Hypothetically, if the ultra-dominant Klitschko brothers were to hang up the gloves tomorrow, what would become of today’s heavyweight landscape in the aftermath?
Besides the supporters of the brothers, who believe that “The Klitschko” approach to the sweet science is seemingly impregnable at this point in time (although completely different in styles), the two are constantly maligned for either being in boring, one-sided fights or hogging the #1 and #2 spot without a chance of settling who’s truly the best because they’ll never fight.
No doubt, Vitali (WBC champion) and
Wladimir (IBF/IBO/WBO and The Ring Magazine champion) are miles ahead of any contender today in experience and skill. In Wladimir’s last fight, his 56th, he brutally toyed with, dropped and stopped #3 rated former WBA champ Ruslan Chagaev in 11 rounds, while Vitali just recently beat the sobbing heck out of HBO’s “Mexican-American” hopelessly hopeful, Cristobal Arreola in the same number of heats. Neither fight was close to competitive. The Arreola fight, especially, was at the very least supposed to be challenging for the 38-year old Vitali, but the 28-year old Cris got schooled from the opening bell till his nose-blood and tears splashed all over television screens the world-over in defeat.
Once again, what if they retired today? Would the division fall even further into a yawning maw of obscurity or could it possibly improve because of a more “even” playing field?
First of all, 3-of-4 major alphabet straps would become vacant—the IBF, WBO and WBC titles. Nicolay Valuev is currently the WBA titlist, but he’s about to take on former cruiserweight king David Haye. Depending on who wins that bout, and how they look doing it, the victor will probably be perceived as the “heir apparent” to the throne. And I believe that public perception is that Haye will be that man. If Valuev wins, the fact that he’s 7ft tall and had just beaten Haye would propel him to the #1 spot, if not win him the crown.
But, if David wins, the WBA will keep him on their own agenda till the other alphabet titles are gobbled up, with possible defenses against the WBA’s #2 rated John Ruiz, #3 Kali Meehan or #9 man Lamon Brewster. There’s also always Chagaev to consider.
At first glance, things look pretty dull in that scenario, but if one adds Haye’s super-questionable chin and unrefined boxing style into the equation, some of these fights could prove fun to watch. Not to mention David can punch. He will carry the concussive power he’s known for up to the heavies. Trust me.
Unification possibilities there after?
The WBO and IBF are almost on the same page with undefeated Alexander Povetkin rated #1 and American, and former Povetkin victim Eddie Chambers rated next in line. If Chambers comes into a rematch with Povetkin in the current shape he’s in, the outcome could be very different. An in-shape Chambers still isn’t an exciting commodity, but he’s hard to hit, calm under fire and a good counter-puncher. Not to mention, between the IBF and WBO, the fighters rated highly among the top-10 are Chambers victims Sam Peter and Alexander Dimitrenko.
As for Povetkin, the skill level he’s at now looks like it’s as good as it’s gonna get, and since Chambers and he fought the first time, Povetkin’s level of competition has dropped. Chambers has since stepped up in competition and has fought the better fighters.
The WBC title picture would be slightly difficult to either decipher or swallow. With #1 rated Arreola just losing to Vitali, would the WBC actually sanction a fight between #2 rated Ray Austin and #3 Oleg Maskaev for the vacant belt? If so, I seriously believe a 2nd shot for Arreola would be in the making vs. the winner. The younger, harder-punching, durable Cristobal would be a big favorite to beat either guy.
So what would the big picture look like after all this hypothetical mess? Haye vs. Arreola for the crown, anyone? How about Valuev vs. Arreola? Chambers vs. the winner of either bout? Valuev vs. Ruiz III in a WBA eliminator for another crack at Haye, or vice-versa? How about Chagaev vs. #3 rated Kali Meehan in another WBA eliminator?
The match-ups are endless in this fantasy world without the Klitschkos, but reality is reality. Any of these battles might be decent, revealing fights, but the road to today’s legitimate heavyweight supremacy leads face-first straight into the clenched fists of the Klitschko brothers, like it or not.
In other words, lets enjoy them while we can. They are, have been, and will continue to be the heavyweight elite of this generation.
Philip H. Anselmo has returned to penning boxing columns following completion earlier this month of his super group DOWN’s successful North American tour.