s hope he gets in some entertaining fights against other legitimate contenders in the near future even though he seems to be in rebuilding mode for 2012.

#4 Contender: Eddie Chambers (36-2, 18 KO)

You kind of have to feel sorry for “Fast” Eddie. Being one of the crop of American heavyweights who during The Klitschko Era have gone 0-10 (8 KO by) against the brothers, he gets little love back home. Chambers is after all a very skilled fighter who has beaten the likes of former beltholder Samuel Peter and current #5 contender Alexander Dimitrenko, with two losses coming against #2 contender Povetkin and The Champ Wladimir Klitschko. In 2011 he beat Derrick Rossy in an alphabet eliminator, but then got injured and couldn`t face Tony Thompson in another eliminator bout. Chambers looks to get back on track in January 2012 in his hometown Philadelphia against former beltholder Sergei Liakhovich.

#5 Contender: Alexander Dimitrenko (32-1, 21 KO)

Dimitrenko`s 2011 campaign represents the core of what is wrong with the improving heavyweight scene today: contenders ducking each other in fear of a career-crippling loss and with hopes of a hopefully-soon-to-be Klitschko payday. Dimitrenko defended his European title against two journeymen in Albert Sosnowski (KO 12 in March) and Michael Sprott (UD 12 in September), then cited injury, didn`t defend against another top 10 fighter in Robert Helenius and got stripped of the title. All this time Dimitrenko has been trying to get a payday-date with one of The Klitschkos, but since he doesn`t have much market value, that seems a far-fetched proposition. A match against the new European titlist Robert Helenius has reportedly been in talks (Dimitrenko is the mandatory challenger), but I doubt Dimitrenko`s willingness to take it.

#6 Contender: Robert Helenius (17-0, 11 KO)

The 27-year-old Finn shot up the heavyweight charts in 2011, only his third full year as a pro. For starters he brutally KOed two former beltholders in Samuel Peter (KO 9 in April) and Sergei Liakhovich (TKO 9 in August). In December Helenius faced former British and Commonwealth titlist Dereck Chisora in a bout for the vacant European title in front of 13 000 fans in Helsinki. In maybe the most entertaining heavyweight fight of the year Helenius was able to score a somewhat home-cooked split decision victory despite injuring his right hand in the first round. The new European titlist is currently rehabbing his hand, the purse bid deadline for the first title defense being in January. Klitschkos loom in the horizon, but probably not yet in 2012. Let other Sauerland fighters, namely Povetkin or Huck, try their luck first.

#7 Contender: Denis Boytsov (29-0, 24 KO)

The once-promising 25-year-old Russian had an injury-plagued 2011 that left his future career-development in serious doubt. Until this year he had been convincingly plowing through upper-tier journeymen, gathering momentum with an aggressive fighting style. Bothered by severe hand injuries, Boytsov fought only once in 2011, his opponent being one Matthew Greer. The Russian is set to return in January against an opponent not yet named. If his opposition doesn`t improve during 2012, it is hard to take him seriously as a top 10 heavyweight.

#8 Contender: Ruslan Chagaev (27-2-1, 17 KO)

Former beltholder Chagaev fought only once during the past year, but his entertaining bout with Alexander Povetkin was one of only three 2011 contests with top 10 heavyweights daring to face each other (the other two were W. Klitschko vs Haye and V. Klitschko vs Adamek). Povetkin prevailed via a unanimous decision, leaving the 33-year-old Chagaev somewhat in limbo with his career. Chagaev is set to return in January on the same Hamburg card as Boytsov, his opponent still unknown.

#9 Contender: Chris Arreola (34-2, 29 KO)

After suffering demoralizing defeats at the hands of Vitali Klitschko (RTD 10 in 2009) and Tomasz Adamek (MD 12 in 2010) Arreola went back to the drawing board in 2011. His recipe for career rebuilding: 1)lose weight 2)fight stiffs 3)duck other contenders 4)wait for another Klitschko payday. Arreola followed the plan, fighting five times in 2011, against Joey Abell, Nagy Aguilera, Kendrick Releford, Friday Ahunanya and Raphael Butler, who had a combined record of 124-41-5 and a combined record of 3-7 in each of their last two fights before Arreola. The Mexican-American brawler also made good on the weight loss issue, weighing in for his last four bouts at an average of 237 pounds, while for the four previous bouts his average weight had been 255 pounds.

#10 Contender: Kubrat Pulev (14-0, 6 KO)

The 30-year-old Bulgarian has fought as a pro for only a little over two years after a decorated amateur career, but has already beaten some pretty decent opposition on his way up the heavyweight ranks. Pulev kept himself busy and continued his fairly quiet rise in 2011 by defeating Yaroslav Zavorotnyi (UD 8), Derrick Rossy (TKO 5), Maksym Pediura (UD 8) and Travis Walker (UD 12). Could he step up to challenge for the European title in 2011?

Stay tuned for The State of the Heavyweights Accolades for 2011 in the coming days and a comprehensive look ahead to 2012 in January.

December 28, 2011

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