02.01.06 – By James Slater: The coming year surely can’t be any worse for the big boy’s division than the last twelve months. We saw the linear champion, and man with the most potential to bring some order to the whole sorry mess, in Vitali Klitschko retire. We were witness to two of the most dreadfully boring heavyweight fights in history with Chris Byrd vs. DaVarryl Williamson and Hasim Rahman vs. his buddy Monte Barrett. And finally, in England, we saw the sorry spectacle that was the Danny Williams vs. Audley Harrison ‘fight’, which, in a way, put the division in perspective. Imagine an undefeated Olympic Gold medallist and heavyweight prospect from years ago putting on such a lacklustre and pathetic showing. What a waste. Yes, surely, the following twelve months will be better than the last.
Prediction one… James Toney will defeat Hasim Rahman.
In March the new linear champ (as put there by the WBC’s votes, not by anything else) and now two time ruler, Hasim Rahman will defend against former middleweight king James Toney. As this is for the ‘real’ heavyweight title, it deserves to be spoken of first. Expect to see a successful challenge from the man who calls himself “Lights Out”. But don’t expect his nickname to be a possibility for “The Rock”. Nor will there be fireworks.
James will use all of his old school savvy to negate Rahman’s most potent weapon (and only chance of victory), his right hand, and in the process school him throughout a fight in which Rhaman will appear to be in an almost compliant mood, complete with slow motion (remember his fight with John Ruiz?). Really, does anyone have any faith in “The Rock” as the division’s new ruler? Does he even deserve to be back where he is? Look for James Toney to finally make his prediction – “Mark my words, I will be heavyweight champion of the world” – a reality. And this time, there will be no changing of the result to a no contest due to the involvement of
any illegal substances.
Prediction two… Nikolai Valuev will make a successful first defence of his WBA title
After ridding the sport (hopefully) of John Ruiz and (definitely) of Norman Stone, Valuev will do some more good work in the coming year. He will have more new fans tuning in to see him fight due, if nothing else, to the curiosity factor of seeing such a colossus in a boxing ring. But the bottom line is, more fans means good news for boxing. However, Valuev can actually box some and though his huge stature doesn’t guarantee spectacular KOs every time out, he is more than just a freak show and, until someone comes along and beats him, he deserves some respect. For how ever long his reign lasts I say good luck to him. At least he trains damn hard and is dedicated, which is more than you can say about many other heavyweights in the world right now. Right Audley?
Prediction three… Lennox Lewis will stay retired.
We’ve all heard the rumours about his troubled finances but don’t expect to see a return to the ring by Lennox. He is destined to go down in history as one of the smart ones. Along with Gene Tunney and Rocky Marciano, the urge to box again (which has caused some serious temptation, be assured of that) will be resisted. Lennox is excited about a film career, which if successful will satisfy both his ego and his bank manager. So, clearly, he has other interests outside of boxing – he isn’t Evander Holyfield, who seemingly cannot think of much else other than fighting! Lewis will remain a good role model and ambassador for boxing. He is too smart to risk his good guy reputation not to mention his health. He will stay retired which is good for the sport as he will neither embarrass himself nor it with another shot at glory.
Prediction four… Vitali Klitschko will come back!
In a twist that some maybe didn’t actually see coming, the former King from The Ukraine will make a comeback. He retired due to frustration more than anything else and by the summer or the autumn, he will really start to miss the sport he loves and make a return. With his massive body healed he will feel, and claim to be, better than ever and a route back to the top
will be mapped out. He is still young enough to do it again and, let’s face it, a lot of people would love to see him shut James Toney’s mouth. If this match up comes about the heavyweight division will once again command a lot of headlines in the media. Possibly for many of the wrong reasons but still, beggars can’t be choosers. I can just imagine the press conference for this fight already, take cover!
So, by the year’s end the man who depressed us all by retiring and in the process failing to live up to his potential and expectations of bringing back order to the sport’s premier division will actually do so, one year later, for a while at least.