Is this it for the heavyweight division? Are we finally going to see some competition in this division that has been marred by lackluster performances for as long as Sam Peters been eating deep fried hot dogs and half pound cheese burgers with gravy fries? I look at the upcoming bouts between the Klitschko brothers and top three heavyweights Tomasz Adamek (#3) and David Haye (#2) as a semi-final of sort. Now it is very possibly, and very likely, that both Klitschkos will win their fights, stay ranked as the RING champion and #1 contender, and continue to dominate the heavyweight ranks. But if by some chance either Haye or Adamek is able to slay one of the Ukrainian Goliaths then the heavens will open up and the boxing fans will have a chance to see a legitimate showdown at heavyweight.
Anyone who doesn’t think that these two bouts deserve to be labeled a semi-final between four of the best heavyweights in the world only need to look at the numbers. The four participants come in with a combined record of 166-7 against world class competition. Between the four of them they have are riding a 51 fight win streak. Three of the four haven’t lost since 2003/2004, the fourth being Adamek who lost to Chad Dawson in 2007 (the same Chad Dawson that has beaten everyone not named Jean Pascal, which was in Pascal’s hometown of Montreal may I add). Last but not least, with all the calling out Haye has done, accompanied by his backing out, and the constant billing of Adamek’s fights against bigger, taller men as warm ups for the Klitschkos it just feels like the only two heavyweights with a shot to beat either brother will get his opportunity this summer.
In all seriousness, if these two aren’t the best the heavyweight division has to offer against the doctors Klitschko than who is? Chris Arreola was the last fighter who actually tried to push the tempo and get inside the length of the champions, but how did that work out for him? Ruslan Chagaev wasn’t able to offer much resistance. Same for Eddie Chambers. That leaves the remaining four top 10 heavyweights ranked by the RING magazine as: Denis Boytsov, Alexander Povetkin, Alexander Dimitrenko, and Robert Helenius. Dimitrenko lost to Chambers so move him to the back of the bus. Boytsov does not have one win against world class competition. Helenius has a signature win over a much faded Sam Peters. And Povetkin has two big wins against Eddie Chambers and a thirty seven year old version of Chris Byrd. So Helenius and Boytsov need to each face and beat at least two quality opponents each before I would deem them Klitschko worthy. And a win over Arreola, Chagaev, or even a Valuev would go a long way for Povetkin. And that’s it. That’s the top ten in the world minus the brothers, the Brit, and the Pole. So for right now I think that these two former cruiserweight champions offer the best opportunity to beat a Klitschko.
Tomasz Adamek may only have six fights at heavyweight, but he certainly has the attention of boxing fans. Anyone who saw his cruiserweight win over Steve Cunningham knows that Adamek fights with grit and determination, and that’s something people tend to admire. And maybe that’s why in the back of everyone’s mind they’re hoping the man they call Goral can use his determination to get inside on Vitali, inflict damage, and then get the heck out of there before Dr. Ironfist plants a thudding right on his chin. But this brings up the great elephant in the room: how is this 6’ 1” man going to penetrate Vitali’s punishing jab. No one’s been able to do it before, but hey why not believe that Tomasz will succeed. This is the same train of thought that gave people false hope in Arreola’s plan of avoiding Vitali’s jab by crowding him. The problem there was every time he attempted to crowd Vitali he would eat a jab or two on the way in, then once he got close was unable to land any significant shots before he was wrapped up. And over time the shots added up, fast forward to the 10th round and the fights over. But Adamek is different than Arreola, he’ll be able to execute better, he’s had tune-ups against taller men to prepare for Vitali. Yes, three of Adamek’s last four fights have been against opponents 6’ 4”, 6’ 6”, and 6’ 7”. No, this doesn’t mean he will be ready to deal with the elder Klitschko’s methodical style. People think this means he’ll be ready for them because his fights have been publicized as warm ups for the Klitschkos, specifically his bouts with Grant and McBride. I was at the Grant fight, and unless Adamek has finely tuned his game plan by this summer it may get ugly. If the thirty eight year old was able to touch up Goral, then the thirty nine year old Klitschko will add another pelt to his wall. But like preparing to face Randy Johnson in baseball, you can only practice in the batting cage for so long before you have to step in the batter’s box and see if you can handle his 101 mph fast ball down the middle. Adamek has certainly gained popularity and prepared properly for Vitali, so only this summer will give us the answer we’re looking for.
As for the British challenger, “Hayemaker” will get the chance he has so openly campaigned for the last three years. But will he actually show up? Sometimes there are people in your life that consistently let you down, and until they come through with a promise, you just can’t bring yourself to believe in them. This is David Haye. Yes, he beat Nicolay Valuev. But let’s be completely honest, no one thinks that old Nicolay is anywhere near the skill level of either Klitschko brother. Now Valuev is no slouch, one of the better fighters in the world, but his skill set is completely different than either Klitschko. Besides the fact that all three are taller heavyweights, the similarities end there. The Klitschko brothers have superior hand and foot speed, better ring generalship, and employ a punishing jab that the giant Russian could only dream of. But Haye’s quick, real quick, and great on his feet. In fact he probably is the quickest fighter Wladimir has faced. And we just don’t know how this will work out when put into a ring against the taller, rangier Ukrainian. Then again we don’t know if Haye will be able to stay on his feet when hit with a flush overhand right by Wladimir either. There’s only one way to find out.
Will the two challengers be able to accomplish what no one has since Lamon Brewster and Lennox Lewis did in 2003 and 2004 respectively? Or will the doctors Klitschko continue their reign over the heavyweight division. Who will win these two bouts this summer is up for debate. But no matter what happens this is certainly better for the division. But of course anything’s better than watching a bloated Sam Peters try to waddle around the ring, or watching a one-legged Odlanier Solis quit before Vitali broke a sweat.