Thoughts on Upcoming Heavyweight Fights

13.03.05 - By Izyaslav “Slava” Koza - In the last few days the Heavyweight division has gone through a roller-coaster loop of negotiations involving big fights, and even bigger fighters. We have now pretty much realized that Chris Byrd is a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to saying one thing and doing a completely different one (to set the record straight, I don’t blame him for making the right “business” decision, but I hate hearing crap about making the fights fans want to see, and then making ones they won’t care about). Since so many of these fights will be happening in the future, as opposed to at least one year ago when Lewis retired and when they should have taken place, I wanted to give my thoughts on each one:

Vitali Klitschko vs. Hasim Rahman:

With Vitali’s recent injury, this fight will be delayed at least a month or two. However, it will still be happening and it will be pure dynamite to watch. When Vitali chose to fight Danny Williams last December, many critics jumped on him for choosing a “soft” opponent.

I won’t deny that it is precisely what Williams was, but I also won’t deny that at the time, I predicted that Vitali would be fighting a real contender (as in a dangerous one) in his next fight. Thankfully for me and the rest of boxing fans, that prediction came true. Some people write Rahman off as another Vitali victim, and thus imply he is a similar caliber opponent like Danny Williams, but that is not a fair assessment because like everyone knows and has heard a billion times, “The division is that weak right now.” Rahman is the most dangerous opponent that is available, and he is also, in my opinion, the most credible. After getting brutalized by Lewis, Rahman was robbed in more then one sense against Holyfield, due to the following reasons: 1. he couldn’t finish the fight and come on when Holyfield was bound to begin fading, and 2. Holyfield’s “style” of headbutting his way inside was not checked by the referee, as it should have been.

Rahman’s next two fights are misleading because neither of them is a “win,” however, they were two fights he faired well in. Most people gave him the fight against Tua, even though it was a draw. In his fight with Ruiz on December 13, 2003, I felt he beat Ruiz, simply because he was the more active fighter and he was willing to fight, while Ruiz seemed to be just trying to survive by continuously clutching and grabbing, which was unchecked by the referee.

After that, Rahman came back with a few uninteresting wins against a string of pathetically overmatched opponents, before coming on strong when he knocked out Kali Meehan in 4 rounds on November 13, 2004. That is the key fight that legitimizes Rahman, in my mind. Meehan was the consensus winner against Brewster, even though he lost by 12 round decision. It was one of the most awful fights shown on TV, but regardless, Meehan still appeared to be the winner of the fight. Thus, in beating Meehan so decisively, Rahman effectively knocked out the WBO champion of the world. So, even though Meehan was in actuality a weak opponent, just based on his strong performance against Lamon Brewster, he legitimizes Rahman as a challenger for Vitali’s belt.

As for the fight itself, I really can’t disagree with most people who think its an easy win for Vitali. I would, however, not state it that way, but go with the more conservative, “It’s Vitali’s fight to lose.” Therefore, if Vitali under prepares, gets careless in the ring, goes for a quick knockout, or simply doesn’t give it his all, Rahman can and will spoil his title run. However, barring all that, I just don’t think that an in shape Rahman (i.e., the best version of Rahman), can pose a threat to the best version of Vitali, which is who I am hoping will show up.

Furthermore, even though Rahman showed up in great shape against Meehan, it is no guarantee he will do it against Vitali. Rahman has a bad tendency to, as they say, “Not give a f---,” and just slack off in training. Vitali, for his part, and his style, needs to be very focused. He will most certainly try to establish the distance, and most certainly keep his hands down, inviting Rahman to come in. Rahman, like Vitali’s last two opponents, has the punch to put Vitali away, so he will have to be aware of how far Rahman’s right is from his chin at all time. Otherwise, Rahman will come over the top and land his explosive right hand and the night will be over for Vitali. . All in all, however, this should make for an exciting fight. It has the potential to end quickly, since both guys can bang. As for my prediction, a decision seems too out of the question.
Prediction: Vitali TKO 5

John Ruiz vs. James Toney:

Although this fight has not been officially made as of the writing of this article, we have gotten enough hints that it is in the final stages of production, so I will assume these two will get it on. As most people who read my articles know, I have no great love for John Ruiz, and in fact, I despise him as a fighter. His style is what I think of as “anti” boxing, and is really illegal according to my understanding of boxing rules, or as a random fan stated once “if Ruiz’s style isn’t excessive holding, I don’t know what is.”

James Toney is another matter. After two less than meaningful fights at heavyweight, it seems like he will be getting a title shot. Now if I would consider Ruiz as the consensus champ, or further as the WBA title holder (I strongly felt he lost to Golota) Toney getting a shot at this title would be totally outrageous. After beating a visibly faded version of Holyfield (something we have seen and heard too often these days), and a really mediocre fighter with an inflated record in Rydell Booker. After all this, why does Toney deserve a title shot? However, from another standpoint, seeing as Ruiz is not a major title holder, but just has a minor belt, this fight actually makes sense. Toney eliminated Holyfield, who Ruiz, lost to and drew with in their first and third fights, thereby making Toney worthy enough in a cosmetic sense to challenge Ruiz. Obviously, in reality Holyfield is about credible as Danny Williams or Kali Meehan for Vitali and Rahman respectively, but again “the division is just that weak.”

I don’t see the fight itself going much different than most Ruiz fights, unless, of course, there is a competent referee in there. Ruiz will jab and clinch, or fire one shot and clinch, and Toney will try to counter. The problem is, Toney likes to counter off the ropes and that, as I see it, is where Ruiz would have the easiest time to clinch Toney. It will all come down to Ruiz’s “effective” style of nullifying Toney’s ability to duck shots and counter. I will say that although I foresee another mindless boring win for Ruiz, I will be cheering for Toney and will hope that he pulls this one out somehow, if either by reinventing his style, or getting a decent referee in there.

PREDICTION: Ruiz by unanimous decision

Andrew Golota vs. Lamon Brewster:

The way I see it, Andrew Golota is coming off of a great performance against John Ruiz on November 13, 2004. In fact, a winning performance, in my opinion. Considering that Ruiz has his own special style that he invented (hug and slug), and that Golota had to go no holds barred in a boxing match, knocking Ruiz down twice (well, 3 times if you count the time Ruiz took a knee after getting hit with body shots), and in my eyes, outboxing him throughout the bout. Unfortunately, the judges didn’t agree with me, so here we have Golota with another loss on his record, and no belt to his name, fighting for yet a different worthless title. As for Brewster, I think he is place holder, a fighter who was in the right place and at the right time. I don’t deny that he has a win against Wladimir Klitschko, but in my opinion, he didn’t beat him in the traditional sense, rather the younger Klitschko, or the “former” heir apparent, beat himself in that fight. Brewster went on to show a pathetic performance against another limited fighter in Kali Meehan on September 4, 2004. In a fight where Meehan was visibly out on his feet, and ready to go in any round after about the 5th, Brewster did nothing, and allowed himself to be trapped on the ropes and pounded by Meehan, who has no boxing skills to speak of. Brewster is perhaps the worst fringe belt holder I have ever seen. I am not saying that because I hate him or anything, but because I really do not see that much skill or heart in him as a fighter. He claims to have heart, but when it counted he lay on the ropes and let Meehan, who was gassed out, to unload on him with everything but the kitchen sink, which seems like an incredibly serious lack of fighting spirit to me.

The fight itself seems more like a showcase for Golota than an actual competitive fight. Unless there is some other ultra secret script that King wants to follow, Golota should win this pretty easily if he comes in determined and in shape. Brewster just does not possess the boxing skill or the size to outbox the bigger Golota. In all seriousness, Brewster’s style of taking punches to the head in order to tire out the other fighter, will be his downfall in this fight. Golota, for all his faults, can bang and he doesn’t tire out like Wladimir in the latter rounds. If Andrew comes in and paces himself he should have no problem in first neutralizing Brewster, and then eventually forcing him to the ropes where a lack of response from Brewster will get Golota the TKO. Now, on the outside of this, is Golota’s propensity to implode in fights might be Brewster’s best and ohly chance for victory. However, if a guy like Ruiz couldn’t get Golota to self destruct, then it seems Golota has taken control of that aspect of his character.


Chris Byrd vs. Monte Barrett:

Well, it seems like this fight will come off, and it looks like Chris Byrd will likely get to hold onto his belt for yet another defense afterwards if everthing goes as planned for him in this bout. This after poor showings in 3 of his last fights, even though all three were “wins.” Barrett, on the other hand, is coming off of two good wins, against a previously undefeated prospect, Owen Beck and Dominic Guinn. Still, even though Barrett does have heart, he is still tailor made for Byrd’s style. First of all, he does not have the size to cause Byrd problems like Byrd’s last three opponents. Barrett cannot impose his body on him, and force him to a corner where he will be able to land big Jameel McCline type shots to win. It will be a fight at ring center, where Byrd can move around and take control of Barrett, who I do not see as handling Byrd’s mobility and elusiveness very well. Secondly, Barrett does not have the fire power to hurt Byrd, who has been in with the heaviest of hitters and almost never gone down.

Like I said, I see the reasoning behind this, because Barrett is a deserving fighter, and an easier payday, but where is the backing up of Byrd’s words? He is the one claiming he is a fan attraction because he takes the tough fights? Barrett is not a tough fight in most people’s minds, so how does Byrd justify his previous statements now?

PREDICTION: Byrd by unanimous decision

Wladimir Klitschko vs. Sergei Lyakhovich:

Finally a fight that I am glad was made, because both guys are at the door to a title a shot and a win here, will almost certainly get them to cross that final hurdle. The younger Klitschko, unable to secure a shot against Chris Byrd, elected to fight another up and coming fighter in Lyakhovich, who is coming off of an unexpected win against highly regarded Dominick Guinn. Now although Wladimir’s last win against Davarryl Williamson was not as emphatic as most including me would like, it was still undisputed, and that is about as much as we can expect at the moment from the heavyweight division.

The fight itself is very difficult to predict, and that is partly why I like it so much. In general, however, Klitschko does possess the more proven track record, and has the edge in skill. Lyakhovich, on the other hand, does possess more confidence, since his decision over Guinn was a bit cleaner and more hard fought than Wlad’s victory over Williamson. Furthermore, Lyakhovich has yet to have the pschological baggage that comes with being knocked out. Now, sure Lyakhovich was previously stopped by Maurice Harris on June 1, 2002, but he has rebounded from the loss and he did not let it influence his career and went on to defeat Guinn. Wladimir probably and unfortunately relives the Sanders fight any time he is seriously hurt or hit in a fight, so even though his chin is not as bad as people make it out to be, his mental confidence is the weak link. With three knock out losses to Corrie Sanders, Ross Purity and now Lamon Brewster, Wladimir has a lot to overcome to beat the durable Lyakhovich. I will favor Klitschko because of the fact that he does possess the superiorr all around talent, and also will probably be in better shape, seeing as Lyakhovich was visibly overweight against Guinn. Lyakhovich is fortunate that he’s facing this version of Wladimir, as if he were to face Wladimir four years ago, he would likely get blown out in the first round. Wladimir certainly has the offensive skills to take out Lyakhovich in the early round, but he will have to stop be overly cautious as he’s shown in his last couple of fights for that to happen. To add to that, Manny Steward is a very proven trainer and with his guidance, Wladimir may overcome his character demons and go on to succeed. However, to be fair, I will not be that shocked if Wladimir does get stopped again.

PREDICTION: Klitschko KO 8

That about wraps it up, and hopefully at the end of these fights we will be more aware of where our “glamour division” stands in terms of the best.

Thoughts to

Article posted on 13.03.2005

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