Cruiser Division Ready To Shine

01.11.08 - By Paul McCreath: For many years, in fact going right back to its beginnings in the late 1970's and early 1980's the cruiserweight division has been an almost ignored weight class. Except during the period when Evander Holyfield reigned supreme few casual fans have paid these men much attention. Frankly I could never figure out why this is the case. Are the cruisers of today not the same size or even bigger than those much revered heavyweight champs of the golden age of boxing like Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Rocky Marciano or Ezzard Charles? Those former champs all weighed around 190 pounds..

Today's cruisers have the punching power to offer the sudden endings that people like so much with their heavyweight cousins but more important they also have the physical fitness to keep up a sustained attack round after round. We all know that the smaller the weight class is the more action they provide only the really little guys seldom show the same power threat as the big ones. We all know too that many heavies of today can only fight a few seconds out of each round and then they quickly gas out. What's not to like about the cruisers?

The cruiser division has suffered from losing their top men to the heavyweight class. Champs like Evander Holyfield ,JC Gomez and now David Haye have all moved up. The belief is that they can make more money there even though they are giving up a size advantage. This is sometimes true especially with the very best but not always. I wonder if you asked Juan Carlos Gomez if he made more money as WBO cruiser champ or in the years he has fought at heavy what would the answer be? Did Al Cole make more money as a heavyweight punching bag than he did as a cruiser champ? Or what about Dwight Braxton(Muhammad Qawi)?

Sometimes fighters who could make the 200 pound limit, men like Eddie Chambers or Brian Minto or earlier on Chris Byrd choose to fight their whole careers at heavyweight. Even with the loss of a few of their top rated fighters the cruisers have a lot of talent left and some of the best will be in action soon. Let's take a look at what we have to look forward to seeing.

On December 11 we have the two best 200 pounders in the world according to many fans colliding head on. IBF champ Steve Cunningham will defend against his mandatory challenger Tomasz Adamek. Steve brings a 21-1 record to the fight with his only loss coming against the Polish IBF champ Wlodarczyk in a disputed decision in Poland. In a rematch Steve got the verdict. He also holds wins over the WBA champ Guillermo Jones and former belt holder Wayne Braithwaite as well as top challenger Marco Huck. Adamek, another Pole, brings a 35-1 record with 24 KOs. This former IBF lightheavy champ has lost only to Chad Dawson in early 2007. He was perhaps weight drained in this fight and has since moved up to cruiser and stopped former belt holder O'Neil Bell in 8 rounds in an eliminator in April. Another good match on Dec 6 has former WBO heavyweight belt holder Herbie Hide (45-4) and now a cruiser taking on WBA #3 rated Grigory Drodz (30-1) for one of those meaningless regional belts. It is still an interesting match all the same.

The WBA champ is the veteran Guillermo Jones. This is an almost unbelievable story. Back in 1998 he twice challenged for the WBA light middleweight title against Laurent Boudouani. In February he gained a disputed draw then dropped another disputed split decision in the rematch in May of the same year. Now he is a cruiserweight champ.At 36 you might think he is just an old guy who got fat and lucky. This is not so. He stands 6 foot 4 and other than the split decision loss to Cunningham he has gone undefeated for years. He stopped former champs Wayne Braithwaite and Kelvin Davis in 2005.He won his title from Firat Arslan by 10th round KO in September.Next up is to be determined.

The WBC champ is Giacobbe Fragomeni who had lost earlier to David Haye in a European title bout. This month he won the title by technical decision over #1 ranked Rudolf Kraj. There may be a rematch but since Fragomeni is 39 I doubt if either of these two will threaten the Cunningham-Adamek winner.

Former WBO champ Enzo Maccarinelli is still in the picture for their now vacant title. Enzo is #3 in the ratings with Jonathon Banks at #1 and Alex Alexeev #2. There has been talk of a Macca-Banks bout but nothing definite yet.Alexeev (sometimes spelled Alekseev)is perhaps the real future of the division. This Russian youngster fighting out of Germany is 16-0 with 15 KOs. He has stopped both former contender Louis Azille and American veteran Rob Calloway.He won a silver medal in the world championships as an amateur. Look for big things from this lad.He may also be matched with Maccarinelli.

The current European champ cannot be ignored either. Marco Huck came up as a top prospect then got chopped down by Steve Cunningham in a title bout. Since then he has regrouped with European title wins over Jean-Marc Monrose and Fabio Tuiach who was 22-1 going in. Now he meets 36-2 Valery Brudov January 24 in another defense.

America is also not without hope . In addition to the aforementioned Cunningham and Banks we have the undefeated BJ Flores and the 17-1 Matt Godfrey. Flores is 21-0 and has been idle since his win over Dingaling Wilson while Godfrey was upset by Kraj this year but both could still get into the picture if they get active again. Banks is undefeated at 20-0 with 14 KOs. He stopped former IBF champ Imamu Mayfield in the first round then outpointed Italian veteran Vincenzo Rossitto in 12 for the IBO title this past year. All in all we should see some fine bouts over the next few months from the 200 pounders.

Article posted on 02.11.2008

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