The Heavyweights: Field Of Dreams

09.06.04 - By Vaughn M. Featherstone: For years the Heavyweight division has always been considered the glamour division of Professional Boxing. With the signature fighters of the sport ranging from John L. Sullivan to Lennox Lewis, one could always be able to name someone who has made a major impact in the sport. With most of the top pay per view audiences coming from the division, it is easily to distinguish what division is considered Boxing's most recognized one. It has had fights that will be remembered for years (Ali/Frazier: The Thriller in Manilla, Ali/Foreman: The Rumble In The Jungle), its controversial moments (Jack Johnson/Jess Williard: The infamous knockout in which Jackson was seen "shielding his eyes" from the sun after Williard knocked him down, Ali/Liston II: The "Phantom Punch", as well as Tyson/Holyfield II in which Tyson bit Evander Holyfield) and its many rankings manipulations as well as unfortunate lawsuits involving the Heavyweight title and matches.

However, at this time, the problem isn't lawsuits, rankings manipulations or controversial moments inside (or outside) of the ring. The problem, or should I say, the question is: Who is the champion?

There was a time when someone could ask that question to ten people with eight probably being able to answer the question correctly. Of course, many of us who follow the sport know who the champions are and most likely who they beat to win the title. But for the average sport fan who isn't a fanatic in one certain sport, a name like Vitali Klitschko may not ring a bell. Some may think that Mike Tyson is retired and has been since his loss to Evander Holyfield over 3 years ago.

I have met people that stated that Tyson got knocked out 2 months ago when Tyson hasn't fought in over a year. This shows the lack of a real superstar in a division who has long been known as the division that defined the sport. Lennox Lewis was that man until he retired following his controversial TKO victory over Vitali Klitschko in 2003. Although he was Undisputed Champion (at one point before relinquishing the IBF title and being stripped of the WBC), it wasn't until his decisive victory over Tyson that put his stamp as a household name. Some may say that the 12 round "draw" with Evander Holyfield was his defining moment.

As of now, the division is wide open and looking for a obvious star. There is no longer a Lennox Lewis to save the division from obscurity. Boxing "experts" touted Vitali Klitschko as the division savior. He has shown power, heart and sheer domination in his past four fights. But is he "the one?"

What I have compiled is a list of fighters who could possibly dominate this division and thus return the division back to its glory days.Note: List does not reflect the World rankings or abilities of fighters.

1. Vitali Klitschko (34-2 (33KO) WBC Heavyweight Champion): His power is no doubt his sword. His height is a valuable intangiable. His chin showed alittle unsteadiness against Corrie Sanders in his last fight but his recovery abilities seem to be top-notch. No one can question his heart at this point although it was a major question following his defeat at the hands of Chris Byrd in 2000. His loss to Lennox Lewis was his defining moment.

2. Chris Byrd (37-2-1 (20KO) IBF Heavyweight Champion): He was considered the most dangerous fighter in the heavyweight division following victories over David Tua and Evander Holyfield. However, in his last 2 fights (Fres Oquendo W12 and Andrew Golota-D12) Byrd has looked like contender who may have walked the easy road to a title. Oquendo was able to hit Byrd easily while Golota basically manhandled Byrd. His lack of power may be a problem against fighters like Mike Tyson and a rematch with Vitali Klitschko.

3. Mike Tyson (50-4 (44KO)): Once considered dead in the water, this could be Tyson's moment to return to the top. Although his speed and quickness isn't what it was, it is probably just as good, if not better, than most of the Heavyweights and he still has the power to stop any fighter in his tracks. His chin is about as good as anyones as well. If focussed on the task at hand he could return to greatness.

4. David Tua (42-3-1 (37KO): Tua, if he lands a solid punch, could end a fight in seconds. But Tua has been a major disappointment. He is a one dimensional fighter who relies strickly on the big punch. Tall, mobile fighters have made him look amateurish and over-rated. Hasim Rahman, out of shape but still ready to fight, frustrated Tua and wore him down over 12 rounds. No one knows what Tua has left but a change of style may be what is needed.

5. Hasim Rahman (37-5-1 (30KO)): "The Rock" is a veteran fighter who is willing to fight anyone. Maybe not the most gifted Heavyweight the division has seen, but he is dangerous anytime he steps in the ring. His right hand is about as good as anyones and his chin is decent. His poor training habits are visible when he steps in the ring as he is sometimes "soft" body-wise and he doesn't look serious in big fights. He tends to get on the defnsive and basically give rounds away. Like Tyson, if Rahman stays focussed and trains seriously, he could make another run to the top.

6. John Ruiz (40-5-1 (28KO) WBA Heavyweight Champion): He may never get the respect he deserves, if he deserves it. His fights are usually boring and tend to be wrestling matches. His rough, aggressive style is the reason why many consider him a paper champion. Don't get me wrong, Ruiz has skills and his heart and desire is what makes champions and is what many fighters today need. Should he keep in mind that he is a Boxer, he could really make waves in the division.

7. Wladimir Klitschko (42-3 (39KO)): Once a promising Heavyweight that was bestowed the title "The next Great Heavyweight champion", Wlad has fell from grace rather quickly. Disappointing losses to Corrie Sanders (TKO2) and Lamon Brewster (TKO5) has dropped his stock drastically. Still committed, Wlad continues on. Like his brother, his size and strength will be a problem to every heavyweight. Wlad has the skills and is technically sound. However, his heart seems to be the thing that isn't there.

8. Roy Jones Jr. (49-2 (38KO)): Roy says he doesn't want to fight as a Light-Heavyweight any longer but continues to state that he can beat (Antonio) Tarver on any day and is ready to prove so. He also speaks about fighting once again at Heavyweight but looking at the punch that felled him against Tarver, he may want to reconsider the return. Talk of a Tyson fight still seems to bounce in his head.

9. Andrew Golota (38-4-1 (31KO)): Proved in his fight with Chris Byrd that he CAN fight when he has to. Known for low blows and lack of commitment, Golota may have put his name back on the Heavyweight map. There is no doubting that he has the skills. If he can stay committed to the game, he could be a major player in the division.

10. James Toney (67-4-2 (43KO)): Injury has kept "Lights Out" of the Heavyweight mix. But his heart and his mind haven't been sidelined (Don't forget his mouth). An excellent counter-puncher with a great chin, Toney's slick and confusing cat-and-mouse style could frutrate anyone. But a quick and strong fighter like Mike Tyson could force him out of his countering shell.

With fighters like Floyd Mayweather, Arturo Gatti and Manny Pacquiao beginning to be Boxing's household names, the Heavywieght division is slowly becomeing obscure. Although Mike Tyson, probably the most recognized name in the division for all of the wrong reasons, is ranked, he may not be the savior to the division because of all of his short-comings. Roy Jones was the figure that many looked to bring the division back to the top. But, media manipulation and his crushing second round knockout loss to Antonio Tarver has made many doubt his abilities.

If some big fights can be made, this division could once again return to form.

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Article posted on 09.06.2004

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