This is the third monthly edition of the Grant Top 25 Heavyweights. I am a somewhat reluctant warrior in attempting to put words on a page this month because so many of the rated heavyweights are fighting in August. Almost without doubt we are in for some serious changes next month.
Changes this month are listed by each name. I’ve also added some names at the bottom of fighters who are hovering around the fringes of the ratings.
The fight blogs are full of invective spewed toward the heavyweight division. Many lament the current state of the division and its supposed lack of talented contenders. Many forget that the division, throughout much of the history of the gloved era, is filled with colorful language denouncing the health of the heavyweight division.
There have been precious few “golden” eras where the heavyweights are concerned. The primary difference existing today versus the early 70’s, for example, is that the top four or five fighters are simply not fighting each other. Certainly the various beltholders are avoiding contact with each other.
This state of affairs is indeed hurting the box-office and is likely having a spillover to the other divisions. Credibility will return quickly if the belts can be unified and the top fighters get in the ring with each other rather than engaging in meaningless “mandatories.”
1. Vitali Klitschko, Ukraine – WBC Champion (Last Month # 1)
It appears the final edict is in: Klitschko will fight the winner of the Hasim Rahman – Monte Barrett eliminator. He wanted another optional defense, against Calvin Brock, but the WBC informed him that he must fight the eliminator winner. Oh yes, there was some other gobbledy-gook in that letter, but it makes my brain hurt to discuss it. Some wild doings at the WBC. It’s not at all clear why Klitschko clings so mightily to the belt. He could take a page out of the Antonio Tarver book and make more money simply seeking out the best opponents.
2. Hasim Rahman, USA (Last Month # 2)
He’s all set for Barrett on August 13th. Supposedly, if he wins he would face Klitschko a mere six weeks later. Something tells me it just won’t work out that way.
3. Lamon Brewster, USA – WBO Champion (Last month # 4)
Set to fight WBO number one ranked Luan Krasniqi in September. Earth to Lamon – NEVER FIGHT IN GERMANY. To win Lamon must bring his own judges – a powerful left hook and a slamming right hand. The only danger is if judges are selected locally and Krasniqi somehow makes it to the final bell. I don’t think he will. The fact that Krasniqi is ranked number one is proof enough that we shouldn’t take the WBO seriously. We don’t. We do, however, take Brewster seriously. This will be an easy tuneup for real fights down the road.
4. Wladimir Klitschko, Ukraine (Last month # 5)
The much maligned young Wladimir got handed a bit of New Jersey injustice by a judge that thinks losing is the right ingredient in being promoted in the rankings. This could turn out to be a good thing for Klitschko, as rumor has it that he signed to fight hard-punching youngster Samuel Peter. A win in that fight will serve notice to all who behold his presence that he is back. Of course a loss, a very real possibility against an aggressive, undefeated, and brutal competitor, will move him to the end of the line – perhaps forever. It’s now or never.
5. Chris Byrd, USA – IBF Champion (Last month # 3)
Perhaps someday Byrd will fight again. The IBF, backed by a nutty court ruling, has installed DaVarryl Williamson as the top available contender. He catapulted over Wladimir Klitshko despite losing to him less than a year ago. Somehow a judge was convinced that this made sense. The IBF argued that since Williamson recently beat a ranked contender, Derrick Jefferson, that he deserved to move ahead of Klitschko who recently beat an unranked fighter. Of course the judge overlooked the fact that Klitschko himself recently beat a ranked fighter: DaVarryl Williamson. And, not incidentally, he also holds a knockout win over Jefferson. Let this be a wake-up call to all those who think a federal agency, staffed by boxing know-nothings, will somehow save the sport. No date has been scheduled.
6. James Toney, USA (Last month # 6)
Toney had his steroid suspension lifted early as he came up clean in subsequent tests. No date or opponent has been set for a return to the ring. Meanwhile Toney, appearing on Fox TV, appeared to be very heavy indeed. He’ll need to be in better shape than he was against Ruiz against the likes of Vitali Klitschko or Chris Byrd. The rumor mill has him fighting a rematch with Vassiliy Jirov. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. Jirov looked dreadful in his last fight, an eight round draw with Orlin Norris. Expect to see an announcement of an opponent soon.
7. Monte Barrett, USA (Last month # 7)
He’ll face Rahman on August 13th. Despite his blowout losses to Joe Mesi and Wladimir Klitschko, he has some talent. I don’t know if it will be enough against the rejuvenated Rahman.
8. Calvin Brock, USA (Last month # 8)
He was briefly mentioned as a possible optional defense for Vitali Klitschko. It may prove a blessing that he did not get the shot. Brock will likely keep busy and could work himself into a mandatory position against one of the many other beltholders and he will likely face much better odds than he would against V. Klitschko. He was recently married, but that will probably not keep him out of the scene for long. Brock is solid and he has skills. A few breaks here and there and he will be in the middle of the hunt for a title.
9. Samuel Peter, Nigeria (Last month # 9)
Young Samuel holds all the regional trinket belts of the major sanctioning bodies and is poised for a big showdown with Wladimir Klitschko. This is no small endeavor. Some think he will simply rush in on a supposedly china-chinned coulda-been. As Klitschko’s record, upon closer inspection, suggests, that may not be so easy. For one thing, Klitschko has never been outboxed – not even close. Except for his loss to Corrie Sanders, he was far ahead in each of his losses when he was stopped. We’ve never seen Peter behind in a fight. Secondly, Peter has not been whacked by a heavy, consistent puncher – and Wladimir is just that, with plenty of skills. What does this all say to us? It says to me that we have a potential blockbuster in this one. A win over Klitschko would propel him to superstardom. We’ll see in September.
10. John Ruiz, USA – WBA Champion (Last month # 10)
Who knows what is next in store for the perpetual WBA titleholder? According to the latest WBA ratings there is no number one, mandatory contender. Does anyone know what that really means? They can’t figure out a top contender? Of course the WBA version of number one would likely be as non-sensical as the other alphabet ratings, but at least the others put someone – anyone – in the top spot. I haven’t seen any more talk of a Kevin McBride defense. I’m hoping that was just a scary dream.
11. Audley Harrison, England – Takes on crafty journeyman Robert Wiggins August 18th (Last month # 11)
12. Jameel McCline, USA – Fights Steve Pannell August 26th. (Also had a strong showing as a guest commentator on ESPN2. Please let him takeover Roy Jones’ spot on HBO. Please). (Last month # 12)
13. Danny Williams, England – Said he was sick and pulled out of a British title match with Matt Skelton in July. Who knows where that leaves him? (Last month # 13)
14. Corrie Sanders, South Africa – Last fight was in December. What gives Corrie? The not-so-magical age of 40 is coming up in January. Better move fast. (Last month # 14)
15. Nicolay Valuev, Russia – According to the latest WBA rankings he is number two, and there is no number one. Go figure. Hint to Valuev: If your promoter’s name rhymed with, say, the words “Don King,” you’d be mauling and clinching with John Ruiz right now. (Last month # 15)
16. DaVarryl Williamson, USA – Next up is Byrd (Last month # 17)
17. Oleg Maskaev, Uzbekistan – Scheduled to take on Sinan Samil Sam in a WBC title eliminator. Hopefully it really works as an eliminator and eliminates both of them. Maskaev has slipped badly. (Last month # 16)
18. David Tua, New Zealand – Stays busy against Cisse Salif August 26th
(Last month # 18)
19. Fres Oquendo, USA (Puerto Rico) – Signed with Lou DiBella. (Last month # 19)
20. Serguei Lyakhovich, Belarus – Scheduled to face Owen Beck in August.
(Last month # 20)
21. Dominick Guinn, USA – He’s on somewhat of a skid after a very promising start. (Last month # 21)
22. Luan Krasniqi, Germany (via Kosovo) – Faces Brewster in September for WBO belt. He will enjoy a big hometown advantage in Germany, but he’ll likely be looking at the ceiling before the night is through. (Last month # 22)
23. Shannon Briggs, USA – Meets Ray Mercer on August 26th (Last month # 23)
24. Owen Beck, USA – I shouldn’t have overlooked him last month. He gets into the ratings despite having lost his last fight – against Monte Barrett. He’ll be tested soon as he faces Lyakhovich in August. (Last month unrated)
25. Matt Skelton, England – British champion was left to fight last-minute sub when Danny Williams dropped out. He remains undefeated. (Last month unrated.)
Others on the fringes:
Kali Meehan, Australia – Kali, are you still out there? He’s done nothing since being punched out by Rahman (Last month # 25)
Vassily Jirov falls out of the top 25 following a draw with Orlin Norris. (Last Month # 24)
Michael Grant, scored a recent win in Minnesota. Okay, that may not mean much but I still like him.
Orlin Norris, see Vassily Jirov above
Lance Whitaker, fights an opponent yet-to-be-named on August 26th
Alexander Dimitrenko, young Ukranian looks ready to move past fighting European also-rans.