This is our fifth installment of the Grant Top 25 Heavyweights. This month saw a tremendous show by top heavyweights Wladimir Klitschko and Sam Peter. Given the number of alphabet belts in existence, it’s a shocker that no world belt was on the line. No matter, though, it was a thriller. Both remain viable contenders and both remain dangerous against anyone in the division.
Speaking of dangerous, Lamon Brewster demonstrated the heat that has given fire to his career against a vastly overrated Luan Krasniqi in defense of his WBO strap. The fight itself demonstrated the utter meaninglessness of the WBO ratings. The defense, however, gives him license to go after some big money.
October looks to be another month that may require some big changes: Chris Byrd defends his IBF belt against DaVarryl Williamson; Nicolay Valuev tussles with Larry Donald for the right to face John Ruiz; and some of the other top names in the division such as Calvin Brock and Jameel McCline stay busy with lesser competition.
1. Vitali Klitschko, Ukraine – WBC Champion (Last Month #1) The boxing world awaits his showdown in November with Hasim Rahman. Rock is sporting his WBC “interim” belt, making appearances as if he’s already the champ. He may be getting ahead of himself. Just wonder, if he loses to Klitschko, does he remain the “interim” titlist? These alphabets sure create a lot of puzzles, huh?
2. Hasim Rahman, USA (Last Month #2) No one ever said Rahman was consistent and he showed why his last time out. He can shoot a jab as sweet as Sonny Liston, but he can also appear almost lethargic. Although his win against Monte Barrett wasn’t awe-inspiring, it did give him twelve rounds of work. Maybe he just needed a tune-up. Fortunately we’ll find out soon.
3. Lamon Brewster, USA – WBO Champion (Last month #3) Okay now that he has the WBO “mandatory” nonsense over with by stopping Germany’s Luan Krasniqi – who, according to the WBO was the second best heavyweight in the world – he can get on to meaningful fights for big $$$. Perhaps he can persuade Don King to let him unify with WBA titlist John Ruiz. We know the WBC belt is tied up until at least after V. Klitschko and Rahman go at it. We also know that the IBF winner between Chris Byrd and DaVarryl Williamson will likely go against W. Klitschko. Of course now the younger Klitschko is again the top WBO contender, so possibilities abound.
4. Wladimir Klitschko, Ukraine (Last month #4) No one can accuse Klitschko of taking the easy route to redemption. In beating a very able and willing Samuel Peter, Klitschko overcame at least some of his demons. He was on the deck and came back (though the first two knockdowns were very questionable). He was tired but fought on. His skill level, always his strongest suit, put him a full class above a young man that very few of the other names on this list will likely want to do face any time soon. He deserves a shot at either Byrd or Brewster. We will see watch closely to see if the alphabet sanctioning bodies that listed this fight as a title eliminator are true to their word. Of course since he beat Peter, the IBF might select Peter as the next mandatory. Hey, it worked for DaVarryl Williamson didn’t it?
5. Chris Byrd, USA – IBF Champion (Last month #5) DaVarryl Williamson goes by the nickname “Touch of Sleep.” I just hope this fight does not put us to sleep. They will mix it up as an undercard bout on contender James Toney’s return to Showtime October 1st. What does that say about the drawing power of the titlist? n truth, Byrd is a solid, respectable fighter who consistently finds ways to win – or at least make judges think he is a winner. If Byrd wins as predicted – and this is no gimme because Williamson can fight a bit – and can’t get a big money fight with the Klitschko-Rahman winner, he simply must throw away his IBF belt and challenge the WBC winner directly as a ranked contender. Time is running out.
6. James Toney, USA (Last month #6) The real question as Toney prepares for his October 1st showdown with Dominick Guinn is how gargantuan he will be. In recent television appearances, Toney has looked huge. Of course Guinn can bang with his left hook and if he can overcome the sluggishness he’s shown in recent fights, he has a real chance. I suspect Toney wouldn’t want an easy fight – though in his eyes all fights are easy. This fight should prove interesting.
7. Calvin Brock, USA (Last month #7) The Boxing Banker is scheduled to take on David Bostice November 19th. This will be his second fight since beating highly rated Jameel McCline. He’s biding his time en route to a meaningful match. Don’t be surprised if he faces Vitali Klitschko should the Ukrainian get past Rahman. Otherwise, he’ll have to keep plugging away until he achieves a top rating and becomes a “mandatory” contender for one of the alphabet titlists. If Luan Krasniqi was considered the top fighter in contention for the WBO title, Calvin Brock should be king of the world. Unfortunately just being light years better that most of the competition is not enough. He’ll need a few balls to bounce his direction. Until then these minor fights will have to suffice.
8. Audley Harrison, England (Last month #9) I took a lot of grief in promoting Harrison to the top ten last month. Fans have been disappointed with the slow pace of Harrison’s career progression. Folks are wondering when he going to make his move. Given his age, they have a point. Don’t test me Audley; you better do something big very soon.
9. Samuel Peter, Nigeria (Last month #8) As I predicted, Peter was taken to school a bit by Klitschko. Of course Klitschko brought a wealth of experience and physical advantages and he was able to pull it all together in a way that made him hard to beat for anyone. Peter proved he’s tough, his punches are for real, he won’t quit, and he believed in his strength to the very last moment. He will come away from the Klitschko bout a much better fighter. Although he took some hard shots, no one could say he took a beating. A few adjustments here and there and you’ll see this guy put some people on this top 25 list on their backs. He could likely take on an alphabet champion or two right now – but given the fact that his promoter isn’t named Don King, he’ll have to go back to the drawing board and get himself another title eliminator. He’s got the time and the ability.
10. Monte Barrett, USA(Last month #10) Nothing on the boards for Barrett since his loss against Rahman. He’ll need to regroup and come back against a fellow top fighter.
11. John Ruiz, USA – WBA Champion (Last month #11) A constant flow of rumors of an impending defense against Kevin McBride are the only rumors swirling around the titlist. f the bout takes place it will undoubtedly be the most obscure title match since Monte Masters defeated Tony Fulilangi for the short-lived WAA heavyweight title in 1983. You remember that match don’t you?
12. Jameel McCline, USA (Last month #12) He faces someone named Zuri Lawrence in what can charitably be called another stay-busy fight. He’s apparently hoping that by staying busy he’ll be ready for a big fight when it comes along. What a concept.
13. Nicolay Valuev, Russia (Last month #15) When he meets Larry Donald October 1st in a WBA title eliminator, the 7’0, 320-plus fighter will be able to capture a mandatory shot at John Ruiz. Of course Ruiz may face Kevin McBride in the interim – can you imagine a McBride-Valuev match? I can’t. I won’t. He’ll likely take Donald and face Ruiz early next year.
14. DaVarryl Williamson, USA (Last month #16) His upcoming October 1st title tiff with Byrd represents a chance for the big time that likely won’t come again. He better make the most of it.
15. Danny Williams, England (Last month #13) No one knows what’s next for the embattled Williams. He’s clearly in the proverbial doghouse in England after pulling out of a fight with Matt Skelton.
16. Corrie Sanders, South Africa (Last month #14) What’s it going to be Corrie? You won’t be able to emerge from this hibernation and capture a big win. en nearing their 40’s rarely make big comebacks.
17. Oleg Maskaev, Uzbekistan (Last month #17) Set to take on Sinan Samil Sam in a WBC title elimination match November 12th in Germany. Let’s face some facts, neither of these guys rate a title shot as the “mandatory.” This “mandatory” stuff is quickly getting out of hand.
18. David Tua, New Zealand (Last month #18) He’ll square off with Cisse Salif October 21st in Florida.
19. Shannon Briggs, USA (Last month #19) Still living off his recent win over old-timer Ray Mercer. Expect him to be in action in October or November.
20. Serguei Lyakhovich, Belarus (Last month #20) An injury kept him out of a bout with Owen Beck. He’s not capitalizing on his win over the very able Dominick Guinn last December.
21. Dominick Guinn, USA (Last month #22) His big shot comes October 1st against the hefty James Toney. A win means a title fight.
22. Fres Oquendo, USA (Puerto Rico) (Last month #21) It’s been well over a year since he was toppled by John Ruiz. Haven’t heard a peep from him since it was announced he signed with Lou Dibella.
23. Matt Skelton, England (Last month #24) The British champion, despite being 38-years-old, does not appear to be rushing into anything since his last win in July. He’s undefeated, but outside Britain he’s unknown. If he wants the big cash he needs to travel across the pond.
24. Ray Austin, USA (Last month #25) Still mulling his option after his August win over Owen Beck. My guess is that he’ll get a shot a name fighter soon.
25. Luan Krasniqi, Germany (via Kosovo) (Last month #23) Krasniqi is a fairly good journeyman who became a contender only in the imagination of the WBO’s rating committee. Some of the big European heavyweights actually have skills and power but they’re growth is stunted by an endless stream of meaningless fights meant only to create eye-popping win-loss records. I submit that had Krasniqi been guided through progressively tougher competition instead of finding himself at age 34 in his first big fight, he may have had some experience to draw on. His loss to Brewster was likely a shock to his system. Brewster is a far cry from Timo Hoffman.
Others on the fringes in no particular order:
Kali Meehan, New Zealand – He finally returned to the ring and stopped little-known, oft-beaten Tommy Connelly on the Brewster-Krasniqi undercard. He’ll have to do quite a bit more to move himself back into real contention.
Owen Beck, USA – We don’t know what’s on the drawing board for “What the Heck?” He needs some wins quickly.
Oliver McCall, USA – His recent demolition of Poland’s Przemyslaw Saleta will undoubtedly get him another chance at a name fighter. He has to make the most of whatever comes his way. Forty-year-old fighters don’t have a long shelf life.
Lance Whitaker, USA – Set to take on Gabe Brown on October 1st. He’s attempting to reconstruct a career following a loss to Krasniqi. Louis Monaco, a fighter with a decidedly losing record was first up. Brown at least has a winning slate. Whitaker knows he’ll need to stay busy and score a significant win soon in order to get back into the mix.
Alexander Dimitrenko, Ukraine – A close but unanimous win over Vaughn Bean on the Brewster-Krasniqi undercard represents a step up for the 6’7”, 249-pound, 23-year-old. He’s moving in the right direction. At 20-0 he needs more and better competition each month.
Ruslan Chagaev, Uzbekistan – I finally had a chance to see one of his past fights and it appears the southpaw has some ability. If his level of competition does not rise soon, however, he’s at risk of finding himself in a situation similar to that experienced by Luan Krasniqi. He’ll run up an impressive record only to be stunned by a top fighter. You better get with it Ruslan or you’ll be left in the dust.