SPARKS OF HEAVYWEIGHT LIFE : The latest edition of TSS's Heavyweight Rankings has a major jolt as previously unranked David Haye vaults over Vitali Klitschko for the top contender spot under consensus champion Wladimir K.
By signing for what appears to be a probable meeting with Wlad on July 2nd in Hamburg, Haye catapulted from off the chart limbo into top contender status and displaces Vitali, who previously shared the number one ranking with his younger brother.
The reason is simple. These rankings are based on whatever factors may indicate who's most likely to face and defeat the TSS champ, no belts about it.
As of this time period, Haye is by far the most likely boxer to beat Wladimir, who claims the mythical TSS platinum pearl cummerbund by way of an elaborate tie breaking system that puts him almost 1/2 point ahead of his elder sibling.
Whether or not Haye actually has a chance to defeat Klitschko might be another issue altogether, but the fact that Klitschko - Haye looks like a feasible event had major impact on this term's ballot. Feasible yes, but remember that tickets aren't even on sale yet, and may not yet have been printed.
For right now though, Haye is generating positive energy toward the event, and seems like a live underdog. Right now Klitschko is around a 2 1/2 to 1 favorite in our sports book, but the vibe is tilting for the popular UK brawler.
It translates to a hopeful optimism that Haye will actually engage champion Wladimir on July 2.
Fans of far more active and seemingly better motivated Tomasz Adamek might argue that their man deserves at least the same consideration as Haye, since Adamek against Vitali is apparently locked in for September 10th in Poland, and that Adamek has demonstrated far more likelihood of showing up to face a Klitschko.
True indeed, but the ranking intangibles at play here include hypothetical box-offs. Haye comes out on top of Adamek there. So does Robert Helenius in our view, though he's never really been tested.
The fact both Klitschkos are facing decent threats shows signs of hope for the division, but quite a few challengers have appeared as threats; that is until a round or two of eating Klitschko leather passed.
Present trendings of thud indicate there could be no significant changes when the next rankings are released next Fall, but there's also some chance a huge reality check clanks the K2 empire like a Hayemaker overhand right or three punch up and down combo from Adamek.
Remember that from current perspective, beside the Bros, anybody on this list is basically a pick 'em proposition against anybody else on it, including a few of the usual "slugspects" (think Juan Carlos Gomez); unlisted on the fringe.
Duke out drum roll, si vous plait :
1) Wladimir Klitschko - Wlad has worked hard to set a high standard atop the field beyond anyone's reach but his big brother's.
2) David Haye - So far, he's done what he said by adding excitement to the division and providing the Klitschkos with an opponent the public cares about. Can he back up the rest of his boasts. It probably seems more possible now than it did at the time of any of the other supposedly scheduled bouts, so maybe Haye is playing things perfect in terms of maximizing both his purse and prospects.
3) Vitali Klitschko - Completely unverifiable rumors whisper that those inside the K2 inner circle still recognize Vitali as the stronger brother, but we haven't noticed that vibe around Klitschkoville in recent visits for a while now. Maybe the brothers spar in confidential conking and have known very well for a long time whether there's a superior boxer. Maybe they're as dead even as it appears. Further facts will emerge someday, but that won't be for a while; or until autobiography time. Win or lose, don't plan on seeing the elder K boy beyond a few more rumbles.
4) Robert Helenius - As stated, relative newcomer Robert "Nordic Nightmare" is still unproven, but he looks just about ready for a title shot, and probably more ready than a good percentage of recent Klitschko foils. Helenius may not have looked that great for a while against faded Samuel Peter recently, but Helenius didn't look too bad either. His splattering knockout shot against was a perfect example of why he can be considered a big punch threat, and his size helps his chances even more.
5) Tomasz Adamek -Many people would have to agree that if Adamek were taller and heavier he could well be at the top of this list already. Between Vitali's possible retirement, a resurgently economized hometown crowd in a brand new stadium psyching Adamek up, and more than a few travelers from Germany and Ukraine sampling local fermentations; this could be the fight scene of a grand gloved summer season.
6) Ruslan Chagaev - Chagaev retains a ranking through quality of previous opposition and not much else. Still a stubborn roadblock, if nothing more.
7) Eddie Chambers - Again, quality of opposition, including the big, exposing win over Euro-groomed and touted former front runner Dimitrenko.
8) Alexander Dimitrenko - "Sascha" put himself back in the hunt and earned a European title with a decent destruction of sturdy Albert Sosnowski, but it still looks like any fairly large fellow with quick hands will always be a very hard puzzle for Dimitrenko. Well practiced power punchers like either Klitschko are still out of his league. That said, if Dimitrenko ever starts working into or behind his fearsome uppercuts more consistently he could be a real terror.
9) Tony Thompson - Does he have the power? The drive? The mojo? More questions than positive answers while he waits to step back up.
10) Dereck Chisora - Chisora makes the list only because he proved again and again he was anxious to rumble with the best, only to get screwed by the fistic fates twice in cancellation pull outs by Wladimir. If he can keep his head on and stay focused through the frustration and probably already imagined payday disappointments, he's considered a bright UK prospect who still might get his big opportunity. In the mean time, he needs to forget about chasing the cash cows and focus on a decent tutorial against a fairly noteworthy foe Chisora can take out his anger on while improving his resume's marketability.
While the top of the hill features some solid performers, there are questions about everyone on the list. It's not hard to envision a fresh beast like Denis Boytsov (barring hand problems) or Deontay Wilder (pending experience) scoring big KOs against the hierarchy. It's also easy to imagine Boytsov or Wilder get schooled or spanked by some heavy old warhorse.
Undefeated Alexander Ustinov, Kabrat Pulev or Francisco Pianeta still can't claim much more than their spotless records, but at least they're on the right path.
Fighters like Tyson Fury or Kevin Johnson need to make a move or get left behind.
Odlanier Solis may be the biggest question mark of all. He talked plenty of the talk, and he tried to walk the walk. Now a bum knee may hinder any further trip up the ladder.
Was he ready or already injured against Vitali? The facts say at least Solis went for the gusto, but fell way short. The shot by Klitschko might have ended more than just their fight prematurely.
Maybe, to combine the successful formats of weight division tournaments and "Prizefighter" type rapidity, the heavyweights should have a two-day elimination box off. Winner gets an immediate shot against the Klitschko-Haye winner.
Which, if any, long in the tooth old brawler simply able to pass a physical will return from out of the woodwork; hopefully without a tragic tale before the next rankings? Or is everybody except Lennox and Iron Mike already back?
Unfortunately, if Evander Holyfield really expects another big fight, he's going to have to beat someone listed here, not another Brian Neilsen. You've got to start asking questions when a fight's location is more of a draw than the fight. Still, that's never stopped Vegas, if anything; it's helped.
Alexander Povetkin has done little to change the impression that he still considers himself an opening act. He remains in self-imposed numerical limbo with Nicolai Valuev, who stays unranked due to his own uncertain injury/surgery status. At this point, any claim to title fame is only in their name.
Cristobal Arreola got back on track but still has a long way to go if he's ever going to be a legitimate threat. Right now he's still an American gatekeeper.
Overall, it certainly isn't the worst mix in boxing history. Yeah, we know, the heavies will never be worthwhile again, and boxing's dead anyway.
We think the line at the 200 plus pound gate is getting pretty respectable from top to bottom, but it still has to be proved by punches not prognosis.
Here's another good sign. You could match any of the men on this list and get a decent match-up in general.
If all the top fighters beside the Klitsch-bros do actually face other ranked foes during 2011, it should be a pretty good year for both the big boys and their fans of all sizes.