Boxing

The Heavyweight's - By East Side Boxing's "Raven" - Lee Hayes

10.10.04 - Current Heavyweight Rankings - October 10th, 2004 1. Vitali Klitschko - Currently the most dominant heavyweight on the horizon. Klitschko's indomitable size, strength and confidence make him the current leader in the division. His cult-like following amongst Ukranian's, world wide, plus a likable personality and action run style, make Vitali easy to like, and an acceptable "King of The Castle" if you will, while the division goes through a rebuilding process. 2. Chris Byrd - He's been called the heavyweight Pernell Whitaker (he's not), and he's been accused of having a softer punch than everyone else on this list, but the fact is, that Byrd is effective. For a guy that basically started out as a middleweight and earned his way to the top of the division, Byrd's accomplishments, in lieu of his lack of punching power, are notable. Based on his wins over Vitali Klitschko (TKO - 10), David Tua (Unanimous Decision), Evander Holyfield (also a Unanimous Decision), and Fres Oquendo (again, and not surprisingly, another unanimous decision), Byrd has garnered his number 2 ranking. 3. James Toney - We still do not know enough about Toney's impact at heavyweight, but the fact is, he's got a real chance. His win over an ancient Evander Holyfield was impressive, but hardly conclusive, as almost everybody would agree that a prime Holyfield would have made easy work of Toney, even on his best night. Like wise, his Toney-esque - systematic destruction - of Rydell Booker does not really give us a strong idea, but the seeds are their to suggest, that Toney may end up being the class of the group. 4. John Ruiz - He may be boring, he may even want to make you gouge your own eyes out after watching one of his hug-a-thons, but one more thing that John Ruiz guarantee's besides a deep sleep on his fight nights, is a very effective style of fighting. His wins over Holyfield, Kirk Johnson, Rahman & Oquendo are proof that he*s no fool, and that he*s found a way to maximize the limited skill and unreliable chin that he has to work with. That*s impressive and that*s why he*s here. 5. Joe Mesi - You can make the argument that he doesn't even belong on this list, because Mesi may very well be done as a fighter and may be a medical risk to fight. Still, to my knowledge, there hasn't yet been a life time ban, and therefor out of respect to the Mesi camp, I will continue to include him. Mesi has been one of the most active heavyweights over the past 3 years. He brought considerable hand speed, combinations and above average punching power to the game and was surprisingly refined as a technician. His chin however was shaky, but he has the heart to rise from knock downs. The test will be to see if he can start coming back from knock downs to put his opponent out for the 10 count, instead of hanging on for dear life. 6. Andrew Golota - I had mixed feelings about this one, but basically, the only reason Golota can get this high of a rating, is because of the only notable accomplishment in recent years...his draw over Chris Byrd. It's hard to forget that Andrew is a psychological mess, and that he is prone to unraveling in major bouts. So I'm not fooling myself with this guy anymore. Still, he has considerable talent, and considering the weakness of the division, there is no reason to doubt that he can win a major title if pitted against Byrd again or John Ruiz. 7. Monte Barrett - Superior hand speed, skill and level of activity bring Barrett to my number seven spot. He's a spoiler, and that's just what this division is poised to embrace. Everybody likes an underdog. "Two Guns" is easy to like and I hope he*s around for a couple more years. 8. Evander Holyfield - I know that some people will debate with me, that "the Real Deal" is all but buried in regards to his boxing career. But I can't help but keep Evander on the list. He still has the ability to pull out a win against almost anybody on this list, and on any given night, he could put for an effort like the one he did against Hassim Rahman, or Lennox Lewis (in their second fight). He also has the most experience and the greatest variety of arsenal in the group. 9. Hassim Rahman - "The Rock" has been very active recently, but not against any opposition of consequence. Still, being active means something, and Rahman still has the power in his over hand right to stop just about anybody out there. He also has one of the best jabs in the division (as he displayed in his second fight against David Tua). In my opinion, Hassim Rahman may be the biggest threat currently out there to dethrone and KO Vitali Klitschko. How long he could last at the top on the other hand, is an entirely different matter. 10. Mike Tyson - I know he lost to Williamson (but the severity of that leg injury was legit), I know Lennox Lewis destroyed him (I have strong doubts about the same outcome had they fought in their primes), but I can*t leave Tyson of my list. He's still the division's hardest puncher, and he doesn't have the aura of invincibility around him. But Tyson can still be on top. His opponents may not enter the ring intimidated, but they sure become intimidated once Tyson starts winging the leather. Everything is up to Mike. If he started training with an Emanuel Steward, or maybe a Buddy McGirt, Tyson might be able to get even a tiny piece of his form back in place and he could dominate. This has more to do with timing, then with what Tyson can actually bring to the table. (Honorable Mention : Lamon Brewster, Vassiliy Jirov, Wladimir Klitschko, Jameel McCline) Division's "Best Puncher" : Mike Tyson - Tyson is nowhere near his prime anymore, and any decent heavyweight has a chance of beating him, if they have a chin and stamina, but "Iron Mike" still possesses the divisions heaviest set of hands. He may be more vulnerable at this stage in his career, but he is a threat to knock out any other man out there, including #1 ranked Vitali Klitschko! (Honourable Mention: Vitali Klitschko) Division's 'Best Hand Speed': Roy Jones Jr. - Speculation is still abroad, that part of the reason for Roy Jones Jr's recent decline in consistency, is due to the weight loss he endured while training down from heavyweight to face Antonio Tarver, in their first match. If that's true, there is a possibility that Roy may consider returning to heavyweight to attempt a chance at redeeming his legacy. Since he has not completely out-ruled his retirement from the + 190 pounders, I have included Roy, and his hand's are faster than any heavyweight since Mike Tyson. Only a young Cassius Clay and Floyd Patterson had faster hands that Jones. (Honourable Mention: Mike Tyson) Division's "Best Boxer" : James Toney - Hands down, "Light's Out" rises above the rest, by continually re-inventing the game with his skills in the ring. His defensive skills - which he attributes with his being "Born to Fight"- are that of "all-time" consideration. Toney is unique, in his ability to stand directly in front of danger, such as Vassiliy Jirov, Iran Barkley, or Evander Holyfield. His spine seems to have no end to it*s flexibility, as Toney can often be seen bending in the shape of an "S" in order to avoid a punch from his opponent. (Honourable Mention: Chris Byrd) Division's "Best Jab" : Vitali Klitschko - I know I'm going to hear a lot of flack on this one, but I won't mind it, because, well... it's true. Vitali isn't even close to being the division's best boxer, but that doesn't stop him from possessing the division's best jab. It's probably his most effective weapon, because he sets everything up from it. With his incredible 80" reach, Vitali utilizes his natural assets to the fullest extent, and not only throws a solid jab, but pumps all of his body's weight, by leaning forward as he thrusts his ample left fist in to his unlucky opponent. (Honourable Mention: Andrew Golota) Division's "Best Hook" - Monte Barrett - He's got a good jab, and a nice right cross, but it's Monte Barrett's lightning fast left-hook that separate's him from "gate keeper" status in the heavyweight division. (Honourable Mention: David Tua) Division's "Best Uppercut" - Mike Tyson - He doesn't use it much anymore, but when he does, it's a danger to knock out any man in the division. Tyson's mix of blistering speed and ferocious power set him apart from the pack here. (Honourable Mention: Wladimir Klitschko) Division's "Best Chin" - Lamon Brewster - He is not big on skills, speed or defence... but nobody else in the heavyweight division has a beard like Lamon. He received one of the most brutal offensive onslaughts we have witnessed in the division, since the early Tyson days when he defeated Wladimir Klitschko, on April 10th of this year. (Honourable Mention: James Toney) Division's "Best Defence" - James Toney - Again, Toney is the most elusive boxer currently fighting above 200lbs. It's incredible to think that Toney is still able to do the things that he does in the ring, all the way from 160 lbs to the point of 220 lbs +. His uncanny ability to stand in the "Lion's Den", dodging, parrying, and rolling with punches - while simultaneously tiring his opponents out - is a thing of beauty, that nobody else in the world can do quite like James. (Honourable Mention: Chris Byrd) Division's "Best Combination Puncher" : James Toney - Toney is tops yet again, and it's not just pure punching volume that places him there. James has mastered the art of the short punches. The brief, chopping blows, that wear a man down. Toney will throw shots on his opponents chest or arms, and beat his man down slowly and methodically in a way we haven*t seen since the days of Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano. (Honourable Mention: Andrew Golota) Division's "Best Stamina" - John Ruiz - You know, I really hate giving credit to Ruiz for anything, especially considering all the aesthetically unpleasing nights he has subjected us to, and all the feelings of wasted dollars I have expended on Pay-Per-View on his fights over the past few years. Still, one thing that Ruiz has in abundance is stamina. Part of it is because he is very economical with his offense (a nice way of saying he hugs his way through fights)... but conditioning also plays a role, and John has always showed up in shape. It was his conditioning that put him on top against Holyfield, Oquendo & Rahman. (Honourable Mention: (James Toney) Raven's All-Time Heavyweight's 1. Joe Louis 2. Muhammad Ali 3. George Forman 4. Lennox Lewis 5. Rocky Marciano 6. Evander Holyfield 7. Jack Dempsey 8. Jack Johnson 9. Mike Tyson 10. Larry Holmes (Honorable Mention : James J. Jefferies, John L. Sullivan, Gene Tunney & Joe Frazier) All-Time "Best Puncher" : Joe Louis - Liston's jab was more powerful, Frazier's left hook was more dramatic. Marciano and Earnie Shavers, probably possessed more power in their single uppercuts than Louis, but Joe was still the best over all puncher the heavyweight division ever witnessed. He had is all, powerful mule-kick of a jab, the devastating right cross, the fight ending uppercut and the potent body hooks to boot. Joe Louis also possessed the best arsenal of long range, medium range and short range punches of any fighter in history, in any division. A night with prime Louis, was a night of pure hell. (Honourable Mention: George Foreman) All-Time "Best Hand Speed": Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali - Before he changed his name to Muhammad Ali, and forever changed the sport of boxing, and to some extents, the world...Cassius Clay possessed the fastest hands the division has ever seen. It has been argued -by such experts as Sir Henry Cooper (in his book "The Great Heavyweights"-by Henry Cooper), and former match maker at Madison Square Garden - Teddy Brenner (on the video series "Boxing's Best- Heavyweights-The Stylists") there can be a good case made for Floyd Patterson having the fastest set of hands the division has ever witnessed. It was a close choice, with a young Mike Tyson also garnishing some consideration as well. My final decision was made based on the length of reach of the three men, and the types of punches they most regularly threw. Tyson and Patterson both only maintain a reach of 71 inches, Clay's reach was somewhere between 83 and 84 inches, and in contrast to Tyson and Floyd, his were almost always straight from his shoulder to full extension. He simply had the faster set of hands. (Honourable Mention: Floyd Patterson) All-Time "Best Boxer" : Muhammad Ali - Throughout his career, Ali redefined the role of a boxer, putting an end to the success of the brute force first champions, but defeating Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and George Foreman. He had the fastest footwork, hand speed and reflexes in heavyweight history, and has to be considered a contender for fastest all-time pound for pound in all of those categories. He changed the way we thought about defence, by pulling his head directly back out of the way of harm when he was younger, and by using his mastery of the jab and ability to con fighters in to blowing their energy later on. He was a master strategist. (Honourable Mention: Joe Louis) All-Time "Best Jab" : Muhammad Ali - Louis and Liston had sledge hammers for jabs, Holmes and Lewis also possessed excellent jabs. Still, nobody in the history of the sport has possessed a more dominant "stick" as Ali. Particularly in his early bouts, it was a thing of beauty to watch Clay/Ali dancing around the ring, dodging wild blows -intended to knock his head off- and then rattling off a succession of 4 or 5 lightning fast jabs in his opponents face. He used it to cut & swell (Cooper, Fraizer, Liston & Quarry), to throw his opponent out of rhythm (Liston, Frazier, Patterson & Norton) (Honourable Mention: Larry Holmes) All-Time "Best Hook" - Joe Frazier - It wasn't thrown as picture perfect as a Louis, Holyfield or Tyson left hook, but nobody ever had a more dramatic, more devastating left hook above 190 lbs. It was a real nightmare for opponents, to both the head and body. HBO expert commentator, Larry Merchant, once said "There may never have been a better body puncher in the heavyweight division, than "Smokin" Joe Frazier, and that statement holds water to this day. (Honourable Mention: Mike Tyson) All-Time "Best Uppercut" - Rocky Marciano - "The Rock" threw every punch he ever delivered on a man with the worst of intentions. Every uppercut, starting from the canvas and attempting to tear right through any obstacle in it's way (including ribs, arms and many, many chins). One of the reasons "The Brockton Blockbuster's" uppercut out ranks the likes of Dempsey, Liston, Forman or Tyson, is because of the follow through. If Rocky couldn't catch you with his fist, he'd follow through with his forearm, and close behind, the elbow that all of his opponents complained about, only to receive time and time again. Rocky's height, liberally estimated at 5'10-5'11", gave him an advantage when throwing the uppercut over his taller foes. Their chins were right in front of his eyes, waiting to be tagged, and Rocky was only so happy to oblige. (Honourable Mention: Mike Tyson) All-Time "Best Chin" - Muhammad Ali - This one is easy. There have been many fighters with iron clad chins. James J. Jefferies, Jack Dempsey, Rocky Marciano and David Tua come to memory. Still, the general impression that I get, is that none of these men could have stood up to the best shots from notorious power punchers like Archie Moore, Henry Cooper, Sonny Liston, Joe Fraizer, Ken Norton, Ron Lyle, George Forman, Earnie Shavers, and still escape without a knock out loss from the bunch. Ali was one of a kind. (Honourable Mention: Rocky Marciano) All-Time "Best Defence" - Jack Johnson - They say that the true boxing greats are the ones that know who the other greats really are. They know how to look for the little things. They can't help but size up any other man they come across, because their old fighting heart still beats a primal drum that forces them to view any other male as a potential opponent. Every expert and historian, from the time of James J. Jefferies to Jack Dempsey's, has said the same thing, that Johnson was not only the best fighter they ever witnessed, but that his defence was so many generations ahead of his time, that Johnson could practically have his way with the still wild-swinging fighters of his generation. Everything from his perfect balance to his advanced foot work, made Johnson the best defensive fighter in heavyweight history. (Honourable Mention: Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali) All-Time "Best Combination Puncher" : Joe Louis - Simply put, Joe Louis put his punches together better than any heavyweight of his generation, or for any generation for that matter. He was one of the best combination punchers, pound for pound to ever walk the earth. With a balanced attack from his right, or left hands, Louis always fought behind a steady jab, seeking out openings to unload his lethal combinations, that ended fights and careers alike. He almost never threw single punches, and he always varied his attack from the head to the body. (Honourable Mention: Mike Tyson) All-Time "Best Stamina" - Rocky Marciano - It wasn't just the chin, grit and punching power of Rocky Marciano, that allowed him to dominate the fighters that dared to step in the ring with him. It was his insatiable storage of stamina. The conditioning that was forged by countless hundreds of miles of road work, and an obsession with stamina. Rocky was able to come back from certain defeat on numerous occasions, by calling on his superior shape and wind to knock out his opponents, when they had long tired out. (Honourable Mention: (Muhammad Ali) All-Time "Pound For Pound" - Joe Louis - Joe Louis, in his prime, possessed every asset that a great fighter can, and he carried them in vast quantities. His power was mind boggling. His fists moved at dynamic speed, with laser precision, and technically perfect ebb and flow. He could be knocked down, but until his first fight with Schmelling, and his last fight Marciano, he always rose to inflict more severe damage on his opponent, the price of embarrassing "the Brown Bomber". (Honourable Mention: Muhammad Ali) As indicated earlier, the author encourages your input and a list of your personal rankings. Also any recommendations for changes that might be better for future weight classes, would be most appreciated. You can post them on this thread, or write the author directly at leezraven@yahoo.com

Article posted on 11.10.2004



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