Toney and Jirov squared off for what was likely the best fight in the history of the weight class.
Now that 2009 is getting close to wrapping up, it means this decade is almost over. Before the end of the year, I hope to get through all the weight classes, presenting to you some choices for the best fighter in a given weight class in the decade. I'm not going in any particular order here, but we'll get through all 17 weight classes.
When voting, please only consider the time that the fighter was in the specified weight class during this decade.
I'm leading off with the cruiserweights. While the 200 pound limit may not be the most glamorous of weight classes, the 2000's are the strongest decade in its short history (and the only decade in their history when the limit was 200), and there are a lot of legitimate candidates for the best of the decade. And the candidates are:
Tomasz Adamek - Adamek is the Johnny-come-lately here and has the shortest resume of the bunch, only fighting seven times at the weight and going undefeated. However, three of those wins are about as good as anyone's on here, including a unification win over Steve Cunningham to become lineal champ, as well as victories over O'Neil Bell and tough prospect Johnathon Banks. While he does have another fight coming up, that should not affect his standing as it's a heavyweight bout against fellow Pole Andrew Golota.
O'Neil Bell - Jamaican-born Bell has one of the more established resumes of the bunch, partly by virtue of having fought the entire decade in what is often thought of as a tweener weight class. Bell went 19-2 in the division, with a number of fights over top dogs. The pinnacle of his career came when he defeated Jean Marc Mormeck to unify the titles and become the lineal champ of the weight class. Other prominent wins included Dale Brown, Kelvin Davis, Arthur WIlliams (twice), Derrick Harmon, Ezra Sellers and Jason Robinson. His two losses both came at the tail end of his career, one in the rematch with Mormeck, and the other to Tomasz Adamek.
David Haye - Haye made his professional debut as a cruiserweight within the decade, so while he does sport a 20-1 record, that record can be somewhat deceptive. Still, even when he was a prospect, he was challenged with tough matches, and sometimes even challenged too much, as evidenced by his loss to former champ Carl Thompson. Eventually, he would reach the pinnacle, becoming a lineal and unified champ, first by defeating Jean Marc Mormeck, and then by further unifying with Enzo Maccaranelli. Other good wins include future titlist Giacobbe Fragomeni, Alexander Gurov and Vincenzo Rositto.
Vassily Jirov - Jirov went 11-1 as a cruiserweight in the 200's before attempting to move up to heavyweight. In that time, he ran off five defenses of his IBF title before losing it in a close fight of the year against James Toney. Prominent victories include those over Jorge Fernando Castro, Julian Letterlough, Adolpho Washington and Terry McGroom, although most of those fighters were near or at the end of their tether when they faced Jirov.
Jean Marc Mormeck - Mormeck went 11-2 in the weight class, and for much of the latter half of the decade, was at or near the top of the cruiserweight top 10 lists. Impressive victories include his rematch win over O'Neil Bell, a unification victory over Wayne Braithwaite, a pair of wins over Virgil Hill and victories over Dale Brown and Alexander Gurov. Of his two losses, one was avenged (Bell) and the other was to another guy on this list, David Haye.
Johnny Nelson -The "Entertainer" whose nickname was about a bad of a misnomer as it comes, was a dominant force in the cruiserweight division all the way to his retirement, going 9-0-1 in the 2000's, all but one of which were title defenses. Victories included Vincenzo Canatore, Marcelo Fabian Dominguez and Ruediger May, and his draw was over the always tough Guillermo Jones.
James Toney - In Toney's favor, he was undefeated from 2000 - 2003 when he was in the cruiserweight division, going 8-0. While he didn't exactly fight a murderer's row of boxers, he did manage to culminate his run in the weight class by winning a belt from Vassily Jirov in a fight of the year. Outside of Jirov, his prominent victories included Jason Robinson and Saul Montana.
Others not included in the poll: Juan Carlos Gomez (only 4 fights in the 2000s at the weight), Virgil Hill, Guillermo Jones, Carl Thompson
Who was the best cruiserweight of the 2000's?
Tomasz Adamek (499 votes)
O'Neil Bell (10 votes)
David Haye (55 votes)
Vassily Jirov (13 votes)
Jean Marc Mormeck (9 votes)
Johnny Nelson (3 votes)
James Toney (38 votes)
Other (please specify in the comments) (6 votes)
633 total votes