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Ranking the Heavyweights: October 2007

Last time I did this was in April. Most of the top guys have fought since then, and my rankings have changed some.

1. Wladimir Klitschko (49-3, 44 KO, 1)

Again, remains the top dog until someone dethrones him, and I don't see it happening. I almost harp on this, but Klitschko is not the same fighter he used to be. Look, he knows his chin isn't made of iron. Manny Steward knows it. So Wlad's gameplan now is to focus on that long, powerful jab, and then bring the big right hand over the top, plus he has a powerful left hook, to boot. Wlad and Steward have made it a mission to not get hit by big punches, and that's exactly what Klitschko needed to do to become the firm No. 1 heavyweight in the world. They've done it. His ho-hum, piece of cake revenge victory against Lamon Brewster was as simple as his win over Ray Austin.

2. Samuel Peter (29-1, 22 KO, 2)

"The Nigerian Nightmare" is now the interim WBC heavyweight champion, surviving a hell of a scare from Jameel McCline in a performance that I can excuse becaue Peter did not train for McCline, or anyone like him. When you train for Oleg Maskaev, you aren't exactly preparing yourself for a lumbering, 6'6" fighter. It's not an excuse, I think it's a good reason. If Peter properly trained for McCline, Jameel would be out of there within five rounds. He came out flat, got knocked around pretty badly, and adjusted to squeak out a victory. He now moves on to face Maskaev, finally, in February. Maybe.

3. Ruslan Chagaev (23-0-1, 17 KO, 3)

Hasn't fought since the last update, pulling out of a fight against Ibragimov when he contracted hepatitis B. I do like Chagaev, partially for tearing down Nikolai Valuev, and partially because he was at least willing to fight another champion. I'd still favor him against Ibragimov and Maskaev, I think he could beat Peter, and I don't absolutely hate his chances with Wladimir.

4. Chris Byrd (40-3-1, 21 KO, 4)

I think Byrd still presents a real matchup problem for just about anyone south of Wladimir Klitschko. He can still move better than just about any other heavyweight out there, and he's a better boxer than most of them, too. Power has never been kind to him, and it won't get any easier to outpoint naturally stronger men from this point on. I like Povetkin to beat him, but Byrd has earned a higher spot on a rankings list than Povetkin has. Honestly, I would be rooting for the old pro against Povetkin if the end result of Byrd winning two fights was anything other than another lamb led to slaughter night in his career. He can't beat Wladimir Klitschko. It'd be like the UFC giving Rich Franklin a third fight with Anderson Silva. We all know what happens.

5. Oleg Maskaev (34-5, 26 KO, 5)

Pulled out of a fight with Peter, after Peter had to beat James Toney twice just to get the fight, and let's not even get into the dragged-out political bullshit involving Vitali Klitschko and the idiotic WBC. I like Maskaev in many regards: He's tough, he's heavy-handed, and he comes to fight. But it does rub me the wrong way, a little bit, that he's suddenly all over a February date with Peter now that he's seen Sam get slapped around a little by McCline. I'll also say this, and this is in defense of Maskaev: Styles make fights, and I think his style lends itself as well as anyone else's in boxing to beating Wladimir Klitschko. The only thing that doesn't speak well of his potential chances comes in the form of his five knockout losses.

6. Calvin Brock (31-1, 23 KO, 7)

I still like Brock. He's done nothing but add another tomato can win since the last time I did this, but I still like Calvin Brock a lot. I think he should beat Eddie Chambers, and I think he has a good shot at coming out of the IBF eliminator series with another title shot. If it's Klitschko again, Calvin is a bit of a live underdog. Klitschko threw caution to the wind when he successfully went in for the kill on Brock in their first bout. Without that cut giving Wladimir worry of a stoppage, does he open up like that? Brock was doing fairly well. He wasn't winning the fight, but he was standing his ground.

7. Alexander Dimitrenko (26-0, 16 KO, 6)

Beat Malcolm Tann, as he should have, in July. I'm probably higher on Dimitrenko than most are. He's still young (25) and has fought some guys who are at least real professionals if not exactly stars. He's tentatively scheduled to face Timo Hoffmann on November 17 in Germany, another fight he should win, particularly if you're asking me who should win. There's talk that if he beats Hoffmann and Commonwealth champ Matt Skelton wins his undercard fight on November 3 in Cardiff, Dimitrenko and Skelton could meet for the vacant EBU title next year.

8. Tony Thompson (31-1, 19 KO, NR)

I didn't even mention Tony the Tiger last time, and it's not so much that my opinion has changed since then as the fact that he's really done better work than I give him credit for. Dominick Guinn ain't what a lot of us thought he was going to be, but he's a quality fighter, and Thompson destroyed him last year. Timor Ibragimov is not a real contender, but Thompson dominated him in February. Five months later, he went to Germany and beat the hell out of Luan Krasniqi in a WBO eliminator. He added a routine downtime win over Cliff Couser in September. What more can you ask? He's 36, his power isn't much for a guy who's 6'5", and he's still a little awkward and sloppy given his late start in the sport. But he does his job, and he wins his fights. He may only ever get one shot, but he's earned that shot.

9. Sultan Ibragimov (22-0-1, 17 KO, NR)

Last time out, I said, "If Ibragimov is really a different, more focused fighter than the one that went to a mind-numbing draw with Ray Austin, then he should handily unseat Briggs." Well, he handily unseated an unmotivated, old, boring Shannon Briggs who barely looked like he wanted to be there. He then dominated Evander Holyfield. I think about as much of Shannon Briggs and the 44-year old Holyfield as I do Timor Ibragimov and Luan Krasniqi, but again, Sultan has won the fights, and I'm finally starting to somewhat get over that God awful 2006 draw with Ray Austin that nearly made me absolutely give up on heavyweight boxing. Ibragimov is, in my view, a slightly lesser version of Chagaev, but with better footwork.

10. Vladimir Virchis (23-1, 19 KO, NR)

Another guy I didn't rank last time out -- my last bottom three of the top ten (Chambers, Valuev, Toney) are all out. Virchis' record is starting to look better and better. In May, he beat Paolo Vidoz for the second time. Add to that wins over Michael Sprott (a gatekeeper, yes, but a good one) and Taras Bidenko, and the fact that his only loss is a majority decision to Chagaev, and it looks fairly good. It's a better sheet than Chambers has. Virchis is 34 and really needs to get a move on if he plans to get one of those title shots, but a rematch with Chagaev is hardly out of the question, if Ruslan wants it.

Others:

Eddie Chambers (29-0, 16 KO) is out, but I still like him OK. I wouldn't favor him over any of the guys in the top ten after watching him struggle with Dominick Guinn. Guinn is not a bad fighter, but Chambers appeared to take the reeling ex-next big thing very lightly, which almost gave his opponent a much-needed career rebirth. How he fares against Brock will speak volumes about where his career is really headed: Contender or pretender?

James Toney (70-6-3) is out. And I hope he's out of the sport, too.

Nikolai Valuev (47-1, 34 KO) is out because after a loss to Chagaev, he's basically stuck again as a freak show attraction. Valuev seems like a genuinely nice guy who takes his craft seriously. But there are limitations as to what a 7-foot boxer can really be. He had a run as world champion, and when he lost the belt, he lost his status. He's not exciting to watch fight; he's interesting, and not always in a good way. There's nothing pretty about his game. A fight with Klitschko could do OK, but other than that, what is there? It's rumored he'll face former champion and current disappearing act Sergei Liakhovich in January.

Juan Carlos Gomez (43-1, 35 KO) has done everything except get a world heavyweight title shot. The Cuban southpaw is still a hell of a fighter, and he may have sent Oliver McCall into retirement.

Andrew Golota (40-6-1, 33 KO) is going to get another shot at somebody next year. Don King, for whatever reason, is still fascinated by Golota. I guess I can see why. He's a very popular fighter with Polish-Americans, he's oddly likable, he's honest, and at any moment, he might get knocked out or have a meltdown. It's always a show with Andrew Golota.

Hasim Rahman (44-6-2, 35 KO) has gotten back into shape during his three-fight comeback. He showed up for his televised fight with Taurus Sykes looking awful, and then looked awful as a result of it. He dropped 11 pounds to fight Dicky Ryan in September (TKO-2), and was down to 240 in a win over Cerrone Fox just one month later (TKO-1). Rock's what he is, an inconsistent fighter with talent. And he still has a marginal name.

David Tua (49-3-1, 42 KO) is another one. A month before Rahman got into the ring with Cerrone Fox, Tua knocked him out, too, in the second round. This followed an absurd August PPV first round knockout of Saul Montana. I love David Tua, and I'd love to see the 5'10", 34-year old Samoan Terminator get a crack at Klitschko. Those haymakers and that reckless style could make for an interesting night. All things being equal, most of the wins aren't anything to get excited over, but the guy hasn't lost a fight in six years. Tua still has plenty of thunder in his hands.

Outside of Povetkin, Cristobal Arreola (22-0, 20 KO) is probably widely considered the best prospect in the division. He still has some issues with his defensive game, but he's another guy who is a blessing to the divison: Comes to fight, and then fights. He is something of a heavyweight Pavlik, in that it doesn't look like he's hitting that hard, but hey, 20 knockouts in 22 fights. You argue with the results.

Lamon Brewster (33-4, 29 KO) is done. Or at least it would be a very wise decision for him to make. His career probably should have halted after the eye injury against Liakhovich, and it absolutely should now. He didn't appear in any way interested in actually fighting Wladimir Klitschko, and I won't say it was an interesting fight at all, but I'll never begrudge a guy taking one more payday to help raise his family. Brewster is a solid human being and provided some damn exciting fights in his short time atop the division. If that was the last we saw of him, I wish him all the best.

I still think a focused, in-shape Danny Williams (37-6, 30 KO) is a dangerous opponent for anybody. Anybody. Skelton doesn't want to fight him a third time, and has made that clear.

What, exactly, do you think Kali Meehan (33-3, 27 KO) was doing with his time before he turned up as a replacement and waxed DaVarryl Williamson at Madison Square Garden? Where did King get his number? It was Meehan's first fight in the States since getting pummeled by Hasim Rahman in 2004, and just his fourth fight, period, since then, and the first of any real note whatsoever. The 37-year old Australian was written off years ago, and here he is, back on the scene. Why not? Golota keeps coming back.

Retire, Evander. Just tip your cap, turn around, and say that's good enough. Because it is. We'll see you in Canastota.