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Ranking the Heavyweights: June 24, 2009

New Ring Magazine champion Wladimir Klitschko maintains his chokehold on the heavyweight division's top spot. (via <a href=""></a>)
New Ring Magazine champion Wladimir Klitschko maintains his chokehold on the heavyweight division's top spot. (via

Divisional rankings are a lot of fun for me to do, and then to discuss when folks feel I'm giving someone the shaft or overrating someone else, but every time I do the heavyweights it feels like half a chore. The other half is quite enjoyable, because heavyweight is such a two-man division at this point that if someone comes along and actually beats one of the Klitschkos (particularly Brother No. 1), it will send shockwaves through the sport. So that's nice. But until then...

I might be kind of short with the comments, but it's mostly because there's nothing to say about these guys that hasn't already been said. Or I'll get rambling. Who knows?!

1. Wladimir Klitschko (53-3, 47 KO, Ring Magazine World Champion)

When Klitschko was crowned the sport's first legitimate world heavyweight champion in about half a decade this past Saturday, we fans watching in America could barely maintain our excitement. Here was a man from Kazakhstan, fighting out of the Ukraine, largely based now in Germany, but he had become our champion. With American heavyweight boxing in such a state of distress, Klitschko's numerous exciting knockouts had captivated our hearts for years. Like a giant, white, foreign Mike Tyson, this man was lightning in a bottle personified, the sort of heavyweight about whom they make movies. Parades marched down nine U.S. cities as the new champ toured the country that has so adoringly taken him in...

OK, I'll stop.

2. Vitali Klitschko (37-2, 36 KO)

Folks are often fond of remembering Vitali as some sort of monster entertainer thanks to his bloody fight with Lennox Lewis, but since his comeback his fights have been Wladimir clones. He jabbed and thudded on Samuel Peter until Peter quit, and he slowly but surely scored a pretty dominant, pretty boring knockout of Juan Carlos Gomez. If in some other dimension the two of them were Wladimir Jones and Vitali Smith (or however someone put it the last time I talked about this a few months ago) and could fight one another, you know who would win? Nobody, because they would duck one another.

3. David Haye (22-1, 21 KO)

All the fears of Haye having too dodgy a chin to survive at heavyweight have gone overboard, I think. He once lost a fight years ago and has been tagged a few times since then, but he's also got wicked power, and not the sort of lumbering, heavy power that comes from the fists of the Klitschkos and other big boy heavyweights, be they muscle men or chubsters. Haye has cobra strike power, some of the fastest hands in the division, and could literally run circles around a lot of guys up here. I'm not saying it would surprise me if either Klitschko put him out in the first round, but it would happen because Haye would do something nobody else has been too willing to do against them: Take a f***ing risk, for God's sake. And I don't think anyone else is good enough to be anything close to a truly heavy favorite against him.

4. Tony Thompson (32-2, 20 KO)

Tony Thompson has grown on me after watching Wlad's last two fights against Hasim Rahman and Ruslan Chagaev. Thompson may not have gotten much accomplished last July against Klitschko, but he wasn't embarrassingly out of the fight by the time he was stopped. He fights like a guy who's 37 and a southpaw without big power, but what's surprising about that is he came into boxing really late in his life, so you'd expect him to still be extremely rough around the edges against a top level foe. But he gave Klitschko a few uncomfortable looks.

5. Ruslan Chagaev (25-1-1, 17 KO)

Shamefully, Chagaev can't really go any lower than this, because who else is there? He's never been an exciting fighter, and I had a conversation with a fellow fan a few years ago who really bought into all the "White Tyson" B.S. about Chagaev, which alarmed me because I hadn't yet taken him for such a gullible dullard. Like every other guy who carries a Tyson-influenced nickname in boxing, he's not anything like Mike Tyson. He was just putrid against Klitschko.

6. John Ruiz (43-8-1, 29 KO)

Oh, I know. Believe me: I know. "The Quiet Man" has lost three of five, but you really can argue he won every single one of those three losses, and if you don't believe me, ask him. Yet another guy in boxing with an ill-fitting nickname, since the last thing Ruiz does (besides put on good fights) is shut up. I think my long-term impression of Ruiz will be that he was a man who could hang in there for 12 rounds with anybody, and make just enough not happen in the fight on both sides that he could bitch and moan about not getting the win.

7. Chris Arreola (27-0, 24 KO)

He's a flabby dude who seems to be indifferent to training much, but he's an exciting flabby dude who seems to be indifferent to training much. Arreola would get manhandled by Wladimir Klitschko and need to hope that Vital's back was stiffer than Bill Paxton's acting, but whatever. Who else doesn't probably get dominated by them?

8. Alexander Povetkin (17-0, 12 KO)

The former Olympic gold medalist has decided that now is the best time to cash in the chips at Casino Klitschko, as he appears likely to be Wladimir's next victim opponent. At 6'2" without much power and not much by way of getting inside on a longer man, Povetkin is in for a long night.

9. Eddie Chambers (34-1, 18 KO)

I still really feel Eddie Chambers should have beaten Povetkin when they fought, but he didn't and it was his own damn fault. I believe he's the better boxer. For some reason ESPN's boxing page has a poll up right now asking readers who they'd most like to see Wladimir face next, and Chambers is included. He had 6% of the votes last I checked.

10. Alexander Dimitrenko (29-0, 19 KO)

Dimitrenko is Chambers' next opponent, which thanks to BoxRec rankings of the two of them is dubbed a "five-star fight" on that site. It is not quite that significant, but it sets up a new mandatory for Wladimir's WBO title. Chambers will have to beat Dimitrenko on rival turf in Germany, which won't be easy. Add in that Dimitrenko is 6'7" and it becomes even trickier.

There are a million guys I could put into the "You Coulda Been a Contender..." area that I usually do with these top ten lists, but I'm not going to bother. Random thoughts on "other" heavyweights instead:

Shut up, James Toney, and go away. ... Fres Oquendo may be the unluckiest fighter in the sport. ... Nikolai Valuev isn't ranked because he doesn't deserve all of those 50 wins, particularly Ruiz and even ancient Evander Holyfield. He's a giant bum. In some ways he's the new Primo Carnera. Where's his Max Baer? ... Oleg Maskaev's status as WBC mandatory is as laughable now as it was when he received it between fights against Robert Hawkins and Rich Boruff. ... I think Sultan Ibragimov is at whatever therapy ranch that Sergei Liakhovich went to after he lost his alphabet strap. ... Even though he's 3-0 since that left handed pummeling from Wlad, if Ray Austin ever gets another world title shot, I quit the heavyweights. ... Juan Carlos Gomez sure lived up to all those promises for his fight with Vitali, huh? ... Samuel Peter is now fairly irrelevant. ... I'm warming up to Kevin Johnson, and I still really like Monte Barrett. ... Lamon Brewster! What a world. ... Kali Meehan might get a title shot. Unbelievable. ... Anyone putting any money down on David Tua-Shane Cameron not happening? ... Hasim Rahman should probably just retire or fight Tim Sylvia. ... 23-year old Denis Boytsov ain't never bothered nobody. That will probably change in time. I love you, heavyweights. ... Odlanier Solis shouldn't bother calling out the Klitschkos until he can stop going up to thirds at the buffet. ... Why not Andrew Golota-Oliver McCall? I'd pay $5 to webcast that one.

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