Paul McCreath: If you look at the current rankings of the world’s heavyweight boxers it does not take a genius to realize that many of the best known names are getting old. Tony Thompson, John Ruiz, Oleg Maskaev, Matt Skelton, Andrew Golota, James Toney,S hannon Briggs, Evander Holyfield and Luan Krasniqi are all at least 36 years of age. Hasim Rahman is 35 and also slipping. It seems likely that most if not all of these fighters will be gone in another couple of years..
Naturally these men will be replaced by younger ones, names that are already becoming familiar like Alex Povetkin, Alex Dimitrenko, Chris Arreola, and Chazz Witherspoon. Unfortunately the list of top prospects is smaller than the one of the fading veterans and we know too that not all prospects are going to make it to become contenders or champions. If the heavyweight division is not going to fall into total ruin we are going to have to see some dark horses make their way to the top.
One such longshot that I think is worth watching is Joey Abell. Now let us make one thing clear: Joey is not a hotshot who is ready to crash the ratings anytime soon. This is a work in progress at least a couple of years away from getting to where let us say Chris Arreola is today. Still there is a lot to like about Joey.
First of all is his size and good punching power. He stands 6 foot 4 inches and weighs around 240 pounds. Unlike most heavies today he is not fat. He currently has a pro record of 19-1 with 18 KO wins and a no contest in his first bout in 2005. He KO’d the same opponent in his next fight while running off a string of 9 strait wins, all by KO,a streak which ended when he was upset by Aaron Lyons by first round KO.Lyons was 3-0 at the time and some felt the stoppage was rather premature. Joey has been trying to arrange a rematch which so far has not happened. He is young at 26 years and fights as a lefty.
Another thing I like about Joey is that he stays active. In 2007 he fought 8 times and has already appeared twice in 2008. Although he hails from Coon Rapids Minnesota, hardly a hotbed of boxing, he fights all over the place. We know you have to beware of records that originate in the mid-west states but Abell has appeared 8 times at the Blue Horizon club in Philadelphia. Philly fans like action and it appears a good sign that Joey who is an outsider would be invited back so often. He has also fought in Canada, St.Lucia ,and 3 times in Sweden where he has proven quite popular. He has some Swedish roots in his family.
I have seen Joey fight several times and quite frankly his early fights were at times pretty ugly. He had little to offer except size and good power.Most of his wins came against pretty soft foes as you would expect although he defeated 2 men who were also undefeated at the time. In November of last year he took his first important step up when he was matched in St.Lucia with unbeaten Teke Oruh, the big Nigerian with a 14-0-1 record . If you saw this bout on Showtime you were probably not impressed. It was contested at a very slow pace and Oruh in spite of being the undefeated prospect looked like he was only there to survive rather than win. Abell was not his usual aggressive self either. He was hesitant to let his hands go and used a much more cautious style, boxing rather than punching. In the end Joey won a majority decision which I think he deserved.
Oddly enough it was this unimpressive outing that convinced me that Joey has possibilities. The punching power hasn’t gone away but he is learning to box. You have to compare what he is now to what he was. His defence used to be terrible.Now it is just weak. He is much lighter on his feet and is beginning to throw combinations. You might say he is trying to do what Wlad Klitschko has done the past few years by fighting more cautiously to take fewer punches. He is nowhere near Wlad in ability of course and he will never be an Ali technically either but he is getting better.
Last time out,Minnesota Ice as Joey is called scored a second round KO in Sweden over Ratko Draskovic who had a 28-7-2 record. This is not as good as it looks. Ratko is 42 years old and was KO’d by Sinan Samil Sam just 2 weeks before. One has to wonder why he was allowed to fight but he was a late replacement for another fighter. Abell’s next fight is back at the Blue Horizon on April 11 against Mo Wheeler who has a 10-11-1 record. Obviously Abell is being brought along carefully but this is necessary in his case because he has a lot to learn. We have to look at the potential here rather than the impressive victories. With his power and improving technique he has a chance but like I said it will take another couple of years.
Let us hope that Joey Abell and maybe some others like him will surprise us in the coming years. In the meantime, keep an eye on him.