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Boxing Year in Review 2015: The Heavyweights

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It was a year of change for the heavyweights, as Tyson Fury supplanted Wladimir Klitschko at the top of the division, Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz arrived as serious players.

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Year-End Top 10

  1. Tyson Fury (25-0, 18 KO)
  2. Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 53 KO)
  3. Alexander Povetkin (30-1, 22 KO)
  4. Deontay Wilder (35-0, 34 KO)
  5. Luis Ortiz (24-0, 21 KO)
  6. Kubrat Pulev (22-1, 12 KO)
  7. Ruslan Chagaev (34-2-1, 21 KO)
  8. Bryant Jennings (19-2, 10 KO)
  9. Carlos Takam (33-2-1, 25 KO)
  10. Bermane Stiverne (25-2-1, 21 KO)

Klitschko would have been the undisputed No. 1 on this list from 2006 until this year. That's a long run. Tyson Fury, 27, has claimed the spot with a decision win on November 28 in Germany over the long-reigning king of the division, a stunning upset and the most notable changing of the guard in boxing all year. The two look set to rematch in the spring, so who knows? Klitschko is 39, but certainly can fight better than he did the first time, especially now that he's seen what Fury can do. But Fury, too, can surely fight better. It's an interesting rematch given that it was a terrible fight in terms of action.

Povetkin, 36, has established himself just behind the top two. His lone loss came to Klitschko in an exceptionally ugly fight in 2013, and that seems to have flipped a switch for the Russian. He's won four straight, all by stoppage, and this year beat Mike Perez (TKO-1) and Mariusz Wach (TKO-12).

Wilder, 30, would certainly have himself higher (well, he'd have himself No. 1), but a strong No. 4 is not a bad thing, either. This is really the first time in a long time that the top four of this division have been this good. Wilder's January win over Bermane Stiverne was impressive, while his follow-up title defenses over Eric Molina and Johann Duhaupas were predictable wipeouts, albeit wipeouts that went into the 9th and 11th rounds. Wilder did take some shots in both fights, which is notable.

After the top four, things really fall off, but Cuba's Ortiz, 36, looks a potential game changer in 2016. His wins over Byron Polley and Matias Ariel Vidondo were one thing, but the way he overpowered Bryant Jennings on December 19 was another entirely. The big southpaw looked like a serious threat to anyone in the division.

Bulgaria's Pulev, 34, has the look of a good fighter who's not going to get over the hump. He was waxed in five by Klitschko last year, and didn't return to action until October, beating George Arias, followed by a win over Maurice Harris in December. He would be interesting against Wilder, perhaps, but that's not really in the cards at the moment. He's kind of a contender without a path at the moment.

Chagaev, 37, hasn't looked particularly good in years, but he is the WBA "world" champion, and has won seven in a row dating back to 2012. This year, he fought one time, beating Francesco Pianeta in July. Total ring time for Chagaev in 2015: two minutes, 57 seconds. He's set to face big Aussie slugger Lucas Browne in March.

Jennings, 31, did go 0-2 this year, but the losses were to Klitschko and Ortiz. It's hard to really say that anyone below him has done more than looking decent in defeat against a pair of top five guys.

35-year-old Takam and 37-year-old Stiverne could be switched out for someone else, really. Takam went 3-0 this year, beating Marcelo Luiz Nascimento, Michael Sprott, and George Arias. Stiverne lost to Wilder in January, then returned in November with a less than impressive win over Derric Rossy.

On the Cusp

The division, as always, has a glut of fringe contenders and guys hanging on. Notably absent from our top ten is Vyacheslav "Czar" Glazkov (21-0-1, 13 KO), who arguably should have losses to both Malik Scott and Steve Cunningham, but escaped those fights with a draw and a win, respectively. His best clear victory is probably over an aged Tomasz Adamek in 2014. Glazkov will be fighting for the vacant IBF title in January, but his top ten status, even in a division that peters out pretty heavily after the top four, is questionable at best.

Anthony Joshua (15-0, 15 KO) may already be top 10 for some of his biggest supporters, but we're taking the cautious route. Though he remains an obvious blue chip prospect with skills, size, and big power, he's a ways off from being a contender.

For the 40 and over crowd, there's 47-year-old Antonio Tarver (31-6-1, 22 KO) and 44-year-old Tony "The Tiger" Thompson (40-6, 27 KO). Thompson looked like he'd just run out of gas in his October loss to 35-year-old Malik Scott (38-2-1, 13 KO), while Tarver fought to a draw with 39-year-old Steve Cunningham (28-7-1, 13 KO) in August, then failed a drug test. (Tarver disputed the results of the test, of course, but nothing more has been heard in the last two months.)

Artur Szpilka (20-1, 15 KO) is set for a January shot at Wilder, and did go 3-0 this year with stoppage wins over Ty Cobb, Manuel Quezada, and Yasmany Consuegra. Erkan Teper (15-0, 10 KO) beat Johann Duhaupas and David Price this year, so you could argue he had almost as good a year as Deontay Wilder, apart from no Showtime/NBC main events or world title fights. Dereck Chisora (24-5, 16 KO) won four fights against club guys to pad his record. Tomasz Adamek (50-4, 39 KO) made a return to action in September.

A pair of Cubans pretty much fell out of the conversation this year. Mike Perez (21-2-1, 13 KO) beat Darnell Wilson in February, but was then blown out in 91 seconds by Povetkin in May, and hasn't fought since. Overall, he's 1-2-1 in his last four, and has not been the same since his tragic fight with Magomed Abdusalamov in 2013. And any hope that Odlanier Solis (20-3, 13 KO) would ever get it together is pretty much finished. He lost a rematch to Tony Thompson in February, stopped after the eighth round when Solis quit on his stool. He'd come in at a career high of 271¾ pounds.

The Titleholders

WBC: Deontay Wilder

  • def. Bermane Stiverne (UD-12, 1/17 - TITLE CHANGE)
  • def. Eric Molina (KO-9, 6/13)
  • def. Johann Duhaupas (TKO-11, 9/26)

WBA: Tyson Fury

  • Wladimir Klitschko def. Bryant Jennings (UD-12, 4/25)
  • def. Wladimir Klitschko (UD-12, 11/28 - TITLE CHANGE)

IBF: Vacant

  • Wladimir Klitschko def. Bryant Jennings (UD-12, 4/25)
  • Tyson Fury def. Wladimir Klitschko (UD-12, 11/28 - TITLE CHANGE)
  • Title stripped, 12/8

WBO: Tyson Fury

  • Wladimir Klitschko def. Bryant Jennings (UD-12, 4/25)
  • def. Wladimir Klitschko (UD-12, 11/28 - TITLE CHANGE)

Top 5 Prospects

Boxing at The O2 Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
  1. Anthony Joshua (15-0, 15 KO)
  2. Hughie Fury (18-0, 10 KO)
  3. Joseph Parker (17-0, 15 KO)
  4. Charles Martin (22-0-1, 20 KO)
  5. Andy Ruiz Jr (26-0, 17 KO)

Joshua, 26, is the obvious No. 1 prospect in the division. The 2012 Olympic gold medalist has plowed through the competition since turning pro in October 2013. This year, he fought five times, beating Jason Gavern (KO-3), Raphael Zumbano Love (TKO-2), Kevin Johnson (TKO-2), Gary Cornish (TKO-1), and Dillian Whyte (TKO-7). These are all fine wins for what was really a second-year pro, but they are prospect wins, and he remains a prospect. Whyte took him past the third round for the first time, and Joshua showed that his power remains deeper into fights, and also that he has some things to work on.

Fury, 21, is the younger cousin of the new world heavyweight champion, and doesn't appear to be quite on that level, or I should say project to be, but there's a lot to like, too. He's a very big kid at 6'6", generally weighing around 230 pounds. Like Tyson, he isn't a muscle guy, and compared to someone like Joshua or Klitschko, appears "soft," but it doesn't really harm anything. His KO rate isn't outstanding, but he's also not yet grown into his "man strength," as they say. Fury went 4-0 this year.

New Zealand's Parker, 23, is a 6'4" puncher who went 5-0 in 2015, knocking out Jason Pettaway, Yakup Saglam, Bowie Tupou, Kali Meehan, and Daniel Martz. He's become a domestic star, as best I can tell not being from New Zealand, as he fights on pay-per-view regularly. There are a lot of familiar names on his record, including Frans Botha, Marcelo Luiz Nascimento, Brian Minto, and Sherman "The Tank" Williams.

Martin, 29, is a big southpaw (6'5", around 245 pounds) with knockout power and another guy with the "familiar names" thing -- Tom Dallas, Raphael Zumbano Love, Kertson Manswell, Damon McCreary, and Joey Dawejko are all past victims. Martin will fight Glazkov for the vacant IBF belt in January 2016, and there's a legitimate chance he's about to be able to call himself "world heavyweight champion."

Any thought that Ruiz, 26, is more than a prospect is influenced by the fact that American fans have known who he is for years now because he's been promoted by Top Rank. But he's still very much fighting prospect-level fights. The new plan for Ruiz is to keep him highly active to keep his weight in order. Chris Arreola has tried this before, too. Ruiz is never going to look good cosmetically by pro athlete standards -- he's fat, to be frank, whether he's 275 or 250. More importantly, though, he's got good skills and well above average hand speed for the division. That said, his power hasn't shown up in his last three fights, either, and his height (6'2") and reach (74") aren't going to do him any favors.