In PART 1 of this 2 part series, Joey Knish examines the current state of the heavyweight division.
In the second part of our heavyweight snapshot we will focus on the division’s near future as it pertains to non-title bouts. Many fights on the horizon are likely to paint a picture of what the next round of heavyweight title fights looks like.
Non-title bouts that may have a major impact on the division are, in chronological order:
David Tua versus Talmadge Griffis set to take place March 31 in Auckland, New Zealand. If David Tua (42-3-1) makes it back into the heavyweight fold he has to do it quickly but not quietly. Tua needs to make some major noise with his widow maker left hook and time is running out. While Tua has been gone he has largely been forgotten. It will be almost two years to the day that Tua has been out of a boxing ring when he faces Griffis (22-5-3). With the heavyweight division void of a colorful face to represent it, one-time title challenger David Tua believes he might still be the man.
Riddick Bowe meets Billy Zumbrun on April 7 at Temecula, California with FOX broadcasting as part of its successful “Best Damn Sports Show Period.” When Riddick Bowe (41-1) left jail he claimed to be in great shape and ready to take the boxing world by storm. Unfortunately the boxing world wasn’t quite ready for him. Jurisdictions are hesitant in welcoming Bowe’s act after both the jail term and brain injuries cast him in a shady light. After blowing out Marcus Rhode in two rounds thanks to four knockdowns, Bowe had got his feet wet, but still has a long road to make it into contention. If he finds what he once had, Bowe could be a top-ten heavyweight by today’s standards. Next up is 32-year old Billy Zumbrun (17-5-1) who has been knocked out (?) in 3 of his 5 losses.
Wladimir Klitschko takes on Sergei Lyakhovich in Germany on April 23 in a fight broadcast on HBO. While Klitschko (43-3) has yet to come up with a medical excuse for his loss to Lamon Brewster, he must be hoping the home cooked kraut is the cure for what ailed him that night in Las Vegas. With his size and power there is little doubt that Wladimir Klitschko still has the physical skills to be a factor in the division. Whether he has the mental aptitude to be a champion is where the doubt lurks. Lyakhovich (22-1) will likely be a difficult task for Dr. Klitschko. The 6’4” 240-pounder from Belarus was stopped once in his career on a night when Maurice Harris fought to the best of his abilities, rather than the Maurice Harris we are used to seeing come up short. Dominick Guinn came up short against Lyakhovich and we shall see who steps up between the two on April 23. It seems that Sergei Lyakhovich will be planning to take Klitschko deep into the fight by staying out of range early. (Note: Recent reports suggest that Lyakhovich has had passport problems and may not make the date. Stay tuned.)
Jameel McCline and Calvin Brock also meet April 23rd with ESPN carrying the fight from Las Vegas. One of these two will take a big leap right into the thick of things. Brock (24-0) finally took a small step up in class when he destroyed Clifford Etienne in less than nine minutes. Whether Brock is going to “make it” will depend a lot on what we find out in this fight. McCline (31-4-3) will definitely be the biggest test of Brock’s career, and how he handles the class of opposition and adversity that is sure to come from this bout will tell us a lot about exactly who Calvin Brock is. For Jameel McCline this is likely his last shot at having a shot and must seize the moment. Now a two-time title challenger and at 34 years of age, time is running out for McCline. A loss to Brock could be the expiration stamp on a decent career.
Luan Krasniqi takes on Lance Whitaker on May 28th over in Germany in a WBO Heavyweight title eliminator. The fight looks to be basically a toss-up based on Krasniqi holding the home court advantage while Whitaker carries a slight edge in caliber of opposition. Krasniqi (27-1-1) most recently fought to a draw with Timo Hoffmann. His 12-round majority decision over Sinan Samil Sam is the most notable win in his professional career, a career which has generally gone unnoticed. A victory over Lance Whitaker (29-2-1) would add a decent name, a recognized American name, to a resume that has been built almost exclusively over in Europe. (Krasniqi fought once in the U.S., in his second pro fight.) For Whitaker the bout represents one final shot near the end of his career. Having held fringe titles in the past, Whitaker has never had a crack at a major title. His only two losses have come to McCline and Lou Savarese, and he holds notable wins over Monte Barrett, Oleg Maskaev and Friday Ahunanya. A victory over Luan Krasniqi in Germany will have him knocking on the door of a major title fight. Now all he has to do is win.
The marquee division really heats up in the next three months. The title fights in the second half of the year depend on what happens in the fights noted above. While none of them may be feature fights, each of them is an intriguing match-up with heavy importance.