In last night's fight, Larry Merchant mentioned that he thinks that Cristobal (not Chris anymore - make up yo damn mind fool!) Arreola may be there to help revitalize the heavyweight division. In my honest opinion, to truly revitalize any division, you need to have a wave of new talent, not just a trickle. Take the middleweight division for example. Sure, Kelly Pavlik is a borderline star at this point, but because there aren't many worthy opponents, the division is completely dead. On the other hand, with waves of prospects on the rise, junior welterweight and junior middleweight seem to be heating up, even though there hasn't been too much top flight talent in those weight classes in recent years.
Here, let's take a quick look at what the future holds for the heavyweight division. Specifically, I'm focusing on guys who have yet to get a title shot. Let's just say the future isn't so bright that I need shades.
Sasha Povetkin - At times, Povetkin looks promising, and he has the pedigree. He's beaten some very good fighters, but the way that he did so doesn't convince me that he'll be able to hold his own against big punchers. Eddie Chambers seemed to have him figured out for quite a while, but his reluctance to actually throw a power punch meant Povetkin was able to adjust and take over the fight. Estrada was keeping up with Povetkin until Povetkin realized he could walk through Estrada's punches. What will happen when he faces someone with a strong punch and a decent workrate? Time will tell, but I can't say I'm optimistic.
Alexander Dimitrenko - He's big. He has okay fundamentals. But he's very slow, fairly chinny, and lacks power for someone his size. His best win is against a completely shot Luan Krasniqi. Timo Hoffman had him in trouble once or twice, though he did manage to knock down the normally durable Hoffman a couple times. Due to his physical limitations, I suspect he's already arrived on his potential. Because of some of the challenges he presents, he could be a contender for a while, earning multiple title shots, but I don't see him winning one without some Valuev-style intervention.
Eddie Chambers - I have to admit that Chambers has gotten further than I thought he would. He's a heavyweight with little pop who seems hesitant to throw anything other than a jab. His nickname is "fast", yet his hands aren't actually that quick. When you consider that he's really a blown up cruiserweight, his handspeed would be pretty average for that division. I think he's been exposed in his fights against Povetkin and Peter. Povetkin proved that if you wait him out, you can walk through his punches and hurt him. Peter proved that you can even play his own game and hang with him as long as you're willing to throw the bigger punchers. He might hang around the scene for a while, but without a massive overhaul of his style, he's never going to win a belt.
David Haye - I won't dwell too much on Haye here, because I'm sure you'll see a lot on him leading up to his fight with Wladimir, and K2's three fight option pretty much guarantees that he'll be in the spotlight for a while. He's young and he's exciting, but as mentioned before, he has some major flaws, such as a loose guard and a weak chin. Even if he turns out to be the real deal, is there a dancing partner out there who could help make a classic heavyweight fight?
Martin Rogan - The future is probably now for the 35 year old former Prizefighter champion. While he's coming off some good victories, he's too old to become more than what he already is, which is a rugged, entertaining, powerful, hard-nosed slugger who's willing to duke it out with anyone the old-fashioned way. While I doubt he'd win, I really hope he gets a title shot before he starts to fade, as he's pretty much earned it.
Cristobal Arreola - Last night's win doesn't prove too much to me. He showed some improvement, moving his head more than he has since the Wills fight, showing he finally knows how to clinch, and sitting on his punches and picking his shots rather than throwing wildly, but McCline was obviously just there to cash a paycheck, and even a motivated McCline isn't a top 20 heavyweight. I realize HBIO is pushing for a Klitschko fight, but what he really needs to do is keep improving for a few more fights, and then maybe he can take on the top dogs.
Denis Boytsov - Boytsov is another smallish heavyweight, and while he's been moved along slowly, he actually excites me a bit more than Povetkin. He has a lot to work on still, and his height will always be a physical limitation, but he moves well, he has good power in both fists, and he's steadily shown improvement over the past couple years. One thing that concerns me is that like many of his European brethren, he seems to be content to do just enough to win rounds. Eventually, that may come to bite him if he ever ends up fighting an opponent off his home turf. Still, he's about as good of an inside fighter as there is in the heavyweight division at the moment, and if he can improve his ability to get inside on taller fighters, as well as his stamina, he could be going places. If you're interested, a few of his fights are up on Youtube, here, here and here.
Francisco Pianeta - The tall southpaw has fought some good competition, but just doesn't seem to have any fire in his belly whatsoever. Even before his bout with Albert Sosnowski, he said his plan was to try to steal away the last few rounds. Well guess what? The limited Sosnowski outworked the heck out of him, and Pianeta was gifted a draw. Until he learns to use is height and shows a little bit of desire to improve and try to win rather than try not to lose, then he's not someone to watch closely from an international perspective. Right now, his ceiling is possibly winning a European title or two.
Kevin Johnson - Yawn. Basically, Eddie Chambers, but slightly more likely to throw a second punch after his jab. He's turning 30 in a few months and has yet to fight a legitimate opponent. At some point soon, we'll have to just stop taking him seriously unless he's willing to take on a tougher challenge.
Odlanier Solis - Solis is really disappointing me. An Olympic gold medalist, he escaped from Cuba and decided to exercise his new found freedom by going on a steady diet of wienerschnitzel, sauerbraten and pilsner. He seems to have actually regressed since his early fights, when he looked like he might become a force to be reckoned with. Instead, he's another fatty who doesn't take his job seriously. Some guys thrive under the rigid Cuban athletics system and then stagnate as soon as they leave because they just don't have the discipline to do well without that much structure. We've seen it many times before with Cuban athletes who have defected, and Solis seems to be another one. If he starts to take training seriously again, he could be a force, as he has more skill than any other fighter on this list, but these days he just looks sluggish and lethargic, and his beer keg is really affecting his quickness and reflexes.
Mike Perez - On the other hand, here's another Cuban who defected who seems to be thriving outside of Cuba. While he was an amateur champ, he wasn't as heralded as Solis as he never fought in the Olympics. He's a lot younger than Solis though, and he seems to not only have heart and desire, but a sort of attitude like he's a man on a mission to become the biggest badass on the planet. He has a lot of things going his way - he's a southpaw, he has good speed, he has good power and he has good fundamentals. As drawbacks, he's not big, and he's fighting with a small promoter in Ireland, so it might be tough to find him suitable opposition as he moves up the ladder. He's taking a big step up later in the month, fighting Javier Mora, but I suspect he'll keep doing what he's been doing so far, which is actually trying to dominate his opponents as opposed to trying not to lose.
Bowie Tupou - Gary Shaw made a lot of noise about the young Tongan when he first signed him several years ago, but he has yet to show too much of him. Last I saw, he still looked pretty rudimentary. While he looks like he should be a good fighter, he's flat footed and a little more ponderous than he looks like he should be. He is training with Jeff Mayweather, and while he's the lesser of the three training brothers, he's still a perfectly respectable trainer to teach Tupou better fundamentals. Tupou has a fight with the always-tough Danny Batchelder coming up, and that might prove a lot about where Tupou really is. While Batchelder has lost 5 of his last 6, he arguably beat James Toney, he went the distance against Brian Minto and Matt Godfrey, and he gave Dimitrenko a few tough rounds.
Travis Kaufman - Things aren't going too well when some people are pinning their hopes on an accused child rapist who calls himself the "Great White Hope." While he stays in shape and has some pop and some quickness, his peak is probably as a Monte Barrett type. If he's taking the boxing thing seriously now, it would be nice to see him step up in class a bit to prove me wrong.
Tyson Fury - There's some potential there, but he's a lot further away than his camp makes him out to be. Right now, he's most famous for talking trash, having a cool name and punching himself so hard that he made spit fly out of his mouth. Maybe he can make us forget about that one if starts looking like the real deal. Still, he has more potential than almost anyone on the list based on his physical tools. He may not be better than George Foreman, like his dad says, but he's certainly someone to keep watching, and that hope is all we can ask for at the moment.
David Price - I posted some video of this newly minted pro a few days ago. He's also tall, and he beat Fury in the amateurs, but I'm not sure he has the best style for the pros. The way he fights, he better have a good chin and good power, or be better adjust the way he fights. He's the first major prospect that David Haye is promoting, so I have no idea how he's being handled, but if he's moved too quickly or doesn't get a quality trainer, he could be in trouble.
Tor Hamer - I've been touting this guy as the future of the American heavyweight for a while now. So he finally fights on nationally televised TV, and of course he looked less than impressive, at least in certain regards. That fight ticked down my estimates on his knockout power and his stamina a bit, but I still like the way he moves. He has that Cus D'Amato style body and foot movement that you don't see in heavyweights all that often these days. For those who haven't read it before, here's a good piece from the Village Voice on Hamer. While the piece might be a bit too optimistic, Lou DiBella is a smart promoter, and Hamer still could go far if he fixes some of his defensive holes and improves his stamina. He's a very intelligent guy, so I see no reason why he can't do that.
Rich Power - Here's my deep deep sleeper. At 29 years old, he probably won't amount to much, but he has some solid fundamentals, a crowd-pleasing style, and a marketable look. I haven't seen him fight anyone other than toughmen, so he could completely flame the first time he faces a slick boxer, and there are a million other problems he might encounter as someone who wasn't a hyped up amateur (i.e., the need to make actual money by working a real job and lack of a big money promoter behind him). I'll just throw the name out there though. He's a big guy with a solid build and powerful punches who seems to understand a lot of fundamentals, which is more than I can say than a lot of the hopes we're pining on out there.
In summation, there might be a few up-and-comers to watch out for, but I wouldn't hold my breath about the division being 'revitalized' any time soon.