29.12.03 – By Mike Bearenhof: 2003 was a pretty confusing year for the for the Heavyweight Division. The 3 champion that we started the year with were either beaten, won controversial decision, or had controversial stoppages in their favor. The state of the Division in 2003 was best shown when the former Middleweights Roy Jones Jr. and James Toney made successful debuts against top rated Heavyweights. You have to work with what you got though, there certianly wont be any mega-matchups like in the 90’s when Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield, but it could potentially be a good year for the wounded division. So, lets get straight into it, here are some possible match-ups that could help stablize the division:

1. Lennox Lewis vs. Vitali Klitschko II

This is a very obvious choice. In June 2003 we saw that Vitali Klitschko is a very serious threat to the division and to the reigning champion Lennox Lewis. Some even go as far to say that Vitali should be the champion, because the cut was opened up by a headbutt and the fight should have gone to the scorecards. If this had happened Vitali would have won the fight being that he was ahead on all scorecards, even HBO says the cut was opened up by a headbutt.

There is more to this strory though than the controversial first fight. After Vitali’s destruction of legitimate Top 10 contender Kirk Johnson, most have picked him beat the 39 year old Lennox Lewis and become the new Lineal Heavyweight Champion. People should remember though, that a focused and well conditioned Lennox Lewis is a very dangerous fighter. In every fight that Lennox Lewis was defeated or drawed, he came back and dominated. Oliver McCall, Evander Holyfield and Hasim Rahman all found that their second outing with Lennox Lewis was a far different fight than their first.

Vitali Klitschko could walk into the same trap, but I really doubt it. Even with all the skill, size, and power that Lennox Lewis has, it is hard to believe that at 39 years old he can beat Vitali Klitschko. Lennox has been KO’d twice already in early rounds, and Vitali Klitschko is far better fighter than Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman. With Lennox Lewis’s advanced age and lack of activity, his reflexes are going to be dangerously slowed.

Vitali Klitshko will win this by KO in under 8 rounds.

2. Roy Jones Jr. vs. Mike Tyson

This seems to be the only fight that would truely get the public intrested. If properly promoted this fight could get over 1.5 million PPV buys and be one of the most profitable in history. Some have claimed that this fight will never happen for various reason, it’s doubtful that HBO, Showtime, and Don King would be able to turn their heads away from a fight that could make over 100 million dallors. Mike Tyson’s contract with Showtime only has one fight left on it anyways, after that he is free to fight on whatever Network he wants.

To most boxing fans though there is more than money here, it is history. Roy Jones Jr. is widely regarded as the Pound for Pound greatest fighter today, dispite the fact he has never held a lineal title or faced many strong oppenents. He fought Benard Hopkins eleven years ago and James Toney ten years ago, both of which had not yet reached their full potential. Many people have accused Jones of never taking risks and only taking fights that he is assured a victory, those accusation wouldn’t hold up if he faces the bone-breaking power of Mike Tyson.

Although clearly past his prime, Tyson still has the chin and power to be a competitive force. In his last fight with top 20 type fighter Clifford Etienne, Tyson made a dramatic showing. He came into the fight in exellent condition, he was 10 pounds lighter than his previous fight with Lennox Lewis and had Freddie Roach in his corner, there was also that first round KO. It would appear that Tyson may make one last comeback. Tyson has promised the public that he will fight three times in 2004, including an upcoming fight in April. Although Tyson often make claims and doesn’t back them up, this time there is probably no reason to deny him, simly put he needs the money. This isn’t one of those situations where Tyson can take one huge mega-payday fight, Tyson has to win a few fights with credible oppenents to be considered legimate and marketable again.

If Tyson comes into this fight in the same condition as the Etienne fight, it is difficult to believe that even a fighter as skilled as Roy Jones Jr could beat Mike Tyson. Jones doesnt have the power to KO Tyson or really even keep Tyson away. Jones’s speedy hands and feet can not prevent Tyson from missing every shot, even Ruiz managed to land on Jones.

Mike Tyson will KO Roy Jones Jr. in under 6 rounds.

3. James Toney vs. Wladimir Klitschko

Only question marks surround these two fighters in the Heavyweight Division. A few years ago most thought that James Toney was done as a fighter, but with a UD over Vassily Jirov and dramatic TKO over Evander Holyfield he proved alot of people wrong. Now James Toney is preparing to fight top 20 fighter Jameel McCline. Dont count on seeing McCline beating the odds in that fight, James Toney win that fight by a UD. Beating a 41 year old Holyfield and B level contender Jameel McCline doesnt exactly make James Toney ready to face a young and experienced Heavyweight like Wladimir Klitschko though.

Even with Wladimir’s devastating loss at the hands of Corrie Sanders, his is still the most physically skilled Heavyweight out there, a testimate to his victory over Chris Byrd. Along with skill Wladimir brings nothing less than pure Heavyweight size and power. Wladimir’s recent victories have put him back into the rankings, but still behind James Toney. Currently the WBC ranks James Toney #8 and ranks Wladimir #9, a fight between these two could put them into the top 5 of every legitimate ranking body. The only possible problem now is that Wladimir is a HBO fighter and it is looking clear that James Toney is becoming a Showtime fighter.

Although James Toney is extremely skilled, it must be noted that he is 35 years old, 5′ 10″ (yet is 220lbs.), and has only one heavyweight fight on his record. Wladimir is 27 years old, 6′ 6″, 240lbs of all muscle, has an 81in. reach, and has fought over 40 heavyweight fights. Even with Wladimir’s questionable chin, if these two were to fight the physical mismatch would most likely overwhelme James Toney.

Wladimir Klitschko will win a UD over James Toney.

4. Dominick Guinn vs. Joe Mesi

These are probably the two most talked American prospects in the division, and both are borderline top 10 contenders. As skilled a Dominick Guinn is, the attention has been laid squarely on Joe Mesi. Mesi’s first big fight was against DaVarryl Williamson on HBO in September, most people were split down the middle on this fight, but Mesi mading a shocking national debut with a huge 1st round KO, putting DaVarryl “Touch of Sleep” Williamson out for 4 minutes. Riding on 18 straight knockouts Mesi faced a proven veteran contender in Monte Barrett. Most people picked Mesi to destroy Barrett in under 4 rounds, but Barrett had a different plan. He came into the fight in absolutely superb physical condition. Mesi dominated Barrett in the first 6 rounds, knocking him down in the 5th and giving him such a beating in the 6th that the ring doctor checked to see if Barrett was still coherant. Than, Barrett’s superior condition started to show, in the 7th round he sent Mesi onto the Canvas and gave Mesi a beating up until the 10th round.

Although It was one of Mesi’s poorer performance, he deserves credit for the win. Going into the 7th round Mesi had a big lead on all the scorecards, and didn’t have to keep going after Barrett, Mesi could have used his superior reach to popshot Barrett, but Mesi choose to fight. When Mesi was knocked down he was up by the count of two and still went after Barrett and absorbed 3 more rounds of punishment, and giving all he had left in the 10th round. Although both fighters deserve credit, Mesi won more rounds and won a legitimate decision.

Like Mesi, Guinn is also coming off a hard fought victory over journeyman Derrick Banks, unlike Mesi’s last fight though, Guinn’s wasnt televised. The last televised fight Guinn had was in September on HBO, he won a UD over the monster Duncan Dokiwari. It was a very good fight, Guinn showed tremendous skill as he picked Dokiwari apart in the ten round fight. Along with skill Guinn showed that he had a good chin, as he took some flush shots from the bigger and stronger Dokiwari. Another fight that Guinn had on HBO was against former contender Michael Grant in which he TKO’d Grant in the 7th round. Although Guinn’s skills are evident, he has been known to a passive fighter, both Grant and Dokiwari could have been put away much earlier. This may be one of the reason that Guinn hasn’t been ranked as high as Mesi.

This fight could quite easily go either way, and that is one of the reasons why the fight should happen. It would show the world who is the real thing without one of them being dragged all the way to the top only to be humiliated by a real top 10 fighter. Guinn needs to face some tougher competition though, even the guys that Mesi has fought are of higher class than Grant, Dokiwari, and Banks.

Joe Mesi wins this by KO in under 7 rounds. (But Guinn could easily pull out a UD)

5. David Tua vs Juan Carlos Gomez

Both are proven fighters, but still have to show that they are worthy of being ranked in top 10. In 2002 Tua did have 2 very successful KO victories against Michael Moorer and Fres Oquendo, putting him into the top 10. 2003 was a different year for Tua though, the only fight he had was a draw against Hasim Rahman. Even though Tua has exellent power, he is probably not championship material, his loses to Lennox Lewis and Chris Byrd has put him in the position of “Gatekeeper”. This position would be perfect to see if Juan Carlos Gomez is worthy to be in the top 10.

Although Juan Carlos Gomez was great Cruiserweight, the heavyweight division is a much different landscape. Even though he has shown the power the KO most Cruiserweights, he has had to rely on his boxing ability to give him UDs in the heavyweight division. The granit chinned David Tua would be the perfect person for Juan Carlos Gomez to either display his superior skills or get exposed of and KO’d.
David Tua would win this by KO in under 5 rounds.

Finally, Evander Holyfield vs. Reality

Out of all the champions in this era, Evander Holyfield is probably my favorite. He is the only Heavyweight Champion since Michael Spinks to have fought the championship distance of 15 rounds. His ring record truely speaks for itself: Larry Holmes, George Foreman, Riddick Bowe (three times), Michael Moorer (twice), Mike Tyson (Twice), Lennox Lewis (twice), Hassim Rahman and Chris Byrd. Even in the later part of his carrer, there is no way anybody could acuse Evander Holyfield of ever ducking of fight.

At the age of 41 though, it is sadly over for Evander Holyfield. It is not like when George Foreman made a comeback in his 40’s, because Foreman’s power was still there, and power is always the last thing to leave a fighter. Evander Holyfield’s power is still there, but that really isnt saying much because he never had spectular power in the first place. Having low power, slowed reflexed, a small frame and the heart of warrior can only have bad outcomes for any fighter, even Holyfield.