This one isn’t a repost as much as a discovery. Earlier today, I was in my basement, pouring through boxes, doing some cleaning. I had just moved a month ago, and unpacking has been slow. In one of the boxes I found a folded up piece of paper. The paper contained my own heavyweight ranking, circa August 3, 2011. I hadn’t included notes next to any of the rankings or anything else. I believe I had intended to flesh that one out and post it to my blogger account or eastsideboxing, but like many other projects that I start, it failed to come to fruition.
The list is more interesting to me as an academic exercise. Sometimes it’s fun to see where things are compared to where they used to be. Later this week I will post my current heavyweight top 15, to add contrast to this list. I also will add a small note to each individual on this list, though the updated ranking will contain more detail.
Heavyweight Top 15 as of August 3, 2011
Champion: Wladimir Klitschko
Wladimir had just outpointed his number 1 challenger David Haye in a dreary and underwhelming fight that did little for either man’s reputation. However, it was an excellent win on paper for Wladimir, and he certainly came through looking better than Mr. Haye, due to Haye’s pre-fight bravado and subsequent milquetoast performance.
1.) Vitali Klitschko
Vitali was five months removed from a one-round blowout over Odlanier Solis. The Solis win was somewhat fluky, as Solis’ knee gave out as he took a shot to the head from Vitali, and was unable to stand and continue. Nevertheless, Vitali was far and away the number one contender in the division, and in the unique and somewhat unfortunate position of having virtually no shot at the championship. This was due to Vitali and Wladimir’s long-ago promise to never fight each other. Vitali would have needed a Wladimir loss or retirement to get his shot at the linear throne, which he likely would not have wished for.
2.) Alexander Povetkin
Povetkin was less than a month away from taking on longtime top contender Ruslan Chagaev, who he would outpoint in a clear, but competitive fight. Povetkin would solidify his lofty ranking with the win. Prior to the Chagaev fight, he was highly ranked mostly based on reputation, his last win over a contender being 3 and half years prior. Povetkin had dropped out of two challenges to Wladimir Klitschko, and would not get another until October 2013.
3.) Eddie Chambers
Eddie had only two fights in two years at this point, a wide February 2011 points win over Derric Rossy, and a devastating 12th round knockout loss to Wladimir Klitschko in March of 2010. Chambers was known for his speed and slick boxing ability. Alexander Povetkin had managed to outwork him in a close fight in early 2008, and Klitschko eventually poleaxed him after a long, tedious chess match, but Chambers had proved to be a difficult challenge, otherwise. His lack of size and punch was his weakness, though he owned a fair number of wins over larger heavyweights.
4.) Tomasz Adamek
Adamek was a month away from his brave but ultimately futile challenge against Vitali Klitschko. Adamek was a career light heavyweight who won the linear cruiserweight championship, then moved up to heavyweight, in a move that many doubted would find success. Adamek exceeded expectations, using his relative lack of size to his advantage, outspeeding larger opponents. His points win over Chris Arreola proved to be the highlight of his heavyweight run, as he mostly stuck to gatekeepers and fringe contenders before challenging the elder Klitschko for his WBC belt.
5.) David Haye
Haye largely embarrassed himself with his timid performance a month prior against World Champion Wladimir Klitschko. His persistent trash-talk and constant haranguing of the champion for more than two years built up expectations, which were unceremoniously dashed when Haye kept to the outside, and ate jabs en route to a wide points loss – just like every other challenger to the throne. Having said this, Haye went into the fight as a clear top 3 opponent. He had a decent decision win over Nicolai Valuev, and an impressive knockout over John Ruiz to his credit. Blowout wins over Audley Harrison and Monte Barrett were somewhat less impressive. Haye was still a mostly exciting fighter, and with the right opponent, could be downright electrifying.
6.) Ruslan Chagaev
Chagaev was heading into a top ten matchup against Alexander Povetkin. He was mostly in the top ten by default, having been stopped by Wladimir Klitschko in 9 rounds two years prior, and not having defeated a top ten opponent since outpointing Nicolai Valuev in April 2007. His wins over fringe contenders and gatekeepers were enough to keep in the top ten, though not much was generally expected out of the tough Uzbek at this point.
7.) Alexander Dimitrenko
The 6’7″ Ukrainian was considered as a potential opponent for Wladimir Klitschko when he took on the 6’1″ Eddie Chambers in July 2009. “Sascha” was soundly outpointed, even knocked down twice by his much smaller opponent. Dimitrenko rebounded after the Chambers loss, with wins over the likes of Albert Sosnowski and Michael Sprott, remaining in contention until being blown out in 2012 by Kubrat Pulev. Dimitrenko had some boxing skill, and sometimes showed flashes of big-time power, but his fragility was a problem, and eventually was the reason for his fall from contention.
8.) Robert Helenius
The giant from Finland was coming off his career-best win over former titlist Samuel Peter. He was a few weeks away from what would be another big win over another former titlist in Sergei Liakhovich. Helenius was big, strong, had decent fundamentals, and major power. He also seemed to have a solid chin. Eventually, a gift win over Dereck Chisora, as well as injuries and inactivity, would conspire to throw his career off track. However, as of August 2011, Helenius was considered a rising star in the division.
9.) Cristobal Arreola
Chris was on the comeback trail, having won five straight fights against top 20-50 opposition in 11 months, having previously lost a decision to Tomasz Adamek in April 2010. He had gone out of his way to get into shape, and had averaged 242 pounds for those 5 fights, compared to 250 for his loss to Adamek, and 263 for the fight before that one. Arreola had yet to beat a top ten contender at that point, losing to the only two he had faced.
10.) Tony Thompson
Thompson had knocked out former fringe contender Maurice Harris in 3 rounds back in May 2011. This eventually set up his rematch fight against Wladimir Klitschko in 2012. Tony was like Arreola in that had not (up to that point) beaten a top ten contender, but his competitive losses and wins over fringe contenders were enough to keep him around the top ten. The rangy fighter was a late bloomer, and as of 2014, is still fighting at a high level.
11.) Denis Boytsov
Boytsov had only defeated fighters ranked maybe between 25-40 at this point, though he had done so in an exciting manner. His quick hands and impressive power drew (perhaps hasty) comparisons to Mike Tyson and David Tua. Boytsov has never so far (2014) managed to improve his competition, and at this point was being judged mostly on potential.
12.) Nicolay Valuev
I’m not completely sure why I had included Valuev in this ranking. By August 2011, he had been inactive for 21 months. He had apparently announced his retirement right after his November 2011 loss to David Haye, though I missed this altogether. However, based on the state of the heavyweights at this point, and the progress of the prospects, an inactive Valuev could probably have been ranked around 12.
13.) Samuel Peter
Peter had lost his last two fights by knockout at this point, and was essentially only in the top 20 due to his former status as a top 2 fighter, and the relative dearth of quality heavyweights in the division. His weight had increased over the years, as his workrate and handspeed had decreased. His once impervious chin had been badly dented a few years before by Jameel McCline, and he had shown vulnerability since. Peter never officially retired, but would not fight after the Helenius loss until a spring 2014 announced comeback.
14.) Tyson Fury
Fury had just beaten Dereck Chisora, the most accomplished opponent of his then-young career. His inclusion on this list was partially due to his surprisingly disciplined performance against Chisora, as well as his overall potential in a fairly weak division.
15.) David Price
Just like Fury and Boytsov, potential was the primary reason for his lofty status. As of this point, his best opponents were fellow prospect Tom Dallas, and longtime gatekeeper Raphael Butler. However, the massive Price had shown impressive poise and skill, and devastating power. Many observers thought his ascendance to the top of the division as inevitable.