2006: A Year Exposing the Overrated

27.10.06 - By Joseph Mathew: It is always extraordinary when we see a boxer’s name rise in popularity so quickly and then fall even faster. At one point, you think you’re observing the next big thing making history in the ring. Before you know it, poof, that name disappears like magic. He wasn’t everything you had expected him to be. But in reality, his downfall was inevitable.

This year, two significant names fell just as they seemed to be establishing themselves as couple of the world’s best in their division.

When Antonio Tarver lost by decision to Roy Jones Jr. in their first meeting, the decision was somewhat controversial. Many felt that Tarver was robbed. However, in their rematch, Antonio would not allow the fight to go the distance, knocking Jones out in the 2nd round. Tarver instantly made history, being the first man to ever knock out Jones, the pound-for-pound king.

On the other hand, ever since Jones returned to the light heavyweight division after winning the WBA heavyweight championship from John Ruiz, he did not appear to be himself. Roy even got knocked out in his next fight, this time by Glen Johnson in the ninth round. It became clear that the old Jones was gone. In the rubber match between Jones and Tarver, Roy showed an old glimpse of himself in the fifth round, getting cocky and connecting punches with lightening speed. It was downhill after that, and Jones lost by decision.

Before the rubber match between Tarver and Jones took place, most people figured that Roy was well past his prime. However, Antonio wanted to be recognized as the world’s best pound-for-pound boxer, and didn’t believe he was getting the respect he deserved. It probably didn’t help his reputation when he lost a close decision to Glen Johnson. Even when Tarver avenged his loss by defeating Johnson by a unanimous decision in their rematch, he had hardly redeemed himself. Still though, even if Antonio was not getting the full respect that he felt he had earned, his name was well known and many believed that he was the world’s best light heavyweight. Time would tell if he could be recognized as the new pound-for-pound king.

The moment of truth came for Antonio this past June. An aging Bernard Hopkins decided to move up to light heavyweight to face Tarver in one last megafight before walking away from boxing. Because Hopkins had lost his last two fights, many believed that it was the wrong move for him to fight at light heavyweight. Still though, Tarver’s resume would look even better with a win over Hopkins as well as his two wins over Roy Jones Jr.

When the fight finally took place, nobody would’ve known that Hopkins was past his prime or even the underdog. He outclassed Antonio Tarver earning the victory by a lopsided unanimous decision. The win would solidify Hopkins’ legacy as an all-time great. As for Tarver, considering the supreme talent of his opponent that evening, some would not hold his poor performance against him. Others would not be so merciful, feeling that Tarver was exposed as an overrated fighter and was given too much credit from his victories over Jones in the first place.

Those merciless fans are right. Tarver will always be known as the man to end Jones’ reign as the world’s top pound-for-pound fighter, and nothing more. Antonio’s struggles with Glen Johnson and Bernard Hopkins only proved that he is a good light heavyweight, but far from a pound-for-pound great. His future is unknown at this point.

The other name that fell from the top this year was Lamon Brewster. His victory over Wladimir Klitschko by 5th-round TKO in April of ’04 was indeed a huge upset. Even though Klitschko was knocked out in the 2nd round by Corrie Sanders one year earlier, it didn’t appear that anyone would stop him from working his way back up to the championship scene. When Brewster knocked him out, it was a massive shock to boxing fans especially because no one saw him as a major threat. For instance, he was a man who had been defeated by Charles Shufford and Clifford Etienne. As the new WBO champion, would Brewster get dominated or would he become great?

Brewster made his first title defense against Kali Meehan in September 4th of ‘04, but was not very impressive. Although he won by majority decision, some believed that the decision was wrong, and that Meehan had done enough to earn the victory. After the fight, Lamon claimed that it was difficult to fight Meehan because they were friends.

When Brewster had to face Andrew Golota in Chicago on May 21st of ’05, it was a fight that most people expected Golota to win and finally become a heavyweight champion. After losing controversial decisions to Chris Byrd and John Ruiz, there was no reason to believe that Golota would have any problems against a less popular champion in Brewster. So how easily would Golota defeat Brewster? Well, it was the other way around. As a matter of fact, it only took Lamon 53 seconds to prove the experts wrong. He knocked Golota down three times in the first round, causing the referee to bring a halt to the bout.

Brewster’s reputation shot up sky high over night. Boxing fans were even considering him to be the world’s top heavyweight. Scoring a knockout win over Golota was something that neither Chris Byrd nor John Ruiz could do. The presence of knockout power is exactly what boxing fans desire in a heavyweight champion. Besides, Vitali Klitschko wasn’t defending his title at the time due to his continuous injuries. So Lamon’s losses to Shufford and Etienne were forgotten, his lackluster performance against Meehan was forgiven, and all that mattered was the clear potential of him being the next dominant heavyweight champion.

His third defense was against mandatory challenger Luan Krasniqi on September 28th of last year. It was a very interesting bout. During the first half of the fight, Krasniqi was in complete control, out-boxing Brewster and winning on the scorecards. In the middle rounds, Lamon was able to land a few clean punches, which seemed to annoy Krasniqi. So he went back after Brewster to punish him. That would be his last mistake. Brewster continued to land power shots, and sent Luan down in the eighth round. However, he was able to get up before the ref could get to 10, in what was a disturbingly slow count. Krasniqi got in trouble again during the ninth round, and the ref stopped the fight.

Although Lamon successfully defended his title, some fans began to question how good he really was. If Krasniqi would’ve stuck to his game plan and just continued boxing Brewster, he could’ve become the new WBO Heavyweight Champion. Other fans just saw the win as another example of Lamon’s dominance. Sure, his skills could use some improvement, but certainly there was no questioning his heart, chin, or power. Would those qualities be good enough for Brewster to continue being a dominant heavyweight champion?

Earlier this year, on April 1st, Brewster defended his title against Sergei Liakhovich. Liakhovich was known for scoring a unanimous decision against Dominick Guinn, which contributed to Guinn’s downfall as a heavyweight contender. Nevertheless, that certainly didn’t warrant a shot at the WBO title. Perhaps it would only be a good tune-up for Brewster before facing other top-rated opponents, or maybe even unifying the titles.

The night of the fight, the April Fool’s joke was on Brewster. Sergei and Lamon went to war, and fought over twelve brutal rounds. Although Brewster had the heart, chin, and power, Liakovich also contained heart, chin, and power, but also had the skills to outpoint Brewster. Liakovich won by unanimous decision, and became the new WBO Heavyweight Champion.

Since then, Brewster has been recovering from injuries, which he suffered from his bout against Liakhovich. There’s no word on when he will be fighting again. Some people are anxiously awaiting his return. Other people have lost interest, and that’s easy to understand. Brewster was an underdog in the first place, losing to Klitschko on the scorecards before winning by TKO. Then he got a lucky decision win over Meehan, and was losing to Krasniqi before defeating him by TKO. His most impressive win was over Golota, a guy known for self-destructing. So overall, it was really only a matter of time before Brewster’s luck ran out. His future remains to be seen.

Names that will be exposed next year:

Nikolai Valuev – Against Monte Barrett earlier this month, Valuev showed that he had the chin and endurance to withstand Barrett’s attack. On the other hand, what if he faced a stronger puncher like Samuel Peter? What if he faced someone a little more respected like Wladimir Klitschko or Sergei Liakhovich? Better yet, how about rematches with Larry Donald and John Ruiz outside of Europe? When it comes down to it, Valuev does not have the tools to keep his WBA heavyweight title. Next year, he will have to face someone decent, and it will be his last title defense.

Cory Spinks – After getting a decision win over a very dishonorable Ricardo Mayorga, and defeating Zab Judah, Spinks indeed appeared to be the Next Generation” as his alias indicates. However, he hit a roadblock when Judah manhandled him in their rematch. When he chose to fight Roman Karmazin at super welterweight, he was not expected to win. Instead, he defeated Karmazin, but by a very close and somewhat controversial decision. Now that Cory is once again a world champion, he is ready to take the world by storm, and show everyone how good he really is. There’s no arguing that Spinks is a good fighter, but it is unlikely that he will continue to defeat top-ranked opponents. In a division led by Oscar De La Hoya, Jose Rivera, and Vernon Forrest, his title-reign will be temporary.

Article posted on 27.10.2006

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