Over the last decade the Heavyweight division has been dominated by the two-headed Heavyweight championship monster known as the Klitschko Brothers. Systematically the two brothers have completely unified the World Heavyweight championship...
Over the last decade the Heavyweight division has been dominated by the two-headed Heavyweight championship monster known as the Klitschko Brothers. Systematically the two brothers have completely unified the World Heavyweight championship and have wiped out any would be challengers.
It has come to a point where the question has become who might next be in line to challenge the Brothers’ reign. In the case of Wladimir Klitschko, he will next defend his unified IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO Heavyweight title in a rematch against longtime American Heavyweight contender Tony Thompson on July 7th.
In their first encounter in 2008 Klitschko scored an eleventh round stoppage of Thompson. Thompson however did give a good account of himself in a losing effort. Thompson has also remained relevant in the Heavyweight division in the nearly four years since the first fight. What might go against Thompson however is he has only fought five times since his loss to Klitschko and although he has remained unbeaten since that loss an argument could be made that Klitschko has a slight edge in terms of activity having successfully defended his title six times since 2008.
It remains to be seen whether Thompson will be able to pull off what most will consider a major upset when the two meet again for the Heavyweight title. It speaks however to the dominance of the Klitschko Brothers that they have to now consider rematches as the Heavyweight division one may argue is short on legitimate contenders but promising on rising prospects. It also remains to be seen what the condition of WBC champion Vitali Klitschko will be following recent ligament tears in his left shoulder suffered in his recent title defense against Heavyweight contender Dereck Chisora.
The possibility exists that there could be room for some in the Heavyweight division to maneuver if in the event the forty-year old Vitali retires. Dereck Chisora was able to make Vitali fight in a manner which he is not use to and was able to give a good account of himself. For the first time it appeared that Vitali was a bit slower than has been the case in recent fights. Whether that can be attributed to the injury to his left shoulder, or age, remains to be seen but it is something to consider.
Recently some interesting fights have taken place in the Heavyweight division that may give a clue as to what is in store for the Klitschko Brothers in the future. Here are some fighters that range from fringe contenders to prospects, to former Klitschko opponents that could end up being future opponents for either Vitali or Wladimir Klitschko.
Travis Walker (39-7-1, 31 Knockouts). Walker is probably a fighter one would consider a long shot to get an opportunity at either Klitschko and their share of the Heavyweight title. Walker however has re-emerged as a factor in the Heavyweight division following an upset win over former Heavyweight title challenger and long time contender Kali Meehan on March 7th.
The win for Walker however is the first win where one could make an argument that he successfully stepped up in class. Walker has been knocked out five times in his seven losses against fighters that range from legitimate contenders, to former world champions, to relative unknowns.
Although most would view this as would be red flags that would prevent him from getting a world title shot, it is important to remember that the Klitschko brothers have been known to give title shots to fighters that most would say are not in their class, as elective defenses after defeating mandatory challengers. If Walker can get another win or two under his belt and look good in doing so he could be an opponent that either Klitschko may seek as an elective defense.
David Price (12-0, 10 Knockouts).Price the current English Heavyweight champion of the UK does not have the experience as some in the Heavyweight division but standing at 6’8 and weighing 250lbs of solid muscle, Price is an imposing figure who in a year or two may very well be knocking on the door of the Klitschkos’.
Price is one of the few fighters that had this observer legitimately excited after seeing him for the first time. In that fight against longtime British contender John McDermott on January 21, Price destroyed the “Game” McDermott in just seventy-three seconds, dropping his foe three times before the bout was mercifully stopped. A fighter whom some have compared Price’s Boxing style and punching power to is Former Heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. Price does have a devastating uppercut that has reminded me of Lewis. It remains to be seen if Price is indeed the complete package. Price is scheduled to face former Commonwealth Heavyweight champion Sam Sexton on May 19 for the vacant British Heavyweight title.
Mariusz Wach (27-0, 15 Knockouts). Wach, the WBC International title holder in the Heavyweight division scored a sixth round stoppage of longtime fringe Heavyweight contender Tye Fields on March 24. He does have a solid fan following however despite his twenty-seven wins has yet to be put in against a legitimate top contender. Wach seems to be a work in progress and although he looked good against Tye Fields it is best to consider Fields as limited competition who did not serve as a test for Wach. Wach in my mind is a few fights away depending on who he faces from consideration as to if he is a realistic option for the Klitschkos’ because he simply hasn’t been tested. For now Wach although with an impressive record remains a question mark.
Tyson Fury (17-0, 12 Knockouts). Fury the former British and Commonwealth Heavyweight champion is an exciting prospect who first got global attention with his victory over former Heavyweight title challenger Dereck Chisora in the summer of 2011.
Fury has a Boxing style and look that reminds me of former Heavyweight contender Gerry Cooney. This has made for some exciting action in Fury’s fights. Fury, currently rated no. 7 by the WBC would appear to be a bit closer to world title contention than most would expect. It remains to be seen how legit Tyson Fury is but he has succeeded in generating excitement which has caused interest in him to grow. Fury is scheduled to face Martin Rogan in a bout for the vacant Irish Heavyweight title on April 14.
Artur Szpilka (10-0, 8 Knockouts). Szpilka is another fighter who like David Price is a fighter to watch. Much like Price Szpilka has the kind of punching power that will make heads turn. In his last fight Szpilka scored a first round knockout over Terrance Marbra on March 24th.
A couple of the questions that I have in my mind in regard Szpilka are how realistic is it right now to really include him in the discussion of potential opponents for the Klitschkos’. Unlike David Price, Spzilka does have a win over former Heavyweight title challenger Owen Beck however one may argue that Beck was past his competitive peak when Spzilka fought him so it is really a challenge to say that Spzilka has been tested. Like Price, I feel Szpilka is a year or two away from becoming a serious contender. If both fighters continue to win I look forward to a potential bout between the two.
Bryant Jennings (13-0, 6 Knockouts). Jennings has the look of a fighter who may be considered the best American Heavyweight prospect in the not too distant future. Jennings has benefited from the exposure of NBC Sports Network’s new Boxing series having fought on the series’ first two cards. Because of the exposure, Jennings has had a better opportunity than most of the aforementioned prospects to showcase his skills before the American public. In his last fight Jennings showcased impressive hand speed and quickness in dominating former WBO Heavyweight world champion Sergei Liakhovich on March 24.
Jennings performance in that fight was the kind of performance that can turn heads and generate interest in not only the fighter himself but in the Heavyweight division as well. Jennings clearly passed the test that Liakhovich was supposed to present. The question now becomes how will Jennings build off of this win that could make him a player in the Klitschko sweepstakes.
Tomasz Adamek (45-2, 28 Knockouts). Of all of the potential opponents I have in mind the former two-division world champion Adamek is by far the most experienced of the group. Adamek recently returned to the ring following a failed attempt at Vitali Klitschko’s WBC crown last September. Adamek won a hard fought ten round decision over Heavyweight contender Nagy Aguilera on March 24th ironically on the same card Bryant Jennings defeated Sergei Liakhovich.
Adamek’s crowd pleasing style always makes for exciting fights and thus has garnered significant interest when ever he fights. Although Adamek was extremely “Game” in his loss to Vitali Klitschko, I believe that the height and size difference was the biggest obstacle for him. An obstacle that will remain as long as the Klitschkos’ rule atop the Heavyweight division however, if Adamek can continue to rebound from that loss he may find himself right back in line to challenge either Klitschko. The odds will most certainly be against him should Adamek get a rematch with Vitali or a bout with Wladimir.
One thing that all future Heavyweight title challengers need to keep in mind is they are faced with the task of facing two men who are extremely skilled and are extremely dedicated to their sport. Vitali may be reaching the end of his reign at age forty. He has also been plagued by injuries throughout his career however it is my opinion he will retire as champion when the time comes.
In the not too distant future we may see a contest for a vacant world title. Any of the afore mentioned contenders could be considered to challenge for the vacant title. This leads to many possibilities throughout Boxing. How exciting would it be and possible the shot in the arm the Heavyweight division needs to be the number one topic of discussion in Boxing.
Vacant title? New Champion? Possible unification bout in the near future? What’s Next? Who’s Next? Heavyweights? Wow!
It’s anybody’s guess…