It's no secret how mediocre and pedestrian the current heavyweight division is. I promise not to belabor that here. If it weren't for some of the outstanding lighter weight fighters of today, the sport would really be in the doldrums. Luckily, most sophisticated boxing fans know that the best fighters and most compelling fights occur in the lower weight divisions. Even during the golden era of the heavyweights the greatest fighters weighed 175 pounds or less.
Yesterday and today, it requires the least amount of physical skill and desire to move a fighter up the ranks campaigning in the heavyweight division than in any other division. It takes much more than conditioning and desire to become a ranked welterweight than it does a heavyweight. Most ranked middleweights and welterweights can fight to some degree, something that cannot be said about their bigger contemporaries.
Something else that hasn't changed is the fact that upper-tier heavyweights and their managers make more money than do the fighters and managers in the lighter divisions. Sure, we've had exceptions like Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya, but how many of them have there been in the last 60 years? The bottom line is, the flagship division in boxing has always been the heavyweight division. Boxing fans are always on the lookout for the next great heavyweight prospect.
Find a guy who's about 6'2" and weighs in some where between 225 and 235 pounds with some athletic ability, toughness and a good chin, not to mention loves to fight and posses a burning desire to win, and I'll show you a future heavyweight contender if he's managed and moved along right. That's right, hunger, desire, toughness and a decent skill set can take a fighter pretty far in the heavyweight division, especially today. And if you find all that and the guy has a modicum of a fighting aptitude, he'll go even further.
Knowing that makes it even more frustrating than it would be normally when I watch a lot of today’s so-called upper-tier heavyweights. A little less than a month ago there was a heavyweight title elimination bout on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights between Samuel Peter 30-3 (23) and Eddie Chambers 34-1 (18). As I was watched the fight I was thinking to myself how there's only one thing any fighter has completely in his control, the preparation that goes into getting ready for a bout. At the end of the day pretty much everything else is beyond their control.
So I'm watching the fight thinking that, and looking at how they both were carrying more weight than they should be. You'd think with the only thing they have total control over, that they'd put everything they had and then some into preparing and getting the most out of what they can to influence the outcome of the fight.
I wonder if these guys ever bother to look at themselves on tape and critique their showing, beyond whether or not they really won the fight. Of course I know for a fact that they do, but you'd never know it based on their fight-to-fight progress sometimes. Yes, Chambers clearly deserved the decision, but it's more the case of what Peter lacked than it was Chambers asserting himself and seizing the fight. They could fight again in two months and if Peter showed up 25 pounds lighter and was a little busier, he'd win if Chambers showed up and was the same fighter. In my mind, Chambers really didn't defeat Peter. It was more the case of him not being quite as bad. Chambers was more than beatable that night. Alexander Povetkin beat him by just wanting it a little more and being in better shape. Actually, Chambers has more tools and a better skill set than Povetkin, but he's 0-1 against him.
No doubt Eddie Chambers will soon challenge for one of the heavyweight title belts. More than likely he'll be a significant underdog. Based on what we've seen of him, Eddie has some ability. He can box, and when he commits to his jab it's an effective punch. If he added just a little more to his repertoire he'd be more complete. Imagine if he implemented a short left-hook off his jab, then threw his right hand? Had Chambers brought that into his last fight he most likely would've stopped the Peter who he confronted.
I hope I'm wrong, but I'd be willing to bet that Chambers shows up for his next fight and is the same fighter he was the last time out. How shocked would his next opponent be if by chance Eddie showed up with a few new wrinkles in his game and a sense of urgency? This is by no means a shot at Mr. Chambers. His career isn't over and there's still time for him to evolve into the best fighter that he can be. Let’s hope for the sake of watching him that he does in fact grow as a talent.
The recent Peter-Chambers bout is a perfect example that illustrates how little separates today’s upper-tier heavyweights. On any given night they could just as easily lose to a fighter they may have previously beaten. Other than Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, there's not one who stands out, and neither of the Klitschkos are close to being unbeatable. What separates them is they are big and have figured out how to use their size and reach. When they fight it's always the same obstacle for their opponent, in that they first have to adjust and address what the Klitschkos are going to attempt to do, instead of the opposite. The brothers benefit greatly fighting during an era where there's not one top ranked heavyweight who resembles a complete fighter. The heavyweights who can box a little bit are too complacent to really bother either of them, and the ones who can punch pretty good lack the technique to deliver their power shots and finishing punches.
It's befuddling watching some of today's ranked heavyweights who are on the brink of a title shot approach their craft so nonchalantly regarding the only aspect of the game they have absolute control over. It doesn't take a boxing scholar to see that both Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, who've had a nice run, are on the decline and can be beaten by any challenger who's merely physically and mentally prepared. None of today's top heavyweights are anything special, at least that I've seen. With all of them bunched together the field is wide open for somebody to bare down and step up, simply because it wouldn't require him to be a physically gifted or great fighter to dethrone one of the current belt holders. Don't any of these guys actually want to be the heavyweight champion?