By JE GrantPerhaps the month of August will go down in boxing history as one of most pivotal in heavyweight history. With Oleg Maskaev’s demolition of Hasim Rahman no American is on the precipice of dominating the division. Of course some have already forgotten the Lennox Lewis – decidedly non-American – did dominate the division. He was likely the actual precursor to today’s situation.
But, is this new eastern European takeover for real? Will it last? Undefeated Calvin Brock will get a crack at the man most consider the best of the lot, Wladimir Klitschko. Shannon Briggs will likely meet Serguei Liakhovich. Oleg himself, apparently having passed on a lucrative November match with Klitschko, will now probably have to face the winner of the Samuel Peter – James Toney showdown. Finally Nicolay Valuev will take on Monte Barrett, a fighter who based on his record does not rate a shot but who nevertheless has a chance at victory.
In each case, potential American victories are real possibilities.
Of course in September is the much-awaited Samuel Peter – James Toney showdown. The Nigerian Peter has a chance to break away from the pack of contenders while James Toney gets a chance to score his first victory over a legitimately ranked top 10 heavyweight. Almost certainly the winner will get some kind of title shot.
Naturally the monthly compilation had important insights provided by my heavyweight wunderkinds Brian Bizzack and Troy Ondrizek. Both heavyweight watchers continue to get the inside track on heavyweights across the globe.
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1. Wladimir Klitschko
, Ukraine – IBF Champion (Last month #1) A real life showdown with undefeated Calvin Brock will replace the previously scheduled November date with Shannon Briggs. Brock is perhaps the top active American fighter (with Brewster sidelined with an eye injury). It is apparent that Klitschko is not taking the easy road --- and congratulations to him for it.
2. Serguei Liakhovich
, Belarus – WBO Champion (Last month #3) Okay his planned date with Kevin McBride didn’t happen. We should all breathe a sigh of relief. It looks like he will pick up the tossed out Shannon Briggs in a November defense. This is no cake-walk. It’s good to see that the “White Wolf” is not going to be sucked into the journeyman circuit that is ruining Nicolay Valuev’s claim to the belt.
3. Lamon Brewster
, USA (Last month #4) There is a possibility that with his eye injury he will be left behind by a fast-moving heavyweight train. He would prove stiff competition to any of the belt-wearers and has to be considered America’s best heavyweight. Everything hinges on his ability to recover from the injury.
4. Calvin Brock
, USA (Last month #5) A title bout with Klitschko in November will prove to be a giant leap for Brock and a chance for as much glory as one man can handle. With a win in this fight Brock would become a household name.
5. Samuel Peter
, Nigeria (Last month #7) All indications are that his training is going well as he prepares for James Toney. The winner of that fight has tremendous possibilities. The loser goes to the back of a long line. Look for Peter to make the most of this opportunity.
6. Oleg Maskaev
, Uzbekistan / USA – WBC Champion (Last month #13) The “Big O’s” knockout victory over Hasim Rahman has to put him in a class with James Braddock. Many of us figured years – yes years – ago that he was finished. In recent years we’ve noted how much slower and easier to hit he has become. And, just when you think you know something as a hard fact, the beauty of boxing shines through and we’re met with a big surprise. Not only did he capture the brass ring he did it in stunning fashion in the last round of a close fight. A 37 year-old man who could put together a 12th round like that after a tough struggle against a strong and able foe must be admired. Oh, and by the way, the “Big O” is indeed an American citizen and as such it is he who becomes the sole USA title-holder.
7. Hasim Rahman
, USA – (Last Month #2) We’ve likely seen the last of Rahman at the pinnacle of the sport. Yes, last month and for many months before that we touted the “Rock” as one of the top two heavyweights in the world. Clearly his rematch loss to Oleg Maskaev puts him behind the “Big O” for good. We certainly can’t imagine that he would fare any better against Klitschko or Liakhovich. He can still pick up some paychecks but he won’t wear a belt again. At least that is the conventional wisdom.
8. James Toney
, USA (Last month #8) He was very fortunate to get a gift draw against Rahman and now that he’s seen the “Rock” blown out by the crudely skilled Maskaev perhaps even he is wondering about the illusion of heavyweight greatness he has fostered. Look for big Sam Peter to take care of business.
9. Nicolay Valuev
, Russia – WBA Champion (Last month #9) Now that the entire division title-holding contingent originates from the former Soviet Union you would think big Nick would want to clean house and win over the home crowd. Instead he’s defending in the U.S. against Monte Barrett who simply does not rate a title shot now. Chalk this up to a lost opportunity.
10. Sultan Ibragimov
, Russia (Last month #10) Perhaps his narrow escape against the clever Ray Austin will open his eyes. Maybe he’ll realize that he has to be at his best every night to be the best. He must shoot for some redemption – a rematch with Austin would do it – before challenging for a belt.
11. Ray Austin
, USA (Last month #11) The “Rainman” needs to sign for a fight soon. Action should become his middle name. Considering his age and relative ability, he simply can’t wait around and live off the good performance against Ibragimov.
12. John Ruiz
, USA (Last month #12) According to the August 17th WBA ratings he remains the organization’s number 1 contender. As mentioned last month, Ruiz has not won a fight since November 2004. The WBA’s sanctioning of Nicolay Valuev’s defense against Owen Beck and presumably against Monte Barrett, coupled with its continued number 1 ranking of Ruiz, may lead the organization to surpass the IBF as the biggest joke in boxing. A giant feat. Ruiz may face Ruslan Chagaev in a title eliminator.
13. Shannon Briggs
, USA (Last month #14) Out with one title shot in with another. At least “The Cannon” can say that he is one person who has benefitted from the gaggle of alphabet soup organizations. He won’t have an easy time with Liakhovich. The titlist is not one of the many club-circuit guys that Briggs has been chasing down of late. Briggs better not arrive at 273 pounds. If he does, he will not see the last round.
14. Ruslan Chagaev
, Uzbekistan (Last month #15) Rumors are swirling that Chagaev may face John Ruiz. Should he win, the undefeated 27 year-old would supposedly move to the head of the line for a shot at Valuev. Believe it when you see. Nonetheless, the fight will provide a solid opportunity for Chagaev to prove he belongs near the top 10.
15. DaVarryl Williamson
, USA (Last month #16) Not a whisper from “Touch of Sleep” since solid win in May over Mike Mollo. What are you waiting for “D?”
16. Fres Oquendo
, USA (Last month #18) Look, we thought when Lou DiBella took over his promotional reins that Oquendo would flourish but so far we’ve not seen much. He has a couple of unimpressive wins in his latest comeback but hasn’t shown much else of late.
17. Matt Skelton
, England (Last month #18) A win over Danny Williams has not produced a top 10 rating in any of the alphabets. At age 39 it is important for Matt to engage only in meaningful contests. He likely does not have the talent to excel at the top of the division but he rates a chance.
18. Jameel McCline
, USA (Last month #19) A possible date with emerging Argentina’s Gonzalo Omar Basile may be in the works. “Big Time” is the epitome of an athlete that won’t give up and will sacrifice to live up to his potential. It remains to be seen how much he has left in the tank, but we can all agree that the big guy is giving it his all.
19. Danny Williams
, England (Last month #20) Danny was given a chance at the British title against champion Scott Gammer but turned it down. He is in a holding pattern that will erode quickly if he is not able to do something big very soon.
20. Luan Krasniqi
, Germany (Last month #21) Krasniqi apparently pulled out of negotiations for a September match with surging Tony Thompson. The “Lion” has only a win over journeyman David Bostice since being blasted out by Lamon Brewster. For reasons we can only guess about, Krasniqi is still ranked number 1 by the WBO. So, instead of proving his ability against Thompson, it looks as though he can sit back, relax and wait for a title match to be handed to him on a silver platter. If you wonder how the so-called sanctioning bodies adversely impact on the sport, here is a perfect example.
21. Tony Thompson
, USA (Last month #22) Krasniqi avoided him but we have high hopes the “Tiger” will be back in action soon.
22. David Tua
, New Zealand (Last month #23) – Nothing scheduled since the tough guy returned with a win in July. He can still be a force if he remains active.
23. Vladimir Virchis
, Ukraine (Last month #24) The “Hunter” is gaining a reputation as a tough guy. Recently crowned the European champ (not always a very meaningful accolade), he will get his chance soon enough at some well-placed opponents.
24. Monte Barrett
, USA (Last month #25) He can upset the all-eastern European cartel if he can get past the long arms of Nicolay Valuev. It’s a tall order for the relatively inactive campaigner.
25. Eddie Chambers
, USA (Last month unranked) “Fast” Eddie, moved to 27-0, with a fifth-round stoppage of Domonic Jenkins in August. This guy needs to be on TV. American talent is out there.
*************************************************************************Prospects, fringe contenders, and others who need mentioning listed in no particular order. Don’t read the fact that they are listed here as an indication a ranking is imminent. Regular readers should also note that I’ve taken off some names that were here in months past who still rate attention. We're highlighting activity and when potentially top fighters have bouts scheduled you’ll likely see them reappear.
, USA (Last month #6) Clearly Chris could remain somewhere in the top 25, but he is (wisely) going to campaign in the cruiserweight division. Fight fans will likely gain a newfound respect for the long-time belt holder as he competes against men his size.Joe Mesi
, USA – Another embarrassing venture in August resulted in a victory over an opponent who now sports a record of 9-28. Mesi is now 32-0 and it is high time that he started fighting opponents who can punch back. The one bright spot in the effort was that he dropped seven pounds since his last outing.Chazz Witherspoon
, USA – The undefeated, but puzzling, Chazz will be in action in Philly in October. We’ll all see what he learned from his television debut. Taking the mantle of top American heavyweight is up for grabs.Alexander Povetkin
, Russia – No opponent has been named but he has a bout scheduled for September. This man deserves your close attention.Gonzalo Omar Basile
, Argentina – He won his 11th bout of the year to carry his record to 25-1. This man is very busy. Rumors are buzzing of a bout with Jameel McCline. If this pans out, we’ll know very soon if he can really mix it up.J.D. Chapman
, USA – The 24-0 (21 KOs) youngster is scheduled for a September date making him one of the most active heavyweights on the scene. He still has a lot to learn and it appears he’s willing to do it the old-fashioned way – by fighting.Denis Boytsov
, Russia – The 16-0 (15 KOs) star in the making will campaign in September against Ondrej Pala in Germany. At 20, he’s still maturing.Roman Greenberg
, England (via Israel) – The tough youngster reportedly signed with Warriors Boxing in Florida. Hopefully the 22-0 phenom begins to face some competition tougher than the European chopped liver he’s met to date. He shows some promise.Damian Wills
, USA – This young Californian decisioned Cisse Salif in August to move to 21-0-1. The only blemish on his record is a draw with the oft-beaten Sedreck Fields, though he avenged the loss earlier this year. We’ll need to see more to evaluate him. Now is certainly the time to be an American who can actually fight.Scott Gammer
, England – The undefeated Welshman came very close to a British title defense against Danny Williams. Of course that bout has fallen through but he’s still set to defend his belt against once-beaten Michael Steeds. Steeds’ lone loss in his 8-1 career is to none other than Gammer.Travis Walker
, USA – The Floridian, now 20-0-1 (16 KOs), Tallahassee, Fla., decisioned Andrew Greeley in August. He next faces former Olympian Jason Estrada later this fall.Jason Estrada
, USA – He faces fellow unbeaten Travis Walker in an unusual circumstance – two top prospects facing off early in their respective careers. Wish we saw more of this.Malachy Farrell
, USA – Now 15-0 (12 KOs), the Chicago native , knocked out Shannon Miller, 14-2 (8 KOs) in the fifth round of a scheduled eight in August. To date, Farrell’s record is filled with wins against opponents with losing records. This bout obviously represented a step up for the 26 year-old.