Top 15 Heavyweights – June 25, 2015

June 2015 Heavyweight Ranking

So much for clarity. Several of the top 15 fought each other since my last ranking, and with a few exceptions, there was very little movement in the ratings as a result. Just a week before my last ranking update on January 22nd, previously 10th ranked Deontay Wilder took on his first contender in 2nd ranked Bermane Stiverne. The champ Wlad Klitschko faced another solid contender in then-number 5 contender Bryant Jennings.  7th and 8th-ranked contenders Vyacheslav Glazkov and Steve Cunningham fought in March. A couple weeks ago, number 1 contender Alexander Povetkin fought the number 9 ranked Mike Perez. Four fights between top ten contenders in 5 or so months actually isn’t bad, but it only substantially moved the needle for two of the 8 fighters involved.

I make an effort to include more than just a basic top 10 (top 11 with a champion), as I want to be able to highlight up-and-coming fighters, tough veterans, and fringe guys who may be nearly good enough for a top-ten spot. Hence my top 15 (or 16). The problem is that heavyweight is not a very deep division at this moment, and there are a lot of guys who really don’t seem like they deserve mention just yet. I’ve noted before that the bottom half of my ranking features fighters that are placed there seemingly by default. That still applies this month.  A couple fighters have nose-dived in the last few months, and others have been inactive, unimpressive, or are still prospects. Actually, almost anyone I can rank between 11 and 25 would be close to interchangeable. But at this point, I like the top 15 format, and I’m not quite ready to alter it. So, numbers 11 through 15 are all there almost with an asterisk. I’ll also start off the ranking by including those who dropped off the list, and a few who are close to joining this group, depending on what they do in the next few months.

Dropped from the top 15:

Mike Perez – Recently suffered a  1st round KO loss to Alex Povetkin, less than a year after a close decision loss to Bryant Jennings and a controversial draw against Carlos Takam. He should take some time off and figure out if he wants to continue his career.

Chris Arreola – Struggled with clubfighter Curtis Harper in March. That close win, following his May 2014 knockout loss to Stiverne, is enough to drop him from my rankings. Arreola is a fun fighter, but has always been a little overrated. Despite being ranked in the top 10 by various publications for several years, he’s actually 0-4 against the top ten. He was blown out in a one-sided stoppage to Vitali Klitschko back in 2009 and lost a competitive decision to Tomasz Adamek in 2010. 7 fights against gatekeepers and clubfighters followed, eventually leading up to his April 2013 wide decision loss to Stiverne, in a fight where he looked completely outclassed. A quick win over the chinny Seth Mitchell gave him Arreola new life, which was promptly dashed in devastating fashion in the Stiverne sequel. Chris may one day find himself among the top contenders again, but for now, he’s an entertaining, but flawed fighter who puts on a good show and falls short against the elite.

Almost top 15:

Lucas Browne

Amir Mansour

Andrey Fedosov

Joseph Parker

Erkan Teper

David Price

Andy Ruiz Jr

Gerald Washington

Alexander Ustinov

The Top 15:

ChampionWladimir Klitschko – 64-3(53) – Ukraine – Linear, Ring, TBRB, IBF, WBO, WBA, IBO titles
Champion on January 22nd
Rankings in… C @ Ring, C @ TBRB, C @ BoxingScene, 1 @ Boxrec, 1 @ ESPN
Wins over top 10 Ring-rated opponents: 15
Next fight: Not scheduled – likely #2 Tyson Fury

Future Hall-of-Famer and current World Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko has been the linear champion since June 2009 (almost exactly 6 years now), and has been the number one fighter at heavyweight since April 2006.  He hasn’t lost a fight since 2004, and has only lost a handful of rounds since that point. At age 39, Klitschko remains in amazing condition, and had shown no obvious signs of deterioration. He blew away a top-3 challenger in Kubrat Pulev last November, dropping the Bulgarian four times in 5 rounds. He was tagged a few times, but was none the worse for wear, and actually responded aggressively to the shots he took, punishing Pulev for the audacity to land any punches.  But this April, Klitschko looked downright mortal against American contender Bryant Jennings. To be certain, Klitschko won clearly, and the two 116-111 scorecards were fair and accurate. But Wlad’s power rarely moved the smaller Jennings, with one or two exceptions late in the fight. Jennings remained defensive, and provided a difficult target for the Ukrainian. Jennings did solid work inside, landing some good punches to the body, that didn’t hurt Klitschko, but did score points. Wlad seemed uncomfortable through the middle rounds. To his credit, he pushed harder and took over the fight late, finally scoring with big crosses in the last few rounds, staggering Jennings a few times, and effectively putting the fight out of reach.

Next up for Wlad appears to be Tyson Fury. The number 2 contender has been pushing for a shot at the champ for a few years now, and is a mandatory for one of Wlad’s innumerable alphabet baubles.  Some have noted Klitschko’s slight decline, and are calling for the 6’9”, 260ish pound Brit to upset the long-reigning king with his size, strength, activity, and underrated athleticism. While the fight has not yet been signed, it’s looking likely that the two behemoths will meet this September or October. Ideally, the winner of that matchup will take on Deontay Wilder sometime in 2016.

1.) Alexander Povetkin – 29-1(21) – Russia
Ranked #1 on January 22nd
Rankings in… 1 @ Ring, 1 @ TBRB, 1 @ BoxingScene, 2 @ Boxrec, 2 @ ESPN
Wins over top 10 Ring-rated opponents: 3
Next fight: Not scheduled

The “White Lion” continued his post-Klitschko win streak on May 22nd with an impressive 1st round blowout of contender Mike Perez. Most experts had predicted Povetkin to be the favorite in that matchup, but few expected him to mow Perez down so easily. Perez had come into the fight with a win over faded former cruiserweight Darnell Wilson, and a very close decision loss to Bryant Jennings. Perez first received major notice with his tragic win over Magomed Abdusalamov in November 2013, and hasn’t appeared to be the same fighter since. A draw (that could easily have been scored as a loss) against Carlos Takam sandwiched between the Abdusalamov and Jennings fights helped highlight Perez’s sudden lack of enthusiasm and energy. Nonetheless, he fought top-ten contenders Takam and Jennings very closely, and was thought likely to present a good fight against the similarly-sized Povetkin.

Instead, Povetkin rocked Perez with a counter cross within the first minute or so of the fight, then just a few seconds later, dropped him with another right while working in close. Perez made it up before ten, but was badly hurt and appeared to be in no condition to continue. Inexplicably, referee Massimo Barrovecchio allowed the fight to proceed. Povetkin wasted no time knocking Perez down and into the ropes, and forcing a quick stoppage. The 1st round annihilation marked Povetkin’s third straight knockout win , over increasingly accomplished competition. He’s clearly the number 1 contender, and also the mandatory for the winner of the Deontay Wilder-Eric Molina bout. While Povetkin was beaten handily by the current champion, he should likely be a favorite or even money against everyone else in the division, and fights against anyone not named Klitschko should prove to be entertaining and interesting.

2.) Tyson Fury – 24-0(18) – United Kingdom
Ranked #2 on January 22nd
Rankings in… 3 @ Ring, 2 @ TBRB, 2 @ BoxingScene, 3 @ Boxrec, 3 @ ESPN
Wins over top 10 Ring-rated opponents: 0
Next fight: Not scheduled – likely Champion Wladimir Klitschko

British loudmouth Fury won an easy stay-busy fight against fringe (at best) contender Christian Hammer in February. He’s Klitschko’s mandatory, and is likely to get the next crack at the heavyweight kingpin sometime this fall. Fury has three wins over two men who had at one point been top 10 contenders (although they weren’t when they fought), and several more solid victories over fringe contenders and  gatekeepers. He hasn’t built an amazing resume, but he’s improved dramatically over the last few years, and has yet to lose.

The 6’9” Fury uses his size well. He’s physically strong, agile for a man of his size, and has solid (albeit not devastating) power. He puts punches together well, and when he weighs around or under 250, has impressive stamina and workrate. His chin is questionable, having been dropped by journeyman Nicolai Firtha, and the much smaller Steve Cunningham. His focus is somewhat inconsistent as well, though that seems to be improving. Tyson Fury is not a great fighter. However, he is a good one, and he has put in serious work in an effort to improve in recent years. He likely won’t be able to beat Wladimir Klitschko. He has serious deficits against the champ when rating their respective punching power, experience, technique, defense, and footwork. He’s likely close in the hand speed department. Despite being taller and longer than Klitschko, Fury doesn’t utilize his size quite as well, and is not quite as physically strong. Many fans and experts have noted that Klitschko, being the slightly smaller man, won’t be able to clinch, outmuscle, and wear down Fury like he does other opponents. After watching the two over the last few years, I disagree. Despite having a few pounds on Wladimir, it’s not entirely muscle. Fury may find that while working up close, he’s still at a disadvantage.

Having said all that, Fury does pose a challenge Wlad has never had. His long arms, impressive workrate, improving discipline, and fervent self-confidence could be enough to cause trouble for the technically-sound champion. Fury believes he can beat the champ. He believes he has what it takes to beat up and stop Wladimir Klitschko. Who knows? Perhaps one Saturday evening this fall, the 39 year old will find himself in the ring with a larger, hungrier opponent, and become the man being worn down and eventually clubbed into submission.

3.) Deontay Wilder – 34-0(33) – United States – WBC title
Ranked #3 in January
Ranked in… 2 @ Ring, 3 @ TBRB, 3 @ BoxingScene, 4 @ Boxrec, 4 @ ESPN
Wins over top 10 Ring-rated opponents: 1
Next fight: Not scheduled

Back in January, Deontay Wilder faced his first legitimate contender, Haitian-Canadian Bermane Stiverne. I covered the fight here:

After besting his foe, Wilder spoke openly of wanting to take on Wladimir Klitschko and Tyson Fury in the near future, though it was widely understood neither fight would probably happen until 2016. Instead of taking on a contender in his first defense, Wilder decided to go a different route.

On June 13, Deontay Wilder made the first defense of his WBC trinket against Eric Molina -23-2(17) going in – a man currently ranks as the 44th best heavyweight in the world. Certainly there have been undeserving title challengers before, especially at heavyweight. The names of Alex Leapai and Jean-Marc Mormeck spring immediately to mind. However, Eric Molina was only 3 years removed from a 1st round KO loss against the man (Chris Arreola) who just recently lost to Wilder’s prior victim. Molina was not expected to pose much of a risk. Fighting in Alabama, this was meant to be a homecoming showcase for the local hero Wilder. And the Alabama fans certainly got an entertaining show, though not without a certain degree of peril for Deontay.

Deontay used his height, jab, and massive athletic edge to quickly take control of the fight. He won the early rounds clearly, but was failing to put Molina away. He seemed a bit hesitant to open up. In the 4th, Molina landed a couple good shots, and actually had the heavy favorite hurt for a few seconds.  Wilder withstood the shaky moment, and went back into cruise control. He eventually knocked the outgunned Molina down 4 times, and stopped him in the 9th. Throughout the fight, Molina managed to land bodyshots and the occasional wild left hook. Wilder frequently seemed ungainly, and clearly tired out in the later rounds. As powerful and talented as he is, he isn’t a natural fighter. He took to the sport late in life, and doesn’t have the instincts of a fighter who started at the usual childhood age. This is not to knock the Bronze Bomber, however. He has done quite well for himself. He has shown demonstrable improvement over his relatively brief professional career, and is an established top ten contender. Deontay has arrived at the big time. But it will take further growth to remain. A mandatory challenge of his WBC belt looms against Alex Povetkin.  The experienced Russian may very well be a favorite in that fight. The Wilder that outboxed and beat up Stiverne would have a shot to win. The version that struggled at times against Molina may end up getting blown away. It’s within Wilder’s power to decide who shows up to that fight.

4.) Bryant Jennings – 19-1(10) – United States
Ranked #5 on January 22nd
Rankings in… 5 @ Ring, 8 @ TBRB, 6 @ BoxingScene, 9 @ Boxrec, 8 @ ESPN
Wins over top 10 Ring-rated opponents: 1
Next fight: Not scheduled

Jennings got his shot against the champ in April. He brought a 19-0(10) record into the ring, with a 3 and half inch height and 15 pound weight disadvantage. He had only one win over a top contender, besting Mike Perez in 2014 by a very narrow decision. Most predicted an easy night for the champ. Jennings set out to prove everyone wrong. “By-By” struggled early, eating jabs in the first few rounds, and struggling to get inside. He did demonstrate elusive head movement, and came forward quite often, though he rarely let his hands go. In the middle rounds, Jennings managed to work his way inside, and landed solid shots to Klitschko’s body. Wlad tied him up frequently, as is his wont, though some of the clinches came from awkward positioning by both men while working up close. Jennings made Wladimir miss more than normal, and clearly frustrating the champ with his astute defense, and steady stream of trash talk. Jennings managed to bank a couple of the middle rounds on some observer’s cards, although he still was largely outworked, especially when the fight returned to distance.

Jennings also showed an impressive punch resistance. In the middle rounds, Jennings bodywork and talk inspired a more aggressive response from Wlad, and he took a few flush right hands quite well. But Klitschko regained control in the late rounds, demonstrating stamina that he didn’t have 10-15 years ago. Wlad landed a big right hand in the waning seconds of the fight that finally visibly hurt Jennings, though by that point it was too late to score the knockout. Jennings survived to see the final bell. Throughout the fight, he landed some solid shots, and made Wlad look mortal for the first time in years. He still only won 4 rounds on one scorecard and two on the other. Despite making Klitschko work, he still had a bad habit of concentrating on defense and not letting his hands go until he was already mostly wrapped up in a clinch. Of course, throwing more against a taller opponent with arguably quicker hands may have resulted in a knockout loss.

Regardless of quibbling over tactics, Jennings gave the champion a good fight, and his stock rose in most eyes as a result. He has a world-class chin, good defensive instincts, works the body well, and has professional (albeit not devastating) speed and power. He should be even-money (or close) against anyone else in the top ten. He has yet to schedule another fight, but with his youth and improving skills, he should be a fixture in the division for some time to come.

5.) Kubrat Pulev – 20-1(11) – Bulgaria
Ranked #4 on January 22nd
Rankings in… 4 @ Ring, 4 @ TBRB, 4 @ BoxingScene, 6 @ Boxrec, 7 @ ESPN
Wins over top 10 Ring-rated opponents: 2
Next fight: Not scheduled

Kubrat Pulev has yet to schedule a return match since his 2014 knockout loss to Wladimir Klitschko. Before the loss to Wlad, he had been on a solid run over the last couple of years, besting good fighters in Alexander Dimitrenko, Alexander Ustinov, and Tony Thompson. He’s a big man with decent skills, some power, and overall toughness. He showed a major defensive liability against Klitschko, defending the jab well, but being rocked over and over again by left hooks. He’ll need to work on filling that particular hole, but he still can remain a force in the division. He is 34, though, and should get a fight soon if he wants to remain relevant. Some lose to the champ, and their careers never truly recover. Sultan Ibragimov never fought again after losing to Wladimir. Calvin Brock only fought a couple more times, and eventually lost sight in one eye. David Haye only fought once. Only Tony Thompson and Alexander Povetkin in recent years seemed to rebound successfully after losing to the long-time champion. Will Pulev be able to emulate their success, or will he fade away, as so many others have? The answer is up to him.

6.) Bermane Stiverne – 24-2-1(20) – Canada (via Haiti) – WBC title
Ranked #6 on January 22nd
Rankings in… 6 @ Ring, 5 @ TBRB, 5 @ BoxingScene, 10 @ Boxrec, 5 @ ESPN
Wins over top 10 Ring-rated opponents: 2
Next fight: Not scheduled

Bermane Stiverne lost a wide decision to Deontay Wilder back in January. Much of his sluggish performance was blamed on severe dehydration. Other possible medical issues were mentioned as well, including simple overtraining. But the fact remained that the longer, taller Wilder was able to keep Stiverne at the end of his jab, and prevented Bermane from putting together any sort of sustained offense. Stiverne was rocked a handful of times in the fight, including a knockdown that wasn’t called at the end of round 2. But for the most part, Wilder just kept moving, and outworked his shorter opponent. It was comprehensive, and even somewhat dominating.

The stocky puncher saw his stock rise significantly in 2013 and 2014, with a pair of wins over Chris Arreola, including a devastating 6th round stoppage of the normally-durable Californian.  This loss marks a significant setback. However, a bigger setback would be to not get back in the ring and try to work back into contention. For now, based on his wins over the last couple years, Stiverne is still in the mix, but it would be wise for him to remain active. He has talent. The question is, at 36, does he still have the drive?

7.) Carlos Takam – 32-2-1(25) – France (via Cameroon)
Ranked #7 on January 22nd
Rankings in… 10 @ Ring, 6 @ TBRB, 7 @ BoxingScene, 11 @ Boxrec, NR @ ESPN
Wins over top 10 Ring-rated opponents: 1
Next fight: Not scheduled

Carlos Takam was rather spectacularly knocked senseless by Alex Povetkin late last year. The fight itself was close and competitive until Povetkin caught up to Takam. While he lost, he demonstrated his significant talent, and proved (at least to me), that he has been generally underrated by most boxing media. Since the loss to Povetkin, the powerful Cameroonian has been busy, stopping journeyman Marcelo Nascimento in 4 rounds, and veteran trialhorse Michael Sprott in 5. He’s a legit contender, and would make an attractive, albeit risky, opponent for several other contenders. Jennings, Stiverne, Glazkov, and Pulev are all free right now. All would make for toss up fights with Takam, and help bring further clarity to the division.

8.) Vyacheslav Glazkov – 20-0-1(12) – Ukraine
Ranked #8 on January 22nd
Rankings in… 7 @ Ring, 7 @ TBRB, 8 @ BoxingScene, 5 @ Boxrec, 9 @ ESPN
Wins over top 10 Ring-rated opponents: 2
Next fight: Not scheduled

Glazkov is the first one on this list that feels like he’s here by default. It’s not so much that he’s all that good, but instead that he’s done a little more than those below him.  He’s a straight-forward boxer-puncher, who received a nice boost in career momentum with his decision win over a fading Tomasz Adamek. At that point, Adamek was still hanging around the bottom of the top ten, so the win helped push Glazkov into that conversation. This was in early 2014, a year after scoring a draw against Malik Scott, who many believed had done enough to outpoint Glazkov.

After the Adamek win, Glazkov barely edged competent gatekeeper Derric Rossy (some thought Rossy deserved a draw or narrow win), stopped beyond-shot Darnell Wilson, and then faced off against fellow contender Steve Cunningham. Cunningham had been considered somewhat hard-luck at heavyweight, losing a controversial decision to Adamek, as well as being mauled to death by Tyson Fury after dropping the big Brit and outfighting him early. Many believed that Steve was still a hard-luck fighter afterward, as Glazkov came away with a contentious decision win. Neither man looked great, though after round 5, it was a reasonably entertaining scrap.

Cunningham won the first few rounds clearly, but as the fight wore on, Glazkov connected with heavy shots, and rocked the former cruiserweight with big, albeit infrequent punches. Cunningham threw more in the later rounds, but his punches did little to deter the bigger-punching Ukrainian. I personally scored the fight 115-113 for Glazkov, but observers were all across the board. A majority seemed to side with Cunningham, preferring his activity and early lead, though several knowledgeable boxing experts went the other way. Many rounds were close, and it was difficult to score.

Sometimes close fights elevate both men. In this case, neither man appeared to make much case for advancement. Glazkov in particular is not a large heavyweight, and doesn’t do anything amazingly well. He’s not all that fast, and while he has some power, it doesn’t compare with the big hitters of the division. So far, he’s been just good enough to stick around the bottom of the top ten. He’d make for a decent fight with the likes of Jennings or Pulev, but time will tell if he’s going to take on that sort of challenge.

9.) Steve Cunningham – 28-7(13) – United States
Ranked #9 on January 22nd
Rankings in… NR @ Ring, 9 @ TBRB, 9 @ BoxingScene, 12 @ Boxrec, 10 @ ESPN
Wins over top 10 Ring-rated opponents: 0
Next fight: August 14 vs. #14 Antonio Tarver

Steve Cunningham can’t seem to catch a break. After losing a pair of competitive decisions in 2011 and 2012 to Yoan Pablo Hernandez at cruiserweight, Cunningham decided to venture up to heavyweight to take on the big boys. In September 2012, he passed his first test, winning an easy decision over trialhorse Jason Gavern. He followed that up with a very controversial loss to Tomasz Adamek, in a fight where the vast majority of observers felt he won. That was followed up with a fun and sloppy brawl against the giant Brit, Tyson Fury. Cunningham started out well, outboxing and even outpunching his larger opponent. In the 2nd, a massive right hand dropped Fury and had him in trouble. But over the next few rounds, mauling tactics wore Cunningham down, and eventually the size and strength of Fury was too much. Steve was dropped and stopped near the end of the 7th. Despite the second straight loss, Steve acquitted himself well against a much bigger man.

Wins over gatekeeper Manny Quezada, fringe contender Amir Mansour, and stalled prospect Natu Visinia followed the loss, and Cunningham had some momentum leading up to his fight this past March against Glazkov. As I described in Glazkov’s section, it was a close fight, one that many thought should have been scored for USS Cunningham. I personally thought Glazkov’s power counted for more than Cunningham’s volume, so the decision didn’t bother me. Having said that, it was a competitive fight, and a case can be made for the former cruiserweight winning it. So for these rankings, I’m keeping both men at numbers 8 and 9 for the time being.

Cunningham is keeping busy. Next up is a fight this August against former light-heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver. Tarver looked pretty good in his last fight, a knockout win over Jonathon Banks. However, Tarver is naturally just as small, if not smaller than Cunningham, and is around 118 years old. It should be a fight that either chases Tarver back out of the heavyweight division, or confirms that the 38-year-old Cunningham should consider retirement. Good crossroads fight.

10.) Tony Thompson – 40-5(27) – United States
Ranked #15 on January 22nd
Ranked in… 9 @ Ring, NR @ TBRB, NR @ BoxingScene, 7 @ Boxrec, NR @ ESPN
Wins over top 10 Ring-rated opponents: 1
Next fight: Not scheduled

43-year-old Tony Thompson bounces back into the top 10, on the strength of a February stoppage win over perennial disappointment Odlanier Solis. The talented Cuban lost to Thompson in March of 2014, basically through inactivity. The older, slower Thompson used height and an impressive workrate to outbox and outwork Solis last year. This year, he did pretty much the same thing, just beating Solis up with steady volume. Solis weighed 272 pounds, piled on a 6 foot 1 inch frame. He had the appearance of a man who stopped caring about his professional career. Squandering his immense talent, Solis was clearly outboxed by the harder-working Thompson, who simply had more in the tank than the former amateur standout.

Thompson has managed to stay relevant in the twilight of his career. His losses have been against legit contenders (and Wlad Klitschko), and he has beaten the shine off former division saviors like Solis and David Price. Tony has been clamoring for a shot at Anthony Joshua, and while he would be a major underdog, his toughness, experience, and solid boxing skills would present the young prospect with his sternest test to date.  Only Klitschko has blown Thompson out, and doing so again would be an impressive feat for almost anyone at heavyweight.

11.) Ruslan Chagaev – 33-2-1(20) – Uzbekistan – WBA (regular) title
Ranked #11 on January 22nd
Ranked in… 8 @ Ring, NR @ TBRB, NR @ BoxingScene, 19 @ Boxrec, 6 @ ESPN
Wins over top 10 Ring-rated opponents: 2
Next fight: July 11 vs. Francisco Pianeta

Ruslan Chagaev narrowly edged fellow old-timer Fres Oquendo last summer in a horrible fight, then spent the next year in litigation, fighting harder to prevent a rematch than he did in the ring with “Fast Fres.” However, despite the close nature of their previous encounter, I tend to side with Chagaev on this one, entirely because I don’t need any help sleeping. Their respective styles did not make for a scintillating encounter.

At this point, the 36 year old is barely a contender. His best days seemed to be back around 2006-2009, but he spent quite a bit of time back then on ice, mostly due to complications with hepatitis. Since that peak, he has lacked snap on his punches, and has gradually gained weight. He lost to the two best opponents of his career, Klitschko and Povetkin. He’s mostly blown away journeymen and struggled with gatekeepers and former contenders in between. Chagaev is another example of a man ranked in the top 15 by default. Unless he loses some weight and experiences a career renaissance, he’ll likely slip from the rankings in the next year or two as newer prospects begin fighting their way to contender status.

For now, though, he’s still a good fighter, and is scheduled to take on former title challenger Francisco Pianeta. The Italian has fought three times since being trucked by Wladimir Klitschko in 2013, and hasn’t shown all that much. Chagaev should be the favorite, though the younger, larger Pianeta has some power, and might help Chagaev get old overnight. Either way, “White Tyson’s” future is in the balance.

12.) Anthony Joshua – 13-0(13) – United Kingdom
Ranked #14 on January 22nd
Ranked… NR @ Ring, 10 @ TBRB, 10 @ BoxingScene, 13 @ Boxrec, NR @ ESPN
Wins over top 10 Ring-rated opponents: 0
Next fight: July 18 vs. TBA

As I mentioned in January’s rankings, Joshua isn’t really quite a contender yet. However, he is easily the most advanced of the current batch of prospects. Since the January update, Joshua has fought 3 times, winning easily each time. In April, he took 3 rounds to batter tough journeyman Jason Gavern. At the beginning of May, Raphael Zumbano Love fell in 2 rounds. And then, at the end of May, in his toughest (on paper) test to date, he brutalized Kevin Johnson in 2 quick rounds. So far, Joshua has yet to face anything approaching a contender, however, he has been matched well for a 13 fight novice. The journeymen and gatekeepers that comprise his resume are mostly tough, solid veterans. Johnson himself was considered a contender (or close) not too many years ago, and had never been stopped, much less run over the way Joshua was able. Even at this early stage, Anthony could be made a favorite over a handful of the men currently ranked above him. Unless he turns out to have some fatal flaw, expect to see him move up quickly in the ranks over the next year or two.

13.) Dereck Chisora – 20-5(13) – United Kingdom
Ranked #13 on January 22nd
Ranked in… NR @ Ring, NR @ TBRB, NR @ BoxingScene, 15 @ Boxrec, NR @ ESPN
Wins over top 10 Ring-rated opponents: 0
Next fight: Not scheduled

Del Boy has had some major shifts in momentum over his career. Early on, he was a promising British prospect, fighting on the domestic level, stopping Danny Williams and Sam Sexton in 2010. 10 months out of the ring and nearly 17 extra pounds meant his first loss, to fellow domestic prospect Tyson Fury. However, he worked his way back into shape, and by the end of 2011, Chisora could be seen comprehensively outworking the favored Robert Helenius in Finland, only to be robbed blind on the scorecards. His good performance led to a shot at the WBC crown held by Vitali Klitschko. After falling behind early, the shorter challenger charged back, and arguably won a few of the middle rounds, making Vitali work harder than he had in some time. Of course, Chisora still lost a clear decision, and Klitschko fought pretty much the entire fight with only his right hand. But Chisora looked good in defeat, and had quite a bit of momentum for a man who had lost two fights in a row and 3 out of 4. Five months later, Chisora took on domestic rival David Haye, with the winner likely to get into the title picture. Chisora looked strong early, but Haye’s power, speed, and precision counters overwhelmed Dereck, and Haye stopped the larger man at the end of 5 exciting rounds. Chisora took some time off, and came back strong, reeling off 5 straight wins, and dragging himself back into contention. A slightly premature stoppage of fringe contender Malik Scott and a wide decision over Kevin Johnson were the highlights of this run.

Last November, he took on rival Tyson Fury in a rematch of their July 2011 fight. This time, Chisora came in to the fight in much better shape, with momentum on his side. Yet the result was the same. Instead of the spirited performances against Helenius and Klitschko, Dereck plodded his way into jab after jab, before his corner pulled the plug after 10 listless rounds.

Chisora is only 31 – young for a modern heavyweight. He hasn’t had an enormous number of fights. If his heart is still in it, he can make for good fights against decent opponents, but he seems to be inconsistent from fight to fight. Nothing is on his calendar for now, but there’s still time and opportunity if he wants to take advantage of it.

14.) Antonio Tarver – 31-6(22) – United States
Unranked on January 22nd
Ranked in… NR @ Ring, NR @ TBRB, NR @ BoxingScene, 8 @ Boxrec, NR @ ESPN
Wins over top 10 Ring-rated opponents: 0
Next fight: August 14 vs. #9 Steve Cunningham

The Magic Man isn’t really a heavyweight. In fact, he hasn’t really been a relevant fighter since 2009, when he was still a light heavyweight. Now, he’s 46 years old, and 50 pounds over his best weight. So why is Tarver even listed here? For one, the division really is kind of at low ebb, talent-wise. There are a few promising up-and-coming prospects near contention, but they haven’t quite arrived. Second, despite having only three heavyweight bouts to his credit, Tarver looked surprisingly good in his last one. Back in December, Tarver faced solid, though uninspiring fringe contender Johnathon Banks. Many assumed that Banks, while less accomplished, would be too big, too young, and too good for the aging former champion. Instead, Tarver put on an impressive show, dominating the action, and eventually dropping and stopping him in the 7th. While Banks is not a world-beater, he was a legitimate heavyweight, and not a bad opponent. Tarver showed solid power, and appeared to be in pretty good condition.

Tarver also deserves credit for stepping up again, with his upcoming bout against contender Steve Cunningham this August.  Cunningham, like Tarver and Banks, started out at lighter weights, and is not large for heavyweight. But he has largely held his own against bigger fighters, and is 8 years younger than Tarver. A win by Tarver would definitely be an upset, though it no longer appears to be an improbable one.

15.) Artur Szpilka – 19-1(14) – Poland
Unranked on January 22nd
Ranked in… NR @ Ring, NR @ TBRB, NR @ BoxingScene, 14 @ Boxrec, NR @ ESPN
Wins over top 10 Ring-rated opponents: 0
Next fight: Not scheduled

Why Szpilka? Really, why not? As mentioned earlier, the division is not particularly deep right now, and the 12th through 15th ranked boxers could all be interchanged with any number of other options. I wouldn’t object to someone preferring to list Chris Arreola, Amir Mansour, Andrey Fedosov, or maybe Joseph Parker. Even someone like Andy Ruiz could be here on potential alone.

For now, I’ll take Szpilka. The Polish brawler is still young (26), tends to be in exciting fights, has pretty good power, and has only one loss – to a legitimate contender. Last November, he comprehensively outpointed countryman and former contender Tomasz Adamek in a good performance. He also has stopped several tough journeymen and gatekeepers. In his lone loss, Bryant Jennings outboxed Szpilka fairly handily, especially after dropping him hard in the 6th. Eventually, Jennings was able to pour on the pressure and force a 10th round stoppage. The good news for Szpilka was that he kept the fight close in the early rounds, and while outclassed, didn’t embarrass himself. So far, his only loss was to a good fighter – one of the 5 or 6 best in the world.  Until someone else proves otherwise, I don’t have a problem placing Artur here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s