Saturday, February 26, 2005

State of Heavyweight Boxing

By JE Grant

Today's crop of heavyweight boxers are poised to rise to a credible level. The current "champions," Vitali Klitschko (WBC); Chris Byrd (IBF); John Ruiz (WBA); and Lamon Brewster (WBO) can only be described at this point as contenders. Hopefully, this muddle will be cleared with some kind of tournament.

Klitschko appears to be the best of the lot but it will take wins over Byrd (especially since Klitschko's infamous "no-mas" in their WBO bout) and the others to close the loop. Such a closing of the loop is problematic when we add the name of Wladimir Klitschko to the mix -- as he is likely the next contender for Byrd's title. A W. Klitschko victory would certainly mean that no complete unification would take place inasmuch as the brothers Klitschko will never fight one another. Klitschko next faces perhaps the number two man in the division today, former champion Hasim Rahman. This is no give-me. An upset is possible, but Rahman's chin may let him down again.

Byrd is a capable, light-hitting, smallish stylist. He is not quite as slippery as he was just a few years ago. More importantly, he has recently retained his title with a highly questionable win over Fres Oquendo, and an equally debatable draw with Andrew Golota. Don't be surprised if W. Klitschko once again pounds on Byrd in a mismatch.

John Ruiz is every promoter's nightmare. He does enough to win but his bouts are incredibly hard to watch. He mauls, he holds, he does everything he can to lull an audience to sleep. I agree with him on one point, however, we need one champion. Fortunately, if his proposed bout with James Toney comes to fruition, that one champion won't be a guy named Ruiz.

Finally, Lamon Brewster gets into the mix only because of his victory over W. Klitschko. His first title defense, a 12-round fiasco over unheralded and only semi-talented Kali Meehan, left no one with the feeling that he will be the future of the division. He has to do better in his upcoming defense against Andrew Golota or he'll be a former champion in short order.

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