Following Wladimir Klitschko's easy defense of his three sanctioning body heavyweight titles this past Saturday, the IBF has come up with a four-man tournament idea in order to decide who will get their next mandatory challenger position against the dominant Ukrainian champion. The IBF was responsible for last Saturday's predictable wipeout, as Tony Thompson was their mandatory challenger. Klitschko knocked out Thompson in six.
The four men involved would be Tomasz Adamek of Poland, Odlanier Solis of Cuba, Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria, and Alexander Ustinov of Russia.
Kathy Duva of Main Events, who co-promotes Adamek and Solis, says both of her guys are good to go. Pulev and Ustinov have not made any statements. The first round matchups would pair Adamek and Ustinov on September 8 in Newark -- now an open date for Adamek, as James Toney thankfully is out -- and Pulev and Solis on a TBA date and location.
If the tournament does happen, the winner probably wouldn't be crowned until early 2013, which would mean that the mandatory shot won't come into play until summer 2013 at the earliest, more likely fall of next year.
Adamek (46-2, 28 KO) has won a pair of fights this year, beating Nagy Aguilera and Eddie Chambers, following his one-sided loss to Vitali Klitschko in 2011. Now 35, he wasn't particularly impressive in either of those victories, to be honest, but he's a popular fighter, and is still one of the most highly-regarded fighters in the division.
Solis (18-1, 12 KO) is a former amateur standout, and now five years into his pro career, that's still what he's best known for -- well, that and his weight issues. The 32-year-old, who won the gold medal at the 2004 Olympic games and won gold three times at the World Amateur Championships, fought at 201 pounds as an amateur, but blew up by the time he turned pro, weighing 258 pounds for his debut in 2007. He's gotten as high as 271, and though he came in at 246 to face Vitali Klitschko in 2011 -- a first-round TKO loss due to a buckled knee -- he was back up to 267 for his return in May of this year.
Pulev (16-0, 8 KO) is another former amateur standout, but not to the level of Solis. The 31-year-old Bulgarian has gotten his pro career moving this year, as he finally stepped up to if not the elite level, a higher level of the heavyweight division, knocking out Alexander Dimitrenko on May 5 to win the European title. He's considered one of the better boxers in the division, but it's not clear how eager he might be to jump into something like this. He's made no real rush to get into world title contention so far.
Ustinov (27-0, 21 KO) is a big Russian guy who isn't very good, but he's been on a bunch of Klitschko undercards and he's tall, so people -- I assume mostly people who have not seen him lumber around the ring with all the grace of a sedated Nikolai Valuev -- keep bringing him up like he's possibly some threat to the Klitschkos, both of whom would toy with him. He's kind of like a worse version of Dimitrenko, who stayed in the conversation mostly because he is tall.
If it does go down this way, who would you pick to come out of it with the title shot that may or may not wind up exercised? The last time a sanctioning body did this, it was the IBF, and Alexander Povetkin won the four-man tournament, only to never take his shot at Wladimir, though he did sign up for it two times. I think I'd pick Pulev -- he's got, in my view, the best overall skill set of the group, and he's the one closest to being on the upswing of his career.