With the names revolving around the biggest fights that the division will see having been reviewed in part one, we enter part two. For this section, I'll be writing about the second tier of potential title challengers. To review the categories in the first part:
CHAMP: Wladimir Klitschko
THE OTHER BROTHER/BELT HOLDER: Vitali Klitschko
THE NEXT BEST CHALLENGER: Tomasz Adamek
I'LL CHALLENGE WHEN I WANT TO CHALLENGE. PLEASE?: Alexander Povetkin
I WAS A CHAMPION ONCE (First Tier): Ruslan Chagaev
So with that, on with the show....
I'D LIKE TO HAVE ANOTHER CHANCE. WHENEVER YOU GET A MINUTE (European Division): With the Klitschko domination, a lot of guys have gotten up to world title contention only to be knocked right back down the list and back to being ignored. Luckily, some of these fighters operate in Europe where TV dates and times exist that don't in the US. This is basically merged with the next tier of ex-champs below Chagaev because, well, who knows what is going to happen to any of these guys?
David Haye is the first and most important name on the list. With threats that he would retire by the end of 2011 counteracted by an embarrassing loss to Wladimir Klitschko, no one is sure what David Haye will do. He likely would be leaving a lot of money on the table to fight domestic heavyweights in the UK or to take on Vitali Klitschko. Given how little punishment Haye has absorbed, it then seems unlikely that he walks from the sport given that he still has his athleticism and punch. But who and what he fights? No one can be sure.
Nicolay Valuev and Alexander Dimitrenko are the giants of the heavyweight class, existing purely on the outskirts of real contention, and in the case of Valuev, possibly in retirement. Neither one is a one-hitter quitter, but both men, thanks to their enormous height and reach (Dimitrenko is listed at 6'8'', Valuev at 7') can still pose problems to a great number of immobile, slow, undersized heavyweights. Both have shown also that when confronted with lateral movement, they freeze up and become targets, indicating that a return
to title contention may be an uphill battle.
I'D LIKE TO HAVE ANOTHER CHANCE. WHENEVER YOU GET A MINUTE (American Division): Oddly, while the ranks of return contenders among Europeans is somewhat short, the list of Americans or American based fighters is quite lengthy. This seems to make little sense given European dominance at heavyweight in the last decade, but yet it is very much true.
At the head of that list is Cristobal Arreola, the power punching Mexican-American. Arreola arrives at that place not because he has earned his spot at the forefront of the American heavyweights through great victories and sheer determination, but because he is theorized as a hispanic draw and has a favored promoter for HBO (Golden Boy). On paper, Arreola seems to have a lot of the same issues as other exciting, power punching heavyweight saviors - he has issues with weight and conditioning, and that in turn stems from his wishing to pound beers and fatty food instead of sticking to the wants of a dietitian. Recently, Arreola has begun to listen to those professionals around him and has lost a significant amount of his weight. While he's not the 178lb amateur he was as a kid, at 230, he looks the part of a serious prizefighter. It remains to be seen, however, if this recent change turns out to be a career revival or a short term fix, a la David Tua's decision to lose weight prior to fighting Chris Byrd.
Also lurking in the shadows, supposedly with plans to fight one another, are polar opposites; One on hand, Eddie Chambers, a 29 year old blown up light heavyweight carrying a defensive "peek a boo" style similar to Winky Wright's, except with the addition of a spare tire around his waist. The other hand has a 39 year old octopus like 6'5'' boxer-puncher named Anthony Thompson. Tony The Tiger has been a staple of the top 15 or so in the heavyweight rankings over the last several years in spite of having never beaten a relevant opponent aside from a shot Luan Krasniqi in 2007. Thompson has at least been semi-active of late, having 3 fights in the last 18 months, including avenging his loss to Mo Harris on a recent episode of ESPN Friday Night Fights. Chambers would be the brighter star should he win such a contest given his age and skills, but sadly, he doesn't belong at the heavyweight division at all. His efforts would be better rewarded fighting Marco
Huck in Germany for the cruiserweight title. Thompson, meanwhile, hasn't shown any real improvement in some time.
I AM A EUROPEAN HEAVYWEIGHT PROSPECT: HEAR ME ROAR (first tier):
When one thinks of top named European heavyweight prospects, one name that often comes up first is Denis Boystov. He's been a work in progress for the better part of the last 7 years, collecting tons of early KOs against fringe names. He's had issues with his heart and has basically petered out in terms of development, becoming increasingly less active, and has yet to improve on his best career victories (Taras Bidenko, Robert Hawkins). Short, pudgy power puncher in the mold of Povetkin, Sultan Ibragimov, and others, he stands a chance to be as successful at they are, but not with his current development track. In spite of having turned pro in 2004, he is still by 25 years old.
Robert Helenius is a skyrocketing name following his devastating KO of Samuel Peter. With wins over a number of ex-prospects and amateur stars like Scott Gammer, Attila Levin, Gbenka Oloukun, Taras Bidenko,
and of course Sam Peter, Helenius has actually gotten a great many different looks coming up through the ranks while engaging in fights that were rarely high risk. Its probably a very good thing. With his upcoming fight against Sergei Liakhovich, it marks the 3rd former world title holder he will have faced in his young career. Helenius is a fairly standard tall European styled boxer-puncher.
Finally among elite Euro prospects, we get to Kubrat Pulev, a 30 year old ex-Amateur star for Bulgaria with wins over Derrick Rossy, Dominick Guinn, Danny Batchelder, Zack Page, Matt Skelton, and Paolo Vidoz. While many of Pulev's best names aren't necessarily known to American fans, Skelton and Vidoz both had achieved impressive regional heights at their peaks. Like so many others, Pulev doesn't really escape the mold of European styled heavyweights.
THE COMMONWEALTH AND/OR BRITISH CHAMPION OF THE EMPIRE
Throughout boxing's history, the man who owns the Commonwealth heavyweight title or the British title (or commonly, both) is always a threat to the heavyweight's division elite. The list of champs that have gone onto world heavyweight title contention is long: Lennox Lewis, Matt Skelton, Danny Williams, Scott Welch, Henry Akinwande, so on, so forth. Ergo, Tyson Fury must be considered in the list. His dimensions are extremely impressive (6'9'') but he is still extremely raw. Aside from a win over a pregnant looking Dereck Chisora, there's also no world class or even top domestic competition on his ledger. Two wins over the corpse of John McDermott and decision wins against Zack Page and Rich Power does not a great record make. And yet, in the lightly talented heavyweight division, Fury is very close to a title fight.
PLEASE GOD, I NEED MONEY (first tier): This tier is dedicated to guys who have practically no intention of really fighting competitively for titles. Well, at least, that is what I assume they are doing. They are opponents or men seeking to be opponents, perhaps looking at how Shannon Briggs was able to attain two solid paydays and world title fights he didn't deserve and looking then to emulate his late career course of action. They are bigger names at the end of the road.
First among them, the only true heavyweight of the bunch - Samuel Peter. He's lost by KO twice in a row and is .500 over his last 8 fights. The only remotely talented fighter he has a win over recently is Nagy Aguilera, who also happened to have lost decisions to Mo Harris and Antonio Tarver, and was recenty KOed by Cris Arreola. As a former belt holder with the WBC and the guy who came closest in recent years to beating Wladimir Klitschko, the mammoth power punching eating machine will always draw interest from fans for bigger fights. However, he is squarely an opponent now, and even with a career resuscitating string of wins over bums, may not get much more than another KO loss in Europe for his efforts.
We then move to former Cruiserweights - Jean Marc Mormeck won the unified cruiserweight titles of the world in the twilight of his prime and lost them to David Haye on what I'll always contest was a rabbit punch. No matter, he lost. Since that loss, Mormeck took 2 years off and returned a heavyweight, hoping to be the french Holyfield. While his record shows three wins, one of them was an abject robbery (Fres Oquendo), another a simply disputed decision (Timor Ibragimov) and a third a completely unimpressive removing of rust with Vinny Maddalone.
Finally, the man who was perhaps the most talented cruiserweight of the last decade- Juan Carlos Gomez. Incredibly, Gomez was the one who tested positive for Coke after an Oliver McCall fight, which shows the level of dedication that he has to boxing if he is doing more coke than McCall. At 38 in official Cuban years, Gomez's prime was wasted on an ill fated attempt to escape the bonds of Universum and head to the US and join up with Bjorn Rebney and Sugar Ray Leonard. Combined with an embarrassing loss that somehow managed to validate Yanqui Diaz as a real heavyweight for 5 or 6 minutes, and Gomez went nowhere when he should have. To further complicate matters, Gomez looked effectively abyssmal against Vitali Klitschko in his one big payout fight. Wins over lots of European contenders (and Oliver McCall) litter his record, but 52 fights into his career, the ex-Cuban amateur standout and longtime cruiserweight belt holder is just out there hoping against sound logic that someone, somewhere gets him a money fight. Where and why would be uncertain, and ultimately Gomez may be left on the vine fighting Brazilian heavyweights (he has fought almost every relevant one in the last 10 years but Luciano Zolyone) until he becomes so old, no one believes he poses a threat. Want a scary thought? Juan Carlos Gomez may fight on as a professional as many as 4-5 more years before disappearing.