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Ranking the Heavyweights: April 2007

Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.
No. 1: Wladimir Klitschko is top of the heap until someone can make a strong case otherwise.
1. Wladimir Klitschko (48-3)
Made Ray Austin look like an untrained child in March, and he wasn't much kinder to Byrd and Brock before that. Wlad is the undisputed No. 1 heavyweight in the world until someone beats him. There are no arguments. A rematch with Lamon Brewster is on tap for July 7.

2. Samuel Peter (28-1)
First: Maskaev. After that? Klitschko. You know, the other one.

3. Ruslan Chagaev (23-0-1)
Chagaev goes down in history as the man who chopped down the giant Valuev. "White Tyson" took a majority decision victory to become the new WBA heavyweight champion on April 14 in Stuggart, Germany, where he's made his mark on the division. The only blemish on his record is a technical draw against Rob Calloway in 2002, which was Chagaev's first serious fight, and the sixth of his professional career. He's got power and he's got enough skill to overcome a near 100-pound weight difference. Valuev, for all his faults, wants to be a real fighter, and he's no pushover for anyone. It's a tough egg to break just to figure out how to approach the guy. Chagaev did what no one else has been able to do, and his last four wins -- Valuev, Ruiz, Sprott and Virchis -- are all fairly impressive, though two are majority decisions and one a split. I'd like to say we'll see soon what he's made of, but we probably won't. Chagaev could be this year's Sergei Liakhovich or he could be for real.

4. Chris Byrd (40-3-1)
Byrd said frequently in leading up to his comeback bout with Paul Marinaccio -- an easy win -- that he still thinks he can be heavyweight champion. Well, he's right. He can be. I'm probably the only person that would have the 36-year old Byrd this high, coming after a year's layoff and one unimpressive opponent in his comeback bid, but I couldn't honestly say that I think anyone below him is a great bet to beat him. He's still slick, still crafty, still gets his shots in, and simply fought a bad fight against Klitschko, a guy who's a bad matchup for him to begin with. It's not just idle talk for a fading fighter -- Byrd can be a heavyweight champion again.

5. Oleg Maskaev (34-5)
Another guy who -- like Byrd -- I had to say to myself, "Well, how good of a chance do I give (x) against Maskaev?" The answer was 50/50 in most cases, so with Maskaev, I'll give the belt some credit. It's been a long time since he's lost (2002, to be exact) and he's a tough guy. But it's only a matter of time before we see what is likely to be the last of Oleg Maskaev in a major fight.

6. Alexander Dimitrenko (25-0)
Who else? He's an unbeaten Ukrainian fighter living in Germany who has already put down some quality guys at age 24. There's not a lot to dislike here.

7. Calvin Brock (30-1)
He lost one fight to the best heavyweight in the world. I'm not going to start considering Tony Thompson better than Calvin Brock because Klitschko knocked him out in seven rounds.

8. Eddie Chambers (28-0)
Maybe jumping the gun a bit, but "Fast" Eddie has the skills, the record (28-0, 16 KO), and the youth (25) to be a real player very soon. Dominick Guinn will be his next opponent on May 4, coming off of two wins to get back into the game after a couple of lopsided losses to Tony Thompson and James Toney.

9. Nikolai Valuev (46-1)
It would honestly be a shame if he was just tossed by the wayside following one loss. He is what he is, but he also won 46 fights in a row.

10. James Toney (69-6-3)
He's old, he just lost twice (and once very convincingly) to Sam Peter, and yet there's still the sneaking suspicion that Toney has another run in him. He's a smart fighter, and while he'll never beat Peter or Klitschko simply because they're too big and strong for him, I still think Toney could beat anyone else on the right night. Again, there are two heavyweights in the world right now that truly matter until someone proves otherwise.

Others:

Sergei Liakhovich (23-2)
Last October, I really did think Liakhovich was the best heavy in the world following his stand up and cheer victory over Lamon Brewster. His terrible approach to Shannon Briggs ruined that idea, and his inactivity since has led me to drop him from the top 10 completely. I still think we could see him be one of the elite heavies, but right now, he's not proving anything.

Shannon Briggs (48-4-1)
You might say I'm not a fan. Briggs' championship belt means nothing to me, as he scored a fluke/valiant win (depending on which side you're on there) over Liakhovich and hasn't fought since. It's fitting enough, since titles mean nothing to anyone but Don King and half the fanbase anymore. No one looks at Shannon Briggs, Oleg Maskaev or Ruslan Chagaev and sees the heavyweight champion.

Sultan Ibragimov (20-0-1)
Knocked out Javier Mora in 46 seconds in March, on the night he should have been fighting Shannon Briggs. Now rescheduled for June, Briggs/Ibragimov has gone from Madison Square Garden Theater to Moscow to Boardwalk Hall. 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.

Danny Williams (37-6)
If Danny Williams has his shit together, he can still be a top-level heavyweight. At 33, it's not too late for that. He came in 40 pounds under his previous fight's weight to knock out previously unbeaten Scott Gammer in March. I think Williams is someone to keep an eye on again.

Matt Skelton (20-1)
How do you really rank Skelton? He's 40 years old, his only loss is a split decision to Williams, and he's going to fight Michael Sprott for the second time in May, after nearly a year off. He's a solid heavyweight, but he's probably at his ceiling. He's never going to get The Big Fight.

Tye Fields (38-1)
With Valuev now having lost to Chagaev, Fields' career becomes almost absolute novelty. He's a big guy that works hard, but the skills are simply not there. Put him in the ring with a good fighter -- any good fighter -- and he's going down hard. It's too bad he couldn't get one decent payday out of a Valuev fight, but them's the breaks.

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