By Paul McCreath -- We all know that an undefeated record can mean many things. The casual fan might be inclined to think that a zero in the loss column means the boxer is an outstanding fighter. In the case of men like Joe Calzaghe, Floyd Mayweather or Rocky Marciano that is probably true. Sometimes it is a sign of a good prospect who is not yet a proven contender but who at least has passed all his tests so far. The third possibility, all too common these days is that the boxer is a fairly ordinary club fighter who has been very carefully protected. Today we will take a fresh look at the heavyweights from around the world with the longest undefeated records and try to assess what their records really mean..
Faruk Saleem remains the fighter with the longest streak, 38 wins in a row with 32 KOs. It is a bit of a stretch to consider Faruk as an active fighter since he has appeared only once since the end of 2007. Don't take his record seriously either. He appears to look at boxing as a sometimes hobby where he can pick up a few bucks and not get hurt. He meets only soft opposition and has had a couple of close calls even at that level. He may be around for a few more years and extend his streak but he will never be a factor in the heavyweight division.
Second in line with 32 wins and 11 KOs is Malik Scott, another American. Malik is a bit different from Saleem in that he has considerable talent and was in fact a national heavyweight champion in 1999 as an amateur. His opponents have been pretty soft and as a pro since 2000 he is way overdue if he has any intentions of a serious run for glory. There has been plenty of talk these past few years about stepping up but nothing happens. One problem is that he is not exciting to watch. He shows little power or aggression so he is not in great demand. His career has seen several long periods of inactivity. At 28 years of age he still has lots of time but huge weight gains from the 220 range to 255 pounds for his last fight suggest that he may prove to be just another statistical oddity in the end.
The third longest streak belongs to still another American fighter,31 year old David Rodriguez. David is a pretty fair puncher with 28 KOs in 30 wins but again they are all against softies. He is in his 11th year as a pro so we can probably write him off too although from what I have seen of him he looks good. He is scheduled to meet Argentinean Manuel Pucheta a 23-3 fighter on March 14. This won't tell us much since Pucheta has an inflated record as well.
At number 4 we have at last a legitimate contender in Alex Dimitrenko the Ukrainian giant. Now a winner of 29 in a row with 19 KOs Alex has wins over fringe contenders Timo Hoffman and Luan Krasniqi and has been nominated to fight for the Euro crown next. Matt Skelton held that title until February 28 when he was stopped in 11 rounds by Martin Rogan. As a result the title will now be vacant since the Rogan fight was not recognized as a title bout. Don't be surprised if Rogan and Dimitrenko are matched now for the vacant crown. Alex will be favoured to win and then go on to a world title challenge perhaps later in the year. He is currently ranked in the world's top 10. I am aware that Alex Povetkin has been named to fight Dimitrenko but I doubt if he will accept as he is already lined up to meet Wlad Klitschko in the fall.
Number 5 on our list is a "mystery" fighter Donnell Holmes. Back when Chris Byrd was IBF champion Don King was pushing this guy for a title fight. He still hasn't won an important bout and at 36 years of age he is not likely going to. He also has 2 draws against easy opposition to go with his 29 wins. Forget him. He is another record padder.
At number 6 we have an exciting prospect Chris Arreola with 26 wins including 23 KOs. He has yet to meet a name fighter but his wins over fellow prospects Travis Walker and Chazz Witherspoon looked pretty impressive. There was talk about a challenge to Wlad Klitschko this spring but that fortunately fell through since Chris in my opinion needs to fight a contender or two first before thinking about a title shot. He will move in the right direction on April 11 when he meets long time rated contender Jameel McCline. The main concern with Chris is his lack of conditioning and the McCline fight should tell us if he is really serious about his career. Watch for his weight going in. That will tell the tale. He needs to be well under 240 pounds
Seventh in line is actually one of the many "world" champions Ruslan Chagaev who has 25 wins and 1 early technical draw which was reversed by KO in a return match. Ruslan has had his health problems but is active again now and will meet the "other" WBA champion Nicolay Valuev in the near future. When healthy Chagaev is an even match for anybody not named Klitschko.
Number 8 is a very promising young Russian named Denis Boytsov who now has won 24 straight including 19 KOs. Denis is just beginning to step up and has stopped Israel Garcia and outpointed the tricky veteran trial horse Robert Hawkins among others. I expect Denis will be knocking on the door of the top 20 by the end of this year.
Number 9 is a fighter that some have called America's best hope at heavyweight. Kevin Johnson brings a 21-0-1 record with just 8 KOs. He is no puncher but he sure can box. He has an especially good jab. Inactivity has hurt Kevin and his rather unexciting style makes it harder to get meaningful fights. If he can get the new promotional deal he is looking for he may yet be a factor. He is only 29 which is young for a heavyweight. Developing a bit more aggression and power in his punches would make success a lot more likely.
Finally at number 10 is another "mystery" fighter. Johnnie White is a 24 year old from Louisiana who has 21 straight wins and 18 KOs. This sounds great but remember he fights in Louisiana. Until he leaves this minor league area and meets some meaningful opposition we just won't know whether he is any good or not. His youthful age is one promising fact. Perhaps with proper coaching he will prove able to step up. We will see.
Some of you might be wondering why I have not included JD Chapman on this list. The reason is that he has not been active for more than a year. He does have 29 wins.
At this point I am sure you all realize that there is more to succeeding in boxing than just the raw numbers. We have other undefeated fighters around the world with fewer wins but a lot more ability than most of those mentioned in this article. Odlanier Solis and Alex Povetkin would be two examples. We also have some very good young fighters with losses on their records who would stand a good chance of at least making the top 10 at some point. It really is more important to look at who these boxers have fought and in what direction their careers are going. Are they improving or just spinning their wheels and building misleading records? Numbers don't lie but they definitely can deceive.
You may have realized that of the 10 fighters listed 4 of them are Americans with mainly padded records who have never yet stepped up and met a name fighter. Could this have anything to do with the fact that America is developing fewer heavyweights these days? It would seem that these guys are more interested in building their records than they are in learning the trade and advancing upwards in the ratings.