Top 25 Heavyweights (As of October, 2006)
Of course the big controversy in September occurred in the Sam Peter – James Toney eliminator bout. Toney appeared to have outpointed Peter but the split vote went the other direction. The WBC decided to over-rule a prior notification that the winner would be a mandatory challenger to Oleg Maskaev. Of course stranger things have happened before – Toney gained an earlier shot at Hasim Rahman as the “mandatory” when the WBC decided to skip over its then-number one contender Maskaev. Don’t worry about figuring out the wild decisions of any of the alphabets and don’t think for one moment that any one of them can lay legitimate claim to being better or more noble than any of the others.
October brings with it a title defense of sorts when Nicolay Valuev takes on the long-dormant Monte Barrett. This bout does not inspire any great faith in the big guy. Perhaps at some point he will choose to take on a top contender.
Although there are minimal changes since last month, some of the shifts are noteworthy. The injured Lamon Brewster begins to fall as months pass with no word on a possible comeback.
The performances of James Toney and Sam Peter were convincing enough to indicate that both Maskaev and Rahman would be hard-pressed to beat either.
Once again, many thanks to Brian Bizzack and Troy Ondrizek. Each continues to provide insight and information that improve this compilation.
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1. Wladimir Klitschko, Ukraine – IBF Champion (Last month #1) Potentially the best matchup awaits when Klitschko faces undefeated Calvin Brock in November. Brock has enough power to pose a legitimate threat. He’s also very available to receive Klitschko quick-fisted attack.
2. Serguei Liakhovich, Belarus – WBO Champion (Last month #2) The real question when Liakhovich faces Shannon Briggs is which Briggs will show up. If a svelte 245 pound Briggs meets Liakhovich it may actually be a fight for a while. If Briggs is 273, as he was for his last bout, it will be an early and easy night for the “White Wolf.”
3. Calvin Brock, USA (Last month #4) Brock has re-signed with his old promoter and presumably with some more money in his account. It’s a good thing he secured his cash now because in November he faces his stiffest challenge, Wladimir Klitschko. He’ll go in a decided underdog. No doubt that he needs to raise his game in every department if he is to conquer the speedy, hard-hitting titlist Klitschko. He does have the one attribute that has proven effective --- he can hit with authority. That is likely his only real chance for victory.
4. Lamon Brewster, USA (Last month #3) As much as we hate to admit it, Brewster’s eye injury has already dealt a blow to Lamon’s activity level. If and when he returns, he’ll need a few bouts against lesser opponents to get him back in the flow.
5 (Tie). Samuel Peter, Nigeria (Last month #5) In this column last month we said Peter would take care of old man James Toney --- but it did not happen, despite the scores. Big Sam looked good in spots and he did land some heavy leather. Unfortunately Toney’s pecking and poking shots landed with much greater frequency and with enough authority to deserve the nod.
5 (Tie). James Toney, USA (Last month #8) I was fully prepared to push “Lights Out” into the bottom ten, assuming a big loss to Peter. But let’s face it, he was ripped off. He landed plenty and withstood the occasional mega-shots from the young, strong Peter. Toney showed he has some juice in his tank. Anyone on this list would have a difficult night against him.
7. Oleg Maskaev, Uzbekistan / USA – WBC Champion (Last month #6) The “Big O” decided against the huge money shot at the best heavyweight, Wladimir Klitschko, in order to take on the completely undeserving Peter Okhello in Moscow in December. Okhello fights most often in Japan and has never beaten anyone remotely near the world-class level. His most notable opponent was tough journeyman Kali Meehan – to whom he lost. He appears to have a little kick in his punches, but it is hard to tell given his slate of opponents to date.
8. Hasim Rahman, USA – (Last Month #7) The still fairly marketable Rahman may next face Sinan Samil Sam in Germany in some kind of WBC eliminator. One never really knows what the WBC has in mind.
9. Nicolay Valuev, Russia – WBA Champion (Last month #9) The newly minted “Russian Giant” conducted a roadshow with Don King trying to convince us that his bout with Monte Barrett (or is it Monte Masters?) is really a title fight. The only thing we can draw out of this US tour is that his former moniker, “The Beast from the East,” was far more original.
10. Sultan Ibragimov, Russia (Last month #10) For some reason, the WBO vaulted Sultan over Luan Krasniqi to its number one position. Of course it was ridiculous to have Krasniqi there in the first place, but Ibragimov moved to the top spot based on a draw with Ray Austin. We can only hope that Ibragimov goes in against a real top ten opponent (or a rematch with Austin) before anyone awards him a “mandatory” title shot. He has enough talent to make it --- he doesn’t need a boost.
11. Ray Austin, USA (Last month #11) Hopefully you read about Ibragimov above. Now get this --- Austin actually fell in the latest WBO ratings from number 14 to number 15. Figure that one out.
12. John Ruiz, USA (Last month #12) The number one WBA contender has reportedly signed with German manager Wilfried Sauerland. This will undoubtedly result in a title shot. Don’t be surprised to see Ruiz jet to the top of another sanctioning body’s list to go along with his WBA rating. I continue to remind readers of this column that Ruiz has not won a fight since November 2004. He has a WBA eliminator with Ruslan Chagaev scheduled for October.
13. Shannon Briggs, USA (Last month #13) His WBO title bout with Liakhovich represents his last shot at the big time. A loss means permanent relegation to club shows.
14. Ruslan Chagaev, Uzbekistan (Last month #14) As he prepares for John Ruiz, he should contemplate what a win will mean. For fans it will mean that the Huggmeister (now that Ruiz is signed with a German promoter it is only fitting that he has a German-sounding nickname) no longer would be a potential title contender and thus no longer someone we have to watch on TV. For Chagaev, it means breaking away from the pack of talented up-and-coming European heavyweights.
15. DaVarryl Williamson, USA (Last month #15) Rumors have it that “Touch of Sleep” will face journeyman Przemyslaw Saleta later this fall. It’s good to see that he is getting back to the action. Saleta is 3-3 in last six bouts, but one of the wins was a stoppage of Luan Krasniqi.
16. Fres Oquendo, USA (Last month #16) Oquendo is the latest fighter selected to face the shell of Evander Holyfield. Unlike journeyman Jeremy Bates, Oquendo actually has some skills, some speed, and better than average power. All of that spells disaster for Holyfield at the very ripe age of 43.
17. Matt Skelton, England (Last month #17) A possible British Commonwealth defense against formerly highly regarded Audley Harrison is reportedly being negotiated. Harrison may have the skills to take the lumbering Skelton out of his game --- depending on which Harrison shows up.
18. Jameel McCline, USA (Last month #18) After a burst of activity January through July, suddenly nothing is on the boards. Last month there were whispers of a bout with Gonzalo Omar Basile. Basile will instead travel to Germany to face Alexander Dimitrenko.
19. Danny Williams, England (Last month #19) Now that British champion Scott Gammer successfully defended his belt in September maybe a deal can be reached for a shot with Danny, a practicing Muslim who declined to meet Gammer during Ramadan.
20. Luan Krasniqi, Germany (Last month #20) Perhaps his recent pullouts have cost him something. One month he was rated number one and suddenly Sultan Ibragimov surpasses him in the WBO ratings. Of course it never made sense for Krasniqi to be number one so it should not come as a surprise to see a change.
21. Tony Thompson, USA (Last month #21) Idle since his June win over Dominick Guinn.
22. David Tua, New Zealand (Last month #22) – Tuaman has fought only once in 2006. Inactivity is his biggest foe, because with an active schedule he could find himself in the title picture very quickly.
23. Vladimir Virchis, Ukraine (Last month #23) “The Hunter” is still looking to parlay his new EBU title into some real EUROS. There is now some real talent in Europe and don’t be surprised to see more and more top Americans venturing there to face big draws like Virchis.
24. Monte Barrett, USA (Last month #24) His career begins and ends October 7th when he faces the giant Valuev.
25. Eddie Chambers, USA (Last month #25) Philly’s 27-0, 24 year-old Chambers represents a glimmer of hope for American heavyweights. He has yet to meet and beat the top 10 guys necessary to stake his claim, but he’s on the right track.
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.
Chris Byrd, USA – Some cruiserweight possibilities seem to have floated away. We await Chris’ career decision.
Oliver McCall, USA – The former titlist stopped journeyman Darroll Wilson in September. McCall is now 20-1 (with 2 NCs) in his last 23 bouts. Lest anyone forget, in 1996 the “Atomic Bull,” scored a one-round knockout over the "Big O" in Maskaev’s seventh bout. At 41, he is just four years older than Maskaev. Is a rematch possible? If the Bull keeps winning don’t be surprised to see the fight signed.
Jean Francois Bergeron, Canada – The tall 33 year-old Canadian moved to 25-0 with a fifth-round stoppage of Edgar Da Silva in Montreal in September.
Joe Mesi, USA – Okay now we’re worried about Joe. He did move to 33-0 in September but he did it in a four-round bout against a 36 year-old opponent who is now 3-2. Will he break out of this circuit soon?
Chazz Witherspoon, USA – Chazz returned in September to stop Innocent Otukuwu in Philly. We can only imagine that Innocent’s nickname is “By-Stander” because has now lost his last six bouts, five by knockout. By the way Witherspoon weighed exactly what he did in his televised fight against Michael Alexander in July. He was very fleshy to say the least.
Alexander Povetkin, Russia – His September win over American Ed Mahone looks better on paper than it really should lead us to believe. Mahone picked up many wins early in his career but has now lost 8 of his last 10. Still, the former Olympic gold medal winner Povetkin is staying focused and busy. Don’t be surprised if he is a legitimately ranked fighter by mid 2007.
Gonzalo Omar Basile, Argentina – The hulking 25-1 Argentine will face by far his stiffest test when he travels to Germany in October to face budding superstar Alexander Dimintrenko. This is a tremendous matchup.
J.D. Chapman, USA – The 23 year-old stopped trial-horse Ray Lunsford in Arkansas in September. He moved his record to a fat 25-0 (22 KOs). If nothing else he’s been busy – six fights this year. He’s working with Jeff Mayweather to refine his game. Look for him to start making some noise this time next year.
Denis Boytsov, Russia – In September he beat Ondrej Pala in Germany on a fifth round stoppage due to cut.
Roman Greenberg, England (via Israel) – One last fight in Europe – in November – and then he ventures to the U.S. under the auspices of Warrior Boxing. We will undoubtedly see him a lot next year.
Alexander Dimitrenko, Ukraine – Finally a big showdown with a streaking opponent, Gonzalo Omar Basile. The big Argentine has won 12 fights in 2006. He’s also only one inch shorter than the 6’7” Dimitrenko. Big fight for the youngster.
Damian Wills, USA – The 21-0-1 prospect is scheduled to take on fellow unbeaten Chris Arreola, 17-0, in November. How often have you seen two hotshots taking on each other with no title on the line? This is the kind of confidence that could lead to something big.
Scott Gammer, England – October will be a pivotal month as Gammer defends his British belt against Michael Steeds. If he emerges relatively unscathed perhaps he can lure Danny Williams into the ring. The Muslim Williams, you will note, pulled out of an earlier proposed bout for Ramadan observance.
Travis Walker, USA – A big bout with fellow touted prospect Jason Estrada awaits in November. He and Estrada were busy in September. Walker stopped John Clark to advance to 21-0-1 (17 KOs).
Jason Estrada, USA – He decisioned Maurice Wheeler over eight rounds in September. The win now brings him to 7-0, 1NC (1 KO). The fact that he has only one stoppage win may foretell difficulties down the road with fighters who can not only go the distance but can win rounds with power.