This is our sixth edition of the Grant Top 25 Heavyweights. We had some activity among the fighters at the bottom of the list. Most notably, Jameel McCline fell big with a loss to Zuri Lawrence, a fighter who in 35 fights has never scored a knockout. Expect some movement in the next two months with V. Klitschko, Rahman, Ruiz, Valuev, Harrison, D. Williams, Maskaev, and Skelton all in action.
The division continues to be derided but it is clear enough to me it is because the belt holders refuse to face each other. Enough overall talent exists in the division – if there is only one champion. Unifications will go a long way in reinstating the division as the most watched in boxing.
Of course the Klitschko-Rahman bout is the likely to be the heavyweight showdown of the year (followed closely by W. Klitschko-Peter). When the dust settles, expect the winner to start calling out the other titleholders. We don’t know if it will make any difference but we’ll remain optimistic.
Comments continue to flow in after the ratings are published. Keep voicing your opinions.
1. Vitali Klitschko, Ukraine – WBC Champion (Last Month #1) Klitschko and his upcoming opponent Hasim Rahman are in the final stages of preparation for their November 12 showdown dubbed “Seek and Destroy.” There won’t be much seeking inasmuch as both fighters will attempt to connect with their heavy hands early and often. Questions to be answered: Will the long layoff be detrimental to Klitschko? Can Rahman recapture his sharpness evidenced in his victory over Kali Meehan, or will he put us to sleep with another snoozer the way he did against Monte Barrett? Let’s just hope “Seek and Destroy” does not become “Wait and See.”
2. Hasim Rahman, USA (Last Month #2) This is Rahman’s last best chance to go to the mountaintop once more. A loss to Klitschko and he is likely finished as a serious contender. He has to know this.
3. Lamon Brewster, USA – WBO Champion (Last month #3) There are many possibilities for the hard-punching Brewster. His next mandatory is Wladimir Klitschko, but the Ukrainian is also the mandatory for Chris Byrd. Whoever Brewster’s next opponent may be, we hope that the American public gets to see it. Brewster has all the attributes to become a very popular figure.
4. Wladimir Klitschko, Ukraine (Last month #4) The younger Klitschko claims to want another fight in December though we’ve seen no movement on that yet. Byrd can wait a while because he recently fulfilled a mandatory. Our suspicion is that he really does not want a fight with Klitschko inasmuch as he turned down millions to fight him earlier and settled for a bargain basement fee for Williamson. Klitschko will likely take some interim bouts before one of the titlists are required to face him.
5. James Toney, USA (Last month #6) JT has evaded every reasonable measure used to evaluate readiness to compete at the elite level. He is too old, too heavy and too short to meet and beat the big men. Yet he does, with utter domination. I’ve picked against him twice recently only to see him obliterate the conventional wisdom. This man may just win a heavyweight belt within the year. I can actually visualize a Toney victory over Chris Byrd.
6. Chris Byrd, USA – IBF Champion (Last month #5) We’ve come to a place with Chris Byrd that requires that he fight one of his fellow belt holders or he slides into obscurity. Theoretically he is required to face Wladimir Klitschko – a fight that is almost certain to be a loss. Such a defense will reap more than the $425K he earned against Williamson, but less than he would earn against brother Vitali Klitschko. If I were his advisor, I’d tell him to dump the IBF belt and challenge Vitali. He’ll lose but it will be a far more substantial payday.
7. Calvin Brock, USA (Last month #7) He faces David Bostice November 19. A tentative date with David Tua awaits with a win over Bostice. He’ll likely have to wait to be named a mandatory before anyone with a belt will face him. He still represents the American future of the division. A well-spoken, skilled fighter, if he can continue his winning ways he will likely become a PPV attraction on a regular basis.
8. Audley Harrison, England (Last month #8) He’s signed to fight Danny Williams in an all-British affair. Look, the truth is Harrison is the most underrated heavyweight fighter in the game today. He will dismantle a highly motivated and hard-hitting Williams – but his detractors will remain entrenched. The date for the bout is December 10 in London.
9. Samuel Peter, Nigeria (Last month #9) His loss to Klitschko can be a building block to a more solid future if he absorbs the lessons he had beaten into him. He should have learned that power alone is not the answer; he has a true heavyweight chin; he can go 12 hard rounds; and he must diversify his attack to remain an elite fighter. I’m betting he improves dramatically.
10. Monte Barrett, USA (Last month #10) None of us like to see a talented, solid campaigner get only one real shot as he did with Rahman. A few minor wins and he could knock on the door again.
11. John Ruiz, USA – WBA Champion (Last month #11) Reports abound that he will meet the giant Nicolay Valuev in Berlin in December. Who knows which fighter enters with an edge. The bout just barely registers on the “who cares?” meter. If this comes off, however, maybe it will be the end of the Kevin McBride talk.
12. Nicolay Valuev, Russia (Last month #13) His title eliminator majority decision over Larry Donald puts him next in line for John Ruiz. By all accounts it was not an impressive win, but the big guy poked enough with his mile-long jab to take home the call. It could get ugly against Ruiz. (Okay, we know it will be ugly).
13. David Tua, New Zealand (Last month #18) He clearly beat a capable and very big Cisse Salif October 21st despite a bizarre split decision. He also did not exhibit the high-volume power punching that took him to a title fight with Lennox Lewis. He’s a tad slower and oh so easy to hit. It may not have shown against Salif, but it almost surely will if his scheduled bout with Calvin Brock comes to fruition.
14. DaVarryl Williamson, USA (Last month #14) The fight with Chris Byrd was just terrible. Lots of posing. Lots of nothing. Williamson has some ability and has some power. None of his ability and none of his power were used to any advantage in what could be his only shot at a heavyweight title. He moves to the back of the line.
15. Danny Williams, England (Last month #15) Matt Skelton is out, but a much better opponent in Audley Harrison is in. Williams will be a decided underdog. This is his last, best chance at getting another crack at another money fight.
16. Oleg Maskaev, Uzbekistan (Last month #17) In yet another WBC title eliminator, he’ll face Sinan Samil Sam. Given that Juan Carlos Gomez beat Oliver McCall in another WBC eliminator, it would seem the WBC is going out of its way to give Vitali Klitschko a European-based fighter to be his next mandatory (should he prevail over Rahman). Both “eliminators” are goofy. Not one of the four participating fighters is remotely close to being the top contender in the division.
17. Shannon Briggs, USA (Last month #19) On November 4th he’ll return against yet another stay-busy opponent – not yet named – in New York. He’ll start taking criticism for facing a lower-grade of opponents, but by keeping busy he’ll make a move on a rated guy within a few months.
18. Serguei Lyakhovich, Belarus (Last month #20) It has now been 11 months since he beat Dominick Guinn. An injury kept him out of a date with prospect Owen Beck. Serguei where are you?
19. Ray Austin, USA (Last month #24) No word yet on when he will capitalize on his win over Owen Beck.
20. Matt Skelton, England (Last month #23) The proposed Danny Williams match is now officially off. In comes Tyson conqueror Kevin McBride. This bout is just the kind of bout that will continue to keep Skelton busy while giving McBride the chance to prove his victory over Tyson wasn’t over a shell of Tyson. Okay, I’m kidding, there was no doubt that it was a shell of Tyson.
21. Dominick Guinn, USA (Last month #21) This man remains a puzzle to us. He showed flashes against James Toney of the talent that brought him to early prominence as a pro. He also oddly stood one-inch away from Toney who is 6 inches shorter and figured to dominate a phone-booth fight — just as he had done 68 times before. Guinn’s corner gave him the right advice. He chose to largely ignore it.
22. Fres Oquendo, USA/Puerto Rico (Last month #22) No fights in 18 months. We’re losing interest in a fighter who had some real talent.
23. Ruslan Chagaev, Uzbekistan (Last month unranked) He stopped Brazilian Jucimar Hipolito in one round on the Brewster-Krasniqi undercard. The man is 26 years old. Are they going to keep padding the record until he’s 34 like Krasniqi before they put him in with serious competition? It’s a mistake if they do. He has some ability and needs to develop it.
24. Luan Krasniqi, Germany (Last month #25) Upon review of the video snippets provided by Krasniqi’s promoter, it is clear that he pulled a quit-job against Brewster. It is just more evidence that some of the more skilled Europeans don’t get tested enough early in their careers in situations that will help them in big fights.
25. Zuri Lawrence, USA (Last month unranked) Who would’ve ever predicted that a guy who, after 35 professional fights in the heavyweight division, and having scored zero knockouts, could’ve climbed into the ratings. It may prove a short-lived experience but beating Jameel McCline has him riding cloud nine for now.
Others on the fringes in no particular order:
Jameel McCline, USA (Last month #12) Zuri Lawrence clearly zoomed past a ponderous McCline. While no one can be sure from a couple of fights, it appears the 35-year-old McCline is in decline. Unless something really big changes, he has probably had his last chance at the big time.
Corrie Sanders, South Africa (Last month #16) Some reports coming from my intrepid readers indicates Corrie may be retiring due to persistent injuries. You’re out Corrie.
Kirk Johnson, Canada – We’ve ignored him but he’s still around and still dangerous. He’s back to a more normal 240-ish since Vitali Klitshcko destroyed his ballooned version. He’s also won two fights since then. A few more wins and he’ll compete for a ranking.
Kali Meehan, New Zealand – “Checkmate” appears to be taking the European route to a ranking. His victory over American club-fighter Tommy Connelly on the Brewster-Krasniqi undercard may mean many more such contests.
Owen Beck, Jamaica – A pair of recent losses have set back the campaign of “What the Heck”. He has time to regroup. Now is the time to get on with it.
Juan Carlos Gomez, Cuba (living in Germany) – I’ve received angry mail for months for ignoring Gomez. After all he’s a former cruiserweight titlist who is 39-1 etc… The truth is he moved back to Germany, the land of most of those victories, because he was falling short in the U.S. He’s an above average boxer with limited heavyweight power. I just don’t see him beating the big men at the top.
Lance Whitaker, USA – Stopped Gabe Brown in five rounds on the Tarver-Jones undercard. Believe it or not – although he was at the heaviest weight of his career, 272¾, he gave up nearly 65 pounds to Brown. Staying busy is his best course of action. We wouldn’t mind seeing him return to Germany to clean up the mess he left there with Krasniqi. It could happen – Krasniqi has some redeeming to do himself after his “no mas” against Brewster.
Alexander Dimitrenko, Ukraine – His last time out was a tough, close decision over Vaughn Bean. Another tough fight with a fringe contender is in order.