The Future Of The Heavyweight Division

12.07.05 - By Tomasz Blanco: You know, I get the feeling that not too many of you, the readers, are pleased with the current state of the heavyweight division. Hopefully this article will cause you to forget the fact that John Ruiz does indeed holds a belt. You see, what most people in the western hemisphere don’t know, is that there is a myriad of great, exciting heavyweights coming up.. The reason why many of us westerners don’t know too much about them, is that all of them (with a few exceptions) are Eastern Europeans. There are so many, that I will not be able to inform you on all, but instead I have chosen five of the best. So, here you go:

5. ALEXANDER DIMITRENKO: 19 wins, 0 losses, 0 draws (12 KO’s)
Dimitrenko was a Junior World Champion as an amateur, but has already overshadowed any amateur achievements by what he has done as a heavyweight. “Baby Face” was just 19 years old when he made his pro debut, with a 4th round TKO over Marcus Johnson in December of 2001. He won his next eight in a row before beating fellow prospect Kendrick Releford by a point decision (6 rds.) in August 2003. His first real test came in November of 2004, when he won very handily over spoiler Julius Francis. He then beat fought twice in the next four months, winning against Andy Sample (TKO 2), and Ross Puritty (UD Eight). In his next fight, Dimitrenko showed his heart, getting up from the most picture perfect right hand you will ever see. It landed flush, and it appeared for a moment that Chris Koval (20-1) would add another victim to his mounting list of victories. However, like a true champion Dimitrenko showed his true colors by rising from the canvas, and pounding out a ten round unanimous decision. In his latest fight, just two weeks ago, he brutally stopped German Heavy Andreas Sidon in 2 rounds.

Throughout his pro career, Dimitrenko has proved that he knows how to use his size. At 6’7, 249 pounds, he has shown good power, a solid defense, good heart and chin. He has shown his ability to go the distance, but also has the power to stop his foe early. Keep an eye on this young guy.

4. VLADIMIR VIRCHIS: 18 wins, 0 losses, 0 draws (16 KO’s)
Virchis, a truly powerful Heavyweight, is ready to make his mark on a very prone heavyweight division. Ten of his opponents have never seen the fifth round. In his first major victory, he pounded out a 12 round UD over Julius Francis, a very decent test in September of 2003. In his next fight, just 4 months later he fought fellow prospect Balu Sauer. Balu was 17-1 at the time, but couldn’t stand up to the power of “The Hunter”, who KO’d him in 8 rounds. In June of 2004, he dominated Cliff Couser, dropping him in rounds 2, 3, and 5, before the referee mercifully stopped the fight in the 5th. His next fight, March 2005, Virchis faced his toughest opponent to date, Taras Bidenko. Bidenko was 14-1 at the time, his only loss coming to none other than Nicolay Valuev in Bidenko’s fourth fight. What was truly amazing was the fact that Bidenko took all of the Beasts best shots, and lost a decision, going 12 rounds with him. (At this point let me state that Bidenko just missed making this list.) Virchis however, is more powerful that Valuev, and in a scene reminiscent of a Marciano fight, Virchis stopped Bidenko in the final round, while trailing on the cards. In his latest fight, Virchis brutally KO’d Adnan Serin in the first round in May. Virchis has a fight scheduled for September.

Vladimir Virchis is 6’4, and weighs around 250 pounds, very solid. He has tremendous power, and what he lacks in speed, he makes up for with determination. He’s never been hurt in his career, and has only been behind once, in a fight in which he took the cards out of play.

3. TIMOR IBRAGIMOV: 19 wins, 0 losses, 1 draw (11 KO’s)
Timor Ibragimov, while he doesn’t consider himself much of a power puncher, has had all 11 of his KO’s come before round 5. Timor is trained by former Tyson trainer, Panama Lewis, who has only good things to say about both Ibragimov cousins. Ibragimov compared his own ring style to that of Ali…hopefully he can match Ali’s success. He has certainly been successful so far. His lone draw came against fellow unbeaten Kevin Johnson (now 7-0-1 with a win over Robert Wiggins) in June 2004. Timor has been very impressive in all of his fights, but two stand out: In March of 2005, Timor threw an overhand right that knocked Ronald Bellamy (14-1-4) out cold before he hit the ground! Bellamy lay motionless for quite some time, before being taken to hospital. In his last fight (June 2005), he brutally KO’d tough journeyman Rogerio Lobo in 4 rounds, breaking his nose with the punch.

Timor certainly has the goods, and claims that he and his cousin, Sultan, will rule the division by 2007. Possibly only a pipe dream, but with 36 wins and 0 losses between them, they are certainly on the right track!

2. SULTAN IBRAGIMOV: 17 wins, 0 losses, 0 draws (15 KO’s)
Sultan Ibragimov is considered to be the more talented of the two Ibragimov cousins. He had a stellar amateur career, including a silver medal victory in the 2000 Olympics, losing to all time great Felix Savon. Many thought Ibragimov should have received the gold. His amateur success has carried over into the pro ranks, as he has belted out just under a third of his opponents in one round! He has shown great power, and decent speed. His best test to date would be over the tough journeyman spoiler, Al Cole in March of 2005. Cole has gone the distance with heavyweight contender Hasim Rahman (losing 96-94 on all cards) and upset touted prospect Vinny Madalone. However, he was instantly outclassed by the much tougher Sultan Ibragimov. Sultan beat him around the ring before stopping him in three rounds. His next, just one month later, he fought another tough spoiler in Zuri Lawrence. Lawrence held a win over another great prospect, Paolo Vidoz. Vidoz had beaten Calvin Brock in one round, and had boxed Samuel Peter’s ears back as an amateur. However, he lacked any form of serious training, and lacked much desire in the fight, giving Lawrence the win. (Vidoz has since proved himself to be a very tough heavyweight, with a victory over Timo Hoffmann, and a fight with Nicolay Valuev). Lawrence hung tough against Ibragimov, but was behind on the cards before being stopped in the 11th round. In his latest fight, June of this year, he beat late sub Andy Sample in just 4 rounds.

Ibragimov has a lot of power, good speed and defense. Panama Lewis says Ibragimov has a lot of heart, and is very durable. At 6’2, and weighing a trim 217 pounds, Sultan can definitely be a force in the heavyweight division in a very short time!

1. RUSLAN CHAGAEV: 16 wins, 0 losses, 1 draw (13 KO’s)
Ruslan Chagaev is, in my opinion, the best heavyweight prospect in the world, bar none! He was a two time amateur world champion. He captured the gold medal at the 1997 World Championships by beating the legendary Felix Savon! He was stripped of his medal after it was discovered that he had two pro fights, but was later reinstated when they were ruled exhibitions. The undefeated southpaw returned to win the gold medal in the super heavyweight division at the 2000 World Championships by again beating Felix Savon. He won 82 or his 85 amateur fights! As a pro Chagaev has been impressive. In only his sixth fight, he dominated Rob Calloway, who was seconds away from being stopped when the fight was called a draw, due to a cut on Calloway caused earlier by a head butt. That fight took place in October of 2002. His next fight, May 2003, he stopped formerly unbeaten Zakeem Graham in three rounds. In 2004 he beat tough journeyman Sedrick Fields twice, once by UD (February) and once by KO in 2 (June). He stopped his next four opponents, before winning a lopsided 8 round decision over iron chinned Sherman Williams in March of this year.

Chagaev has an awkward style, being a southpaw. He has tremendous power, a very solid chin, and is extremely durable. In a total of 102 boxing matches, he has lost only three. He’s never been down as a pro. Keep an eye on Chagaev, known as the “White Tyson“. At 6’1 225, he’ll be at the top of the heavyweight division very soon!

Well, I have outlined above the best five prospects coming out of the east. I feel before closing that I must give mention to Alexander Povetkin, who just turned pro in June. He won everything possible as an amateur, and has (to my knowledge) only been down once in his entire boxing career! Unfortunately I can not name all the accomplishments of the many great fighters coming out of Eastern Europe, but take cheer heavyweight fans. If you think the division is dull right now, in only a few short years, it will become one of the most exciting divisions in boxing…you’ll just need a pronunciation manual!

Article posted on 12.07.2005

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