Top 25 Heavyweights (As of July, 2006)
There are only a few moves in this month’s list. Headliner Calvin Brock took a tough win over previously undefeated Timor Ibragimov and had to show some resolve in doing so. I found it surprising that many bloggers criticized his performance for being boring. Yes there were too many clinches and few booming exchanges, but Brock is proving himself solid in nearly all departments. He’s a solid “B” student in all subjects, though not especially stellar in any. Any of the alphabet titlists are going to have trouble with him.
Dominick Guinn may have finally lost his big chance. He went from showing some of the talent that was evident in the early part of his career against Audley Harrison to blowing it bigtime against Tony Thompson. We just can’t figure out what happened there.
July is shaping up to be important to the future shape of the division. Williams - Skelton will likely decide which man gets a world title shot in the very near future. It is likewise the case for the S. Ibragimov – Austin eliminator. Shannon Briggs, apparently next in line for Klitschko, may be in action in July. Also scheduled for July action are Ruslan Chagaev and Jameel McCline.
Note also that many of the heavyweights below the top 25 such as Chazz Witherspoon, Alexander Dimitrenko, Paolo Vidoz, and JD Chapman will also mix it up in July.
All-in-all a solid month upcoming for the heavyweights.
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1. Wladimir Klitschko, Ukraine – IBF Champion (Last month #1) Shannon Briggs in November? That’s what we’re hearing and say what you want about Klitschko but he is certainly not avoiding big hitters in defense of his title. Briggs may be past his best day but he has been active and winning.
2. Hasim Rahman, USA – WBC Champion (Last Month #2) An August date with Oleg Maskaev awaits. Rahman will have a chance to avenge the most brutal loss on his record to date. A loss in this defense means the entire heavyweight division belongs to fighters from the former Soviet bloc nations. A win means riches are on the way.
3. Serguei Liakhovich, Belarus – WBO Champion (Last month #3) If you ever hoped that promoter Don King would really strive to unify the alphabet titles you now have all the evidence you need to make an assessment. Liakhovich is scheduled to take on Kevin McBride in August. King’s other heavyweight titlist, Nicolay Valuev is for some reason not a possibility. Liakhovich beat a legitimate top guy in Brewster and now he moves to the club circuit? What gives?
4. Lamon Brewster, USA (Last month #4) While continuing to heal from eye surgery Brewster has nothing to do but wait for a doctor’s verdict. His boxing future hangs in the balance.
5. Calvin Brock, USA (Last month #6) Beating Timor Ibragimov in June was a solid step toward a title shot. Ibragimov showed talent and toughness that caused Brock to make adjustments --- and he did so smoothly. Forget the blather of the B.A.D. crew from HBO about whether he will be a major draw with his style (could the team of Lewis-Charles-Kellermen have worse chemistry?), because if he keeps winning they will come – in droves. We can’t know how he will do against Rahman or Klitschko until he climbs into the ring. What we do know is that he belongs among the elite.
6. Chris Byrd, USA (Last month #5) With seemingly nowhere to go in the heavyweight division he could have a realistic shot at the undisputed cruiserweight belt. Wonder if he’s considering it?
7. Samuel Peter, Nigeria (Last month #7) Good money and even a better opportunity awaits when he meets James Toney. Look for this fight to be his coming out party.
8. James Toney, USA (Last month #8) "Lights Out" is risking getting his lights put out when he faces Sam Peter. He gives away size (though knowing him he may pack on 20 more pounds), power (as in he has none and Peter can blow people away), and more than a decade in age. Don't be surprised if he ends up in the third row.
9. Danny Williams, England (Last month #9) Beating Matt Skelton in July will almost certainly mean a title shot. Since losing to Vitali Klitschko, Danny has proven himself resilient against pretty good opposition. No one will steamroll him including the new crop of eastern Europeans.
10. Nicolay Valuev, Russia – WBA Champion (Last month #10) Obivously no one was shocked to see Owen Beck go down in flames against the “Beast.” Charitably we can say the selection of Beck as a first defense was unfortunate. In reality, this fight had no business being called a championship bout. If we see such matchmaking as the wave of his future as a titlist, I’ll be glad that the bouts are not shown on American TV. Come on big Nick, go for the big-time and defend against fighters who have fought their way into contention.
11. John Ruiz, USA (Last month #11) The number 1 WBA contender will probably score a rematch with Valuev even if he has no intervening fights. If we could only figure out why……
12. Sultan Ibragimov, Russia (Last month #12) Ray Austin should provide a stiff test when they meet in July. Never mind that this is some kind of eliminator, it is just a solid match with two fighters who could legitimately compete for a title some day.
13. Oleg Maskaev, Uzbekistan (Last month #13) He has the opportunity to close out the long-time American stranglehold on the heavyweight championship – despite its fractured nature – against the formidable Rahman. One last chance.
14. Shannon Briggs, USA (Last month #14) Briggs has been busy enough to have earned his chance against Klitschko, but if he comes in fat (as he did his last time out), he will get out-worked and may in fact be looking up at the lights before the night is through. He has time to get ready. Only time will tell the tale. It’s still not clear if he’ll take a July tune-up.
15. Ruslan Chagaev, Uzbekistan (Last month #15) Chagaev gets chance to make a minor addition to his tough-guy reputation when he meets British journeyman Michael Sprott in July. Sprott brings a lot of rounds of experience and may provide a test.
16. Ray Austin, USA (Last month #16) The “Rainman” gets a chance to become a “Rainmaker” if he can get past Sultan Ibragimov in July. A win will gain a lock on a title shot.
17. DaVarryl Williamson, USA (Last month #18) Still basking in his May win over formerly undefeated Mike Mollo. The 37 year-old needs to make a move soon on the big guys. He doesn’t have very many big days left in the tank.
18. Fres Oquendo, USA (Last month #19) Nothing is scheduled for Oquendo since his May win over Javier Mora. He needs activity to build his stamina. He’s likely many months away from major competition.
19. Matt Skelton, England (Last month #20) He gets one more shot at the big time when he meets Danny Williams in July. A loss mean permanent relegation to the club circuit.
20. Luan Krasniqi, Germany (Last month #21) A top rating by the loopy WBO means he’ll likely get another shot at the organization’s belt. What is the love affair the organization has with Krasniqi? He has never defeated a legitimately rated top 10 fighter. Clearly there is some talent there, but he hasn’t come through in the crunch.
21. Jameel McCline, USA (Last month #22) A quick stoppage of Marcus Rhode in June was nothing more than staying active. McCline is likely being considered by someone higher on this list as a career builder opponent. That means a big payday for “Big Time.” A return to title contention? That’s another story altogether. He’ll face Terry Smith in July.
22. Tony Thompson, USA (Last month unranked) How has this man escaped notice for this long? He dropped a decision early in his career as he amassed a 28-1 (17 KOs) record. Since then he has sprinkled in wins over Zuri Lawrence and Vaughn Bean among a list of names you’ve likely never seen before. With his big win over the hot-and-cold Dominick Guinn, however, he has undoubtedly secured a solid payday.
23. Dominick Guinn, USA (Last month #17) Oops, he did it again. In losing to Tony Thompson – who was supposed to be a mere bump in the road – he has once again deflated his career. This time it may be permanent.
24. Audley Harrison, England (Last month #23) The former gold medalist returned to the win column in June by stopping Andrew Greeley. Harrison will have to turn on the activity burner and win often against all comers. Now is the time to set things right. There is no tomorrow.
25. Monte Barrett, USA (Last month #24) Has the man retired? We’re closing in on a year of inactivity and 16 months since he last won.
Prospects, fringe contenders, and others who need mentioning listed in no particular order. Don’t read the fact that they are listed here as an indication a ranking is imminent. Regular readers should also note that I’ve taken off some names that were here in months past but who still rate attention, such as Roman Greenberg and Tye Fields. I’m trying to highlight activity and when such fighters have bouts scheduled you’ll likely see them reappear:
Joe Mesi, USA (Last month #25) – Maybe I was just a little too quick to put Baby Joe back into the top 25. His win over the now 3-8 (1 KO) Stephane Tessier was troubling despite the fact that it was a shutout. Mesi was exceedingly slow, oh-so-easy to hit, and he also seemed a bit gun-shy. He’ll need to improve dramatically if he wants to be seen as a viable contender again.
Paolo Vidoz, Italy – Many viewers of this column in the boxing blogs and websites have thrown stones at me (figuratively, thankfully) for not listing the “Titanium Jaw.” The 35 year-old gets a chance to show his wares in July against the once-beaten Vladimir Virchis in defense of his European title.
Eddie Chambers, USA – My special enclave of heavyweight watchers tell me it’s time to get this 26-0 heavweight mentioned in the same breath with contenders for the throne. His June thrashing of middle-of-the-road journeyman Ed Mahone coupled with a decision over Robert Hawkins last fall, means there may be some fire under the smoke. He’s also only 24 years old. He can’t be far away from taking on a solid name fighter.
Chazz Witherspoon, USA – A TV fight on Showtime in July provides him an opportunity to showcase his abilities. Little does he know how quickly popular he can become by being impressive. America awaits a return to prominence. Is this the guy?
Alexander Dimitrenko, Ukraine –The giant, undefeated 23 year old will be return to action in July. No opponent has been announced.
Alexander Povetkin, Russia – The promising Russian broke down and stopped Livin Castillo on the Valuev-Beck undercard. Despite having only an 8-0 record, perhaps he should be the Russian with a title belt.
Timor Ibragimov, Uzbekistan – He showed a bit of skill and some heart in his loss to Calvin Brock. He also came up short in overall ability. If he can’t get some more kick in his punch, he’ll remain relegated to the second tier. Nevertheless, he’ll be tough to get past for anyone.
Gonzalo Omar Basile, Argentina – Now 23-1 (his only loss was in his pro debut), Gonzo has won 9 fights in 2006 alone. The only drawback for the 32 year-old, however, is that he has not met any heavyweight that resembles a “name” in the division. It will take big step up in opposition for us to gauge his talent.
J.D. Chapman, USA – Trained by the cerebral Jeff Mayweather (yet another Floyd Jr. relation in the game), the youngster is busy. He’ll be back in the ring in July. Though now 23-0, he has some much to learn; but at 23 years old he has some time to gain experience.
Malik Scott, USA – Set for a July date with James Walton on the Baldomir-Gatti undercard. Hopefully we see the youngster in with a stiff test soon. He’s now 24-0 (10 KOs) and has gone to decision in each of his last five bouts.
Kevin McBride, Ireland – He’s apparently a lock for Serguei Liakhovich in August. Hopefully Liakhovich ends the embarrassment early. The WBO is trying to gain respect among the alphabets. Note to WBO: This won’t do it for you. (Yes, I realize that gaining respectability among the alphabets is not an especially high bar).
Jean Francois Bergeron, Canada – A June win over Andy Sample (KO 1) doesn’t really show us much. With his name I’m assuming French is his first language. Please forgive my French --- I’m trying to convince the 32 year old that it is time to get going: Combattre une allumette importante de boxe maintenant.
Denis Boytsov, Russia – Yet another Russian star may be emerging here. The 20 year-old is now 14-0 (14 KOs). He is young enough to have plenty of time to prove he is the real thing. He is still maturing and filling out his frame. He weighed a career high 216 his last time out.