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Articles of 2005

Top 25 Heavyweights (As of August 1, 2005)

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This is the third monthly edition of the Grant Top 25 Heavyweights. I am a somewhat reluctant warrior in attempting to put words on a page this month because so many of the rated heavyweights are fighting in August. Almost without doubt we are in for some serious changes next month.

Changes this month are listed by each name. I’ve also added some names at the bottom of fighters who are hovering around the fringes of the ratings.

The fight blogs are full of invective spewed toward the heavyweight division. Many lament the current state of the division and its supposed lack of talented contenders. Many forget that the division, throughout much of the history of the gloved era, is filled with colorful language denouncing the health of the heavyweight division. 

There have been precious few “golden” eras where the heavyweights are concerned. The primary difference existing today versus the early 70’s, for example, is that the top four or five fighters are simply not fighting each other. Certainly the various beltholders are avoiding contact with each other.

This state of affairs is indeed hurting the box-office and is likely having a spillover to the other divisions. Credibility will return quickly if the belts can be unified and the top fighters get in the ring with each other rather than engaging in meaningless “mandatories.”

1. Vitali Klitschko, Ukraine – WBC Champion (Last Month # 1)
It appears the final edict is in: Klitschko will fight the winner of the Hasim Rahman – Monte Barrett eliminator. He wanted another optional defense, against Calvin Brock, but the WBC informed him that he must fight the eliminator winner. Oh yes, there was some other gobbledy-gook in that letter, but it makes my brain hurt to discuss it. Some wild doings at the WBC. It’s not at all clear why Klitschko clings so mightily to the belt. He could take a page out of the Antonio Tarver book and make more money simply seeking out the best opponents.

2. Hasim Rahman, USA (Last Month # 2)
He’s all set for Barrett on August 13th. Supposedly, if he wins he would face Klitschko a mere six weeks later. Something tells me it just won’t work out that way.

3. Lamon Brewster, USA – WBO Champion (Last month # 4)
Set to fight WBO number one ranked Luan Krasniqi in September. Earth to Lamon – NEVER FIGHT IN GERMANY. To win Lamon must bring his own judges – a powerful left hook and a slamming right hand. The only danger is if judges are selected locally and Krasniqi somehow makes it to the final bell. I don’t think he will. The fact that Krasniqi is ranked number one is proof enough that we shouldn’t take the WBO seriously. We don’t. We do, however, take Brewster seriously. This will be an easy tuneup for real fights down the road.

4. Wladimir Klitschko, Ukraine (Last month # 5)
The much maligned young Wladimir got handed a bit of New Jersey injustice by a judge that thinks losing is the right ingredient in being promoted in the rankings. This could turn out to be a good thing for Klitschko, as rumor has it that he signed to fight hard-punching youngster Samuel Peter. A win in that fight will serve notice to all who behold his presence that he is back. Of course a loss, a very real possibility against an aggressive, undefeated, and brutal competitor, will move him to the end of the line – perhaps forever.  It’s now or never.

5. Chris Byrd, USA – IBF Champion (Last month # 3)
Perhaps someday Byrd will fight again. The IBF, backed by a nutty court ruling, has installed DaVarryl Williamson as the top available contender. He catapulted over Wladimir Klitshko despite losing to him less than a year ago. Somehow a judge was convinced that this made sense. The IBF argued that since Williamson recently beat a ranked contender, Derrick Jefferson, that he deserved to move ahead of Klitschko who recently beat an unranked fighter. Of course the judge overlooked the fact that Klitschko himself recently beat a ranked fighter: DaVarryl Williamson. And, not incidentally, he also holds a knockout win over Jefferson. Let this be a wake-up call to all those who think a federal agency, staffed by boxing know-nothings, will somehow save the sport. No date has been scheduled.

6. James Toney, USA (Last month # 6)
Toney had his steroid suspension lifted early as he came up clean in subsequent tests. No date or opponent has been set for a return to the ring. Meanwhile Toney, appearing on Fox TV, appeared to be very heavy indeed. He’ll need to be in better shape than he was against Ruiz against the likes of Vitali Klitschko or Chris Byrd. The rumor mill has him fighting a rematch with Vassiliy Jirov. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. Jirov looked dreadful in his last fight, an eight round draw with Orlin Norris. Expect to see an announcement of an opponent soon.

7. Monte Barrett, USA (Last month # 7)
He’ll face Rahman on August 13th. Despite his blowout losses to Joe Mesi and Wladimir Klitschko, he has some talent. I don’t know if it will be enough against the rejuvenated Rahman.

8. Calvin Brock, USA (Last month # 8)
He was briefly mentioned as a possible optional defense for Vitali Klitschko. It may prove a blessing that he did not get the shot. Brock will likely keep busy and could work himself into a mandatory position against one of the many other beltholders and he will likely face much better odds than he would against V. Klitschko. He was recently married, but that will probably not keep him out of the scene for long. Brock is solid and he has skills. A few breaks here and there and he will be in the middle of the hunt for a title.

9. Samuel Peter, Nigeria (Last month # 9)
Young Samuel holds all the regional trinket belts of the major sanctioning bodies and is poised for a big showdown with Wladimir Klitschko. This is no small endeavor. Some think he will simply rush in on a supposedly china-chinned coulda-been. As Klitschko’s record, upon closer inspection, suggests, that may not be so easy. For one thing, Klitschko has never been outboxed – not even close. Except for his loss to Corrie Sanders, he was far ahead in each of his losses when he was stopped. We’ve never seen Peter behind in a fight. Secondly, Peter has not been whacked by a heavy, consistent puncher – and Wladimir is just that, with plenty of skills. What does this all say to us? It says to me that we have a potential blockbuster in this one. A win over Klitschko would propel him to superstardom. We’ll see in September.

10. John Ruiz, USA – WBA Champion (Last month # 10)
Who knows what is next in store for the perpetual WBA titleholder? According to the latest WBA ratings there is no number one, mandatory contender. Does anyone know what that really means? They can’t figure out a top contender? Of course the WBA version of number one would likely be as non-sensical as the other alphabet ratings, but at least the others put someone – anyone – in the top spot. I haven’t seen any more talk of a Kevin McBride defense. I’m hoping that was just a scary dream.

11. Audley Harrison, England – Takes on crafty journeyman Robert Wiggins August 18th (Last month # 11)

12. Jameel McCline, USA – Fights Steve Pannell August 26th.  (Also had a strong showing as a guest commentator on ESPN2.  Please let him takeover Roy Jones’ spot on HBO. Please). (Last month # 12)

13. Danny Williams, England – Said he was sick and pulled out of a British title match with Matt Skelton in July. Who knows where that leaves him? (Last month # 13)

14. Corrie Sanders, South Africa – Last fight was in December. What gives Corrie? The not-so-magical age of 40 is coming up in January. Better move fast. (Last month # 14)

15. Nicolay Valuev, Russia – According to the latest WBA rankings he is number two, and there is no number one. Go figure. Hint to Valuev: If your promoter’s name rhymed with, say, the words “Don King,” you’d be mauling and clinching with John Ruiz right now. (Last month # 15)

16. DaVarryl Williamson, USA – Next up is Byrd (Last month # 17)

17. Oleg Maskaev, Uzbekistan – Scheduled to take on Sinan Samil Sam in a WBC title eliminator. Hopefully it really works as an eliminator and eliminates both of them. Maskaev has slipped badly. (Last month # 16)

18. David Tua, New Zealand – Stays busy against Cisse Salif August 26th 
(Last month # 18)

19.  Fres Oquendo, USA (Puerto Rico) – Signed with Lou DiBella.  (Last month # 19)

20. Serguei Lyakhovich, Belarus – Scheduled to face Owen Beck in August. 
(Last month # 20)

21. Dominick Guinn, USA – He’s on somewhat of a skid after a very promising start.  (Last month # 21)

22. Luan Krasniqi, Germany (via Kosovo) – Faces Brewster in September for WBO belt.  He will enjoy a big hometown advantage in Germany, but he’ll likely be looking at the ceiling before the night is through. (Last month # 22)

23. Shannon Briggs, USA – Meets Ray Mercer on August 26th (Last month # 23)

24. Owen Beck, USA – I shouldn’t have overlooked him last month.  He gets into the ratings despite having lost his last fight – against Monte Barrett.  He’ll be tested soon as he faces Lyakhovich in August. (Last month unrated)

25. Matt Skelton, England – British champion was left to fight last-minute sub when Danny Williams dropped out.  He remains undefeated. (Last month unrated.)

Others on the fringes:

Kali Meehan, Australia – Kali, are you still out there?  He’s done nothing since being punched out by Rahman (Last month # 25)

Vassily Jirov falls out of the top 25 following a draw with Orlin Norris. (Last Month # 24)

Michael Grant, scored a recent win in Minnesota.  Okay, that may not mean much but I still like him.

Orlin Norris, see Vassily Jirov above

Lance Whitaker, fights an opponent yet-to-be-named on August 26th

Alexander Dimitrenko, young Ukranian looks ready to move past fighting European also-rans.

Articles of 2005

In Boxing News: Floyd Mayweather An All-Time Great, Valuev & More

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A Shot of Boxing on the Last Day of the Year

The Guardian reports that talks have already taken place between Nicolay Valuev‘s co-promoters – Don King and Wilfried Sauerland – and Danny Williams‘ promoter Frank Warren for Nicolay Valuev to face Danny Williams. I’d suggest Danny Williams needs to worry about Matt Skelton (who Williams is reportedly scheduled to fight in February) before he entertains notions of facing the Beast From The East.

The Mirror in the UK looks forward to a big year in boxing for 2006. The Mirror considers what the future might bring for Joe Calzaghe, Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton, among others.

The Parksville Qualicum News has an interesting column on the travails of former Canadian Super Middleweight title holder Mark Woolnough. Woolnough’s career turned controversial – as widely reported in the Canadian press – at the beginning of this year when Woolnough and four other men were charged with manslaughter and assault after a fight outside a Parksville nightclub. The case returns to court next month. It’s an interesting read, as Woolnough is still looking to the future with hope.

Our own Marc Lichtenfeld provides plenty of food for thought with his Top Ten Wish List for boxing in the New Year. There’s plenty of good stuff here, but what really jumped out for me is Lichtenfeld’s opinion that a win over Zab Judah could have Floyd Mayweather knocking on the door of all-time great status. Seems to me this might be jumping the gun a little. Or is Marc right? Will it soon be time to call Floyd Mayweather Jr. an all-time great?

(More Boxing News Links at TheSweetScience.com)

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Articles of 2005

ShoBox Friday Night Fights

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Hot bantamweight prospect Raul “The Cobra” Martinez heads back to Chicago next Friday night as he is featured in the co-main event of SHOBOX “THE NEW GENERATION,” an action packed evening of professional boxing presented by Dominic Pesoli’s 8 Count Productions,’ HOME OF THE BEST IN CHICAGO BOXING, Kathy Duva’s Main Events Inc., along with Miller Lite and TCF Bank.

The two-time national amateur champion sporting a perfect 12-0 record with 9 knockouts, six of which have come in the first round,  will take on Colombian Andres “Andy Boy” Ledesma, 13-1 (8 KOs) in a scheduled eight round bout.

Speaking after a training session at his home gym in Georgetown, Texas, Martinez said, “I’m truly looking forward to returning to Chicago. The fans were terrific in September, they were very supportive from the start of the fight,” an internationally televised first round knockout of Miguel Martinez on September 16th at the Aragon Ballroom.

Regarding his upcoming fight with Ledesma, “The Cobra” said, “I haven’t seen him fight, although I understand he’s fought at higher weights and will be naturally bigger than me. I’ve had great training for this fight and feel very confident. I really haven’t left the gym in months, just taking off Sunday’s and even then I get my running in. My thinking is that fights are won in the gym and complete preparation is the key.”

When asked about his being mentioned by Dan Rafael, ESPN’s boxing writer as one of the top prospect’s in the boxing world the 23-year-old San Antonio native said, ‘It’s a great compliment, but I still have much work to do. I want to be a champion for Main Events like Fernando Vargas and Arturo Gatti. But like Fernando said while he was in town, ‘be patient, work hard and your time will come.’”

Finishing the conversation, Martinez said, “I’m looking forward to starting out this year with a bang. I might have a couple less fights than the seven I had in 2005, but I’m looking to stepping up the competition, move up to ten-rounders and climb in the rankings.”

Headlining the evening is a ten-round welterweight showdown between boxing’s hottest prospect, unbeaten Joel Julio of Monteria, Columbia, and Ugandan native Roberto “The Doctor” Kamya. Julio, turning 21 years old the day before the fight, is 25-0 with 22 knockouts, twelve of which have come in the first two rounds. Kamya, now fighting out of West Palm Beach, Florida is 15-5 with four knockouts.

Tickets, starting at $30, are on sale in advance by calling 312-226-5800. Cicero Stadium is located at 1909 S. Laramie, at the corner of 19th and Laramie, just ten minutes south of the Eisenhower Expressway and ten minutes north of the Stevenson Expressway. Doors for this evening will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

The full bout lineup for the evening is:

Joel Julio vs. Roberto Kamya, ten rounds, welterweights

Raul Martinez vs. Andres Ledesma, eight rounds, bantamweights

Miguel Hernandez vs. Butch Hajicek, eight rounds, middleweights

David Pareja vs. Derek Andrews, eight rounds, light heavyweights

Mike Gonzales vs. Tony Kinney, four rounds, lightweights

Omar Reyes vs. Luis Navarro, five rounds, featherweights

Reynaldo Reyes vs. Ricardo Swift, four rounds, middleweights

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Articles of 2005

Pick ‘Em: Plenty of Big Upcoming Fights in ’06

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Here’s the early call on many top matches scheduled for the first half of 2006: Happy New Year!

As the new calendar dawns, there are already a considerable amount of premium bouts on the horizon. Things don’t look to be bogged down by undetermined championships next year. In many cases the scheduled face-offs involve the best fighters in the division, or at least close enough for general bragging rights. If anybody else with proper qualifications signs up to force the issue, all the better.

It can be argued that some pairings could have taken place within a more optimal timeframe, or that some headliners carry distracting baggage, but there are certainly enough heavy hitters on deck. That nobody can deny.

It doesn’t matter whether one considers the proverbial glass half empty or half full; there’s still the same amount of juice in the vessel. It’s nice to know that even with a high number of cancellations, there will still be plenty of important contenders on tap.

With elite fighters in weight divisions from top to bottom on the agenda, it’s an equivalent to what fans in more mainstream sports expect in a consistent championship format.

Baseball fans can almost always count on a World Series. Some hoops fanatics say too much attention to playoffs distracts unmotivated NBA teams during their regular season. In college, they project Sweet Sixteens. Football fans know there’s always a Super Bowl ahead to raise advertising dollars and test the USA’s halftime morals.

So too, there is method in boxing’s current madness.

The midnight crystal ball hasn’t even been unveiled in Times Square and there are already a number of potential thrillers scheduled. Most feature contrasting personalities that almost guarantee going along for the ride will be worthwhile. Any subsequent drops will probably be cheered.

Don King jumps right out of the auld lang gate with a January 7th Showtime card featuring Zab Judah against Carlos Baldomir and Jean-Marc Mormeck in a cruiserweight unification against O’Neil Bell.

It will be the upset of the year, bar none, if Baldomir can tip the applecart before Judah gets to his scheduled super-showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Meanwhile, Mormeck is emerging and should keep on rolling against Bell, who can expose him if he’s not for real.

The proverbial Big Bang starts with a January 21st rematch of one of the finest fights of ‘05, when Erik Morales goes against Manny Pacquaio for the second time on HBO pay per view. The fact that Morales was upset by Zahir Raheem after beating Pacquaio was no real loss in box-office luster. Artful Raheem will get a spot on the undercard and hope his patience is rewarded.

Everyone figures Morales and Pacquaio will pick up where they left off. Like the first time, the rematch is a pick’em contest. Management distractions and glove restrictions cited as Pacquaio’s previous problems won’t matter this time. The two are very evenly matched and their styles will make for another whapathon. It could come down to corners, where Freddie Roach gets the edge since Morales will have a new trainer for the first time since replacing his father after the Raheem lesson.

February features four of the game’s most enduring attractions, in a pair of crucial matchups.

First up, Showtime presents the Jose Luis Castillo – Diego Corrales tiebreaker from El Paso on Feb 4th. This is another pick ‘em pair, barring any sideshow. In boxing that disclaimer may be a stretch, since the sideshow is part of the act and the charm.

As far as action inside the strands goes, every round these guys have fought has been great. There’s no reason to think that pattern won’t continue. Regarding the result, Castillo keeps the pressure on as he did in the second fight, but he’ll walk into trouble from a more reserved Corrales. We still don’t know which coin to flip.

February also holds a better late than never affair between two perennial favorites as Shane Mosley collides with Fernando Vargas on the 25th.  This fight could lead to a winning ticket in the Golden Boy sweepstakes for a fall bonanza against Oscar De La Hoya.

Vargas has been in tougher recently, based on comparable strength of opposition stats, but he’s seen little action. What weight they enter the ring at may have a lot to do with the result. If Vargas has to struggle at the scale, Mosley might have the battle in the bag after round nine.

It’s hard to imagine Mosley getting stopped early, but Vargas doesn’t have to hurt him, he just has to knock him down three times. With natural size, he may be able to do just that, but Mosley would have to box uncharacteristically flat.

Unless Mosley decides to heed the crowd, the most likely scenario is that Shane plays it safe, picks a few shots, and stays away enough to capture a comfortable, dull decision. An unbowed Vargas maintains his fan base but not his bettors.

March both comes in and goes out as a lion.

On March 4th Joe Calzaghe welcomes Jeff Lacy to Manchester UK for what may be the biggest blowout of the headlining bunch. Calzaghe gets the chance to prove his considerable home-based reputation once and for all, but if Lacy creams him as we expect, that glossy record will be severely tarnished.

All Calzaghe has to do is make a respectable stand, but that’s no small task against the rising Lacy. A motivated Calzaghe, songs of England ringing in his ears, could pull a big surprise if he can exploit Lacy’s relatively limited technical development, but that’s a longshot indeed.

It looks like Lacy can get by on power alone. He could soon emerge as a pound-for-pound leader. Old Joe’s hometown advantage will last about two left hooks.

March 11th has the Ides of history to beware for at least one old lion, with farewell (we’ll see) fireworks featuring Roy Jones Jr. against Bernard Hopkins. Less than two years ago they were considered untouchable all time greats. Now between them they’ve lost five in a row.

This goodbye fight is contracted at light heavyweight, for what seems like an oldies night. Hopkins is the senior at age 41 to Jones’s 37, but Roy seems more the grandpa figure, last seen hanging on against Antonio Tarver. Youth, as it were here, will prevail.

This bout was signed quickly as each principal, usually sticklers for favorable contract clauses, agreed to parity in a demonstration of businessman first and fighter second. They may both expect easy marks. How much the boys have left by the time they get down to business remains to be seen. The history books will show this as a climactic career bout between Hall of Famers.

At 175 pounds, Hopkins may be in for rude awakening. Jones may have been more thoroughly outfought recently, but he was rumbling with bigger, tougher men than Jermain Taylor or Howard Eastman. Respectable as he is, Taylor still falls short of the level of Tarver, at least for now. The difference is still fifteen pounds less pop.

It will be quite a feat if Hopkins can stay in the fight, even at Jones’s advanced age. Our stars point to Jones winning in overwhelming fashion.

On March 18th, James Toney meets Hasim Rahman in another pairing of seasoned war-horses.

Toney and Rahman already had their introductions, when they brawled in Mexico during a WBC gathering to bestow Rahman’s new belt. Between formalities, Toney got married, which could bring up the old questions about carnal training.

Let’s hope when they meet in the ring, they restore some of the fire missing from the heavyweights in ‘05.  Toney might have an edge in recent form, but Rahman shows fine tuning he previously lacked. The winner might get newly “crowned’ Nicolai Valuev, an easy payday outside Germany.

Rahman could be the heavyweight that finally makes Toney look like a blown up middleweight. But anything less than a top effort will probably lead to embarrassing night for the Rock and give Toney solid claim to being the true heavyweight champ.

This might not be the most artful fight of the new season, but it could well be the most grueling, and the closest. He who’s faced the better big boys gets the nod. Advantage Rahman.

March 25 features Marco Antonio Barrera, probably the strongest overall claimant to 130 pound honors. The likely opponent is said to be always tough Jesus Chavez.

Chavez seemed rejuvenated when he met Leavander Johnson, but Johnson’s tragic death may have taken some of the steam out of thoughtful Chavez, said to have received Johnson’s family blessing to continue in Leavander’s name. That could mean a lot of inspiration. Either way, if he does meet Chavez, who hung tough with one arm against Erik Morales, Barrera won’t get any slack. The Fates say Chavez, whose wife recently served in Iraq, is a live, live underdog.

Another clash to be King of the Hill finds Floyd Mayweather Jr, arguably the game’s finest practitioner, bumping heads with Zab Judah, one of very few boxers who rivals Mayweather in speed, skills, and brashness.

Their hoedown, scheduled for April 8th, is one of the top pound-for-pound pairings in recent years. Judah will need a career best performance to have a chance of victory. That’s not to say he can’t pull it off, but currently Mayweather is in a different galaxy in terms of punching power. Slow-motion replays may be the only way to follow the flying fists once these two whirlwinds unload.

Mayweather should be around a 4-1 favorite. Judah is good enough to make taking the odds an attractive proposition, since that’s probably as good of odds as one is likely to see on Floyd for a while. Mayweather will stop Judah in his tracks.

The first half of next year is set to conclude with the star power of Oscar De La Hoya, probably against noteworthy foil Ricardo Mayorga on May 6. There could be some snags before a contract is finalized, but if it comes off count on Mayorga for promotional sound bite nastiness. One of the questions is whether or not he’ll be able to get under Oscar’s skin, and it might actually be entertaining to see the classy, model perfect De La Hoya show he’s human and freak out against the Nicaraguan maniac.

Mayorga may have burnt his best bridges already. De La Hoya has not only the boxing skill to negate Mayorga’s offense, but enough power to end it early. If Mayorga rushes in and causes a cut, De La Hoya might get ruffled enough to duck into defense and Mayorga could get a decision that goes to the cards after six rounds or so. It will be wild for as long as it lasts.

Pro boxing, like many sports, had its share of problems during 2005, but there were also many positives. Most notably, as usual, was superior and inspiring action inside the strands. Unless there’s a mass freeze-up at the top, early 2006 figures to see decisive interaction among many well-known fighters.

If even fifty per cent of the aforementioned pairings come to fruition, it’s a strong likelihood the upcoming year has at least one very positive half. Arturo Gatti, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Brian Viloria, and Shannon Briggs, to name a few, are also on deck. No matter how you chose to look at or measure mass qualities, there’s still just as much good to be seen.

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