Eastsideboxing’s Top 30 Heavyweights: Part II

29.12.03 - By Steve Trellert

25. Lawrence Clay-Bey: Lawrence Clay-Bey easily enters the category of underachiever a la Kirk Johnson. The athleticism and technical skills are all there to behold and yet years get wasted and opportunities blown so that in the end all that talent goes to waste. A few years ago after wasting much time without stepping up in competition, he took on rising prospect Clifford Etienne. The end result was an action packed fight where his superior boxing skills lost to a man willing to outwork him. Then a second wind appeared where Lawrence crushed Sedrick Fields and defeated fellow prospect Charles Shufford. It seemed as though a final run towards the top was finally in order and then suddenly in a fight he was favored to win against Elicier Castillo, Clay-Bey was shockingly knocked out. Here he was winning the early rounds but as time went on Castillo was turning things around, proving himself to be the hungrier fighter. The ending though surprising, was indicative of the swing in momentum. At this point in time with advancing age it would seem Clay-Bey may be at the end of his tether in terms of making a hail mary towards the top, such a shame for a fighter that really had the goods to be a top fifteen. Nevertheless his win over Shufford keeps him above him in the rankings despite his recent loss. At this point Lawrence likely has little time to delay and should take any major fight he could get. If anything, with motivation he probably has enough in the gas tank to steal a big unsuspecting win, but of course motivation here may just not be a possibility according to past form.

24. Juan Carlos Gomez
It is undeniable that Gomez has a tremendous amount of boxing talent. His technical abilities are probably at a top ten level in terms of sheer talent in the Heavyweight Division. Of course against Sinan Samil Sam also present was his apparent lack of punching power. Now of course one could conclude Sam may in fact be able to take a pretty good punch but considering the actual quantity of clean punches landed one would assume eventually even attrition would have taken Sam out, it didn’t. Nevertheless despite these concerns Gomez seems to be a fighter that just may have the goods to move into the top ten in the near future. Of course the pace of which he has been moving of late suggests that we may all be dead by then. Since moving up to Heavyweight, Gomez has not accomplished much and seems to be spinning his wheels for the most part. A win over Al “Ice” Cole amounts to little at this point and Sam was fairly limited. To really judge Gomez at this level he has to step it up in terms of quality and considering he was recently outshone by Joe Mesi and Dominick Guinn on the same broadcast should give him plenty of motivation to do so. While Mesi and Guinn have gone on to fight again, Gomez seems to be doing more verbal sparring than fisticuffs. If Juan Carlos is going to make the splash that many expect him to do he better do it soon before he gets labeled as all talk and no action. His win over Sam and Cole are inferior to most of the fighters below him, but the fact that he remains undefeated places him above them. Although many would think he deserves a higher ranking based on his accomplishments at Cruiserweight, I would argue that these accomplishments are largely negligible in the context of the Heavyweight Division.

23. Oliver McCall
The very fact that Oliver is still alive never mind in the top 30 Heavyweight Rankings should be enough of an accomplishment. Through personal problems involving drug use and incarceration, Oliver’s career has been an odd one to watch, not least his mental breakdown in the ring against Lennox Lewis. In terms of his actions in the ring since then McCall is actually undefeated and unlike his era compatriot in Ray Mercer, has maintained his no loss column since then while also defeating a decent Heavyweight in Henry Akinwande. Now many may proclaim this win irrelevant but that is due to the public’s irrational perception of Akinwande’s “Ruiz Syndrome”. While John Ruiz has still not been forgiven his 19 second loss to David Tua, Henry Akinwande similarly has never been forgiven the hugging Henry label he acquired in his disqualification loss to Lennox Lewis. This discount of course diminishes McCall’s relatively impressive victory against a fighter that is better than any Heavyweight opponent defeated by any previously ranked fighter on this list. For McCall the future looks limited due to age and probably other problems as well. One blessing is the fact that he has the qualities that leave last in ones boxing career, power and durability. Oliver McCall’s right hand is still very potent as Akinwande found out and his ability to take a punch makes him a lingering danger. These factors make any cost/benefit analysis in choosing to fight McCall way too much potential cost for little benefit. Beating an old man amounts to little, losing to one is disastrous. Expect McCall to wind up his career in obscurity due to avoidance.

22. Michael Moorer
“Double M’s” recent loss to David Tua was nothing short of a disaster, a predictable one, but a disaster nonetheless. If “styles make fights” then this one was terrible for Moorer. A lazy fighter with no chin against a stalking fighter with a great chin and overwhelming power will usually equal a loss. So the question is what does Michael Moorer have left. Although not his former mid-90’s self he still has some decent technical skills. In fighting Terrance Lewis and Robert Davis when they were ‘A’ level journeymen he showed flashes of brilliance. Against Davis in particular in the first two round he looked his old devastating self throwing vicious combinations and knocking down his opponent repeatedly. Of course that fight also exposed a new second weakness in Moorer’s game, poor fitness. Once Davis survived the early rounds Michael started to fade in terms of stamina and by the end Davis was turning the fight around. Not a good sign for an attempt at a comeback. Of course a lack of motivation has long been attached to his name and nothing seems to indicate that has gone by the wayside. At this point it seems Moorer is just in it for a payday as opposed to moving up the ladder which of course allows us to largely dismiss him, but that may be premature. Within him still resides some strong technical ability and decent power and if he succeeds in calling Joe Mesi out into the ring with him I would think Mesi might find himself in some serious trouble. Moorer is here based on his win over the two (at the time) ‘A’ level journeyman as well, less so, on his past resume. Additionally it must be stated that Moorer has only lost to top ten opposition while those listed below him, with the exception of Gomez (and McCall of late) have recently lost to other fighters ranked in the twenties. Nevertheless, the loss against Tua hurts and tosses him to the fringe, but not lower than those below him. Another name loss in his next fight though would likely see him off the list altogether.

21. Clifford Etienne
Like Moorer, Clifford Etienne was also blown out in one round against a top ten fighter in Mike Tyson. But whereas Moorer was seemingly on an upswing in his comeback, though a little lethargic, Etienne was struggling to find his way back to where he was before his loss to Fres Oquendo, with little success. Etienne arrived on the scene as a hot prospect after slugging out victories, in a highly entertaining fashion, against good technicians in Lawrence Clay-Bey and Lamon Brewster. Things looked so good for Clifford that Showtime signed him to a multi-fight contract on the presumption the gravy train would continue, it didn’t. The first opponent on the contract was lightly regarded Fres Oquendo who took Etienne apart with ease and exposed gaping wide liabilities. Oquendo exposed in Etienne a terrible weakness, little ring intelligence. Oquendo knocked Etienne down with the same punch to the temple over and over again en-route to an embarrassingly easy victory. After some tune-ups and a much more difficult than it should have been victory over Terrance Lewis, Etienne fought Frans Botha to a draw. In none of these fights did Etienne seem to be improving, in fact he seemed to be regressing. By the time he faced Mike Tyson, Etienne was in some ways at a new low, no longer regarded as a real contender. Against Tyson his vacuous ring intelligence demonstrated itself again as he somehow ridiculously chose to slug in out toe to toe against one of the fiercest punchers in boxing history. Needless to say an early knockout loss was a forgone conclusion under these conditions. Since then Etienne career is on hold as he has not fought and is not scheduled to. The action packed contender has completely faded into obscurity. Is he done? Probably, unless somehow he can be taught a strategy other than coming forward and amateurishly throwing punches with little regard to defense. His rating ahead of Moorer is based on his more recent past pedigree against Brewster and Clay-Bey as well as the win over Terrance Lewis and draw against Botha. His recent defeats may have been worse but his recent accomplishments in terms of victories outweigh Moorer’s whose glory day victories are more distant and therefore less relevant at this point.

20. Henry Akinwande
Henry Akinwande is another fighter who can only be summed up as “underachiever”. This man had all the physical characteristic to be a top five heavyweight and yet his career ended up being a disappointment. He has tremendous height, reach, decent power, and had good athleticism for a man his size. During the 90’s he was a rising contender and garnered a fight against Lennox Lewis, and what did he do? He chose to slow dance his way to a disqualification. This made him acquire the nickname “Hugging Henry” as well as plenty of derision. A second chance at the top was taken away by hepatitis and cost him a shot at Evander Holyfield. By the time he was healthy his fleeting opportunities were gone and he had to rebuild from scratch. After the usual tomato cans he fought Mo Harris and in an unprecedented act very impressively knocked him out in one round. From here he moved into a fight with Oliver McCall and looked quite good until near the very end when he was leveled by a vicious right hand against the ropes and fell like a sack of potatoes to the ground. This loss has been followed up with a decision win against the always durable Timo Hoffman in Germany. One would think the McCall loss should place him below Oliver, but McCall’s incarceration, and inactivity, and Henry’s Hoffman win place him slightly above him amongst a pack of relatively weak Heavyweights.

19. Elicier Castillo
Elicier Castillo has been quite a puzzling fighter of late, losing to people he should not lose to in Tim Witherspoon, and defeating people he should have lost to in Lawrence Clay-Bey. The reason he is here is that he has something in the way of momentum and seems to be still improving. In three of his last four ‘name’ fights he has come away with a victory. Outside of a close decision loss to Charles Shufford he knocked out Andre Purlette, Clay-Bey and Corey ‘T-Rex’ Sanders. The real reason he is here was the defeat of Clay-Bey who was regarded as a superior fighter and who had a little bit of momentum behind him. During the fight Castillo started off behind but showed a determination and kept plugging away until he began to turn the initiative and suddenly pulled off a dramatic knockout. Castillo is in many ways a fairly pedestrian fighter that looks relatively unspectacular, and yet he is suddenly starting to get the job done. This momentum may continue if he can come away with another name win against Davarryl Williamson. If so one might have to throw him in with Joe Mesi and Dominick Guinn (though less so) as rising fighters to watch out for.

18. Monte Barrett
Monte Barrett arose around the similar time as Akinwande in an attempt to become a contender. Though he defeated many a journeyman, when he chose to step up he would aways get defeated to the likes of a Mount Whitaker or Wladimir Klitschko. After some inactivity he came back and garnered some momentum in a string of fights (though many of the fights were close). He defeated Tim Witherspoon who at this time had some momentum himself after defeating David Bostice and Elicier Castillo. This was followed by close wins against Robert Davis, Robert Wiggins and Eric Kirkland. This was recently ended by a loss to Joe Mesi but despite the result he did attain some respect in a close fight where he held the initiative in the end. Monte is a fairly good technical fighter with one major problem, he has little power. Yes he did knock down Joe Mesi, but this was largely due to Mesi being in the perfect position to be knocked down. Overall Monte tends to go the distance. Unexpectedly Barrett is now in a position of demand as a gatekeeper type fighter on HBO. Those who can get by him have a claim to crossing into the top 15; and those who do not do not. A Monte Barrett fight against Dominick Guinn would be very interesting at this point.

17. Mount Whitaker
Whitaker was one of those fighters who in many ways ended up disappointing HBO in terms of potentially having the good to make some waves amongst the Heavyweight elite. In a long chain of pretenders Mount followed Michael Grant and Oleg Maskaev in not living up to expectations. During his peak he found himself on a bit of a roll after defeating Monte Barrett, Robert Davis and Oleg Maskaev. His previous weakness seemed to be his tendency to pitty-pat his punches instead of gaining leverage on them. In the latter two victories that problem seemed solved. Then suddenly Mount ran into unheralded Jameel McCline and was decisively upset over the distance. McCline became the inheritor of the mantle and himself soon lost it as well against Wladimir Klitschko. Unlike McCline who has rebounded to take on something in the way of dangerous fights in Charles Shufford and Cedric Boswell. Whitaker has chosen to step a significantly lower and fight journeyman level fighters in Cliff Couser, Al Cole and Ray Austin (where he fought to a miserable draw). Is Whitaker’s confidence gone? Is he going to continue to fade into obscurity? It seems as such, at this rate it appears Mount is going to continue to downslide. At one point he was a viable latter top ten fighter, but as time goes on it seems the likelihood of a return to those modest heights seems remote indeed.

Article posted on 29.12.2003

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