Now that David Haye has mysteriously gone mum on the subject of the Klitschko brothers, it looks like Vitali Klitschko will have to look elsewhere for his next victim, err, opponent. Haye looks set to face Audley Harrison in England sometime in the fall.
A glance at the WBC ratings (mock the sanctioning bodies all you want, but until Klitschko vacates his “title,” he will be facing fighters the WBC approves of) reveals a motley crew of challengers and non-challengers who might be next on the hit list. Because Klitschko can fight a trapeze artist and still draw 50,000 fans in Germany, he can pick and choose opponents at this point. But he would still like to be more than just a Youtube clip to American fans, so this breakdown focuses on the fights and fighters HBO or Showtime might actually agree to broadcast.
1. Odlanier Solis
The Cuban amateur standout, 16-0 (12), looks like he spends more time at Cracker Barrel than he does at the speed bag. Never mind the fact that Solis has done nothing to earn a number one ranking, the fact is he is simply not in any kind of shape to challenge Klitschko. Solis, coming off of a third round TKO of inept Carl Drummond last March, is slow and immobile. Klitschko-Solis is not a fight Showtime or HBO would be interested in, but the Travel Channel might pick it up for a special edition of “Man V. Food.”
The giant ex-paper champ, 50-2 (34), already turned down a $2 million offer to face Klitschko last year. Apparently, negotiations have started up again, with Valuev looking at a much smaller purse. American television might actually be interested in a Klitschko-Valuev bout for the curiosity factor of seeing a 7’ fighter dropped flat on his face.
3. Alexander Povetkin
The talented Russian, now under the guidance of Teddy Atlas, is the mandatory for IBF titlist Wladimir Klitschko, so that rules him out for a possible fight with Vitali Klitschko. Although Team Povetkin seems hesitant to accept its championship opportunity, it seems unlikely that they would back out of a fight with Wladimir Klitschko just to face his brother.
4. Denis Boystov
Another Russian heavyweight based out of Germany, Boystov has beaten a few journeymen types but is almost completely unknown in America. His maulathon with Robert Hawkins was about as exciting as spending the day at the DMV. He does, however, seem to possess solid fundamentals and a good straight right. This would probably be a bout that Showtime might air, but it remains to be seen if Universum will throw Boytsov, 27-0 (22), in with the lions at this point.
5. Tomasz Adamek
Former two-division titlist Adamek, 41-1 (27), continues his improbable heavyweight run in August when he faces 1990s holdover Michael Grant in Newark, New Jersey. Adamek is coming off of an upset decision win over under-motivated and overfed Cris Arreola in April. Arreola made Adamek look like Nicolino Locche at times, but Adamek is probably too small to be a serious challenge for Klitschko. American television would snap this fight up because of its David and Goliath storyline. In addition, a premium cable channel would not have to cough up top dollar since revenue from German and Polish broadcast rights would already give both fighters staggering purses.
6. Derric Rossy
The best that can be said for Rossy is that he has been fairly active recently. Unfortunately, he has been spanking the likes of Joseph Harris and Zack Page (who was 20-27-2 entering his fight with Rossy). Rossy, 25-2 (14), scored his second victory over Page last March via decision as he waits for his phone to ring for a big money fight. Needless to say, HBO and Showtime have not programmed his name on speed dial. Earnest but painfully limited, Rossy would be brutally thrashed by Klitschko in a bout that might as well take place in a vivisection lab.
7. Johnathon Banks
How Banks wound up in the WBC top 10 is a modern mystery on par with that of Atlantis or Jack the Ripper. An unexceptional cruiserweight, Banks, 24-1-1 (17), is even less interesting as a heavyweight. His “fight” against journeyman Jason Gavern last month was only marginally more fun than watching sick poultry gambol. No one, not even loyal German fans, would pay to see Banks against Klitschko.
8. Sam Peter
Top Rank has been trying rebuild Peter after back to back losses in 2008 and early 2009. Of course that means beating on tomato cans, including a few who should be medically suspended from boxing, like morbidly obese Gabe Brown (who weighed over 360 pounds for his fight with Peter) and future disaster Ronald Bellamy, 45 years old and loser of nine fights in a row, two of which ended with him carried from the ring in a stretcher. American television would pass on Peter, since he was shut out by Vitali Klitschko in 2008.
9. Shannon Briggs
At 38, Briggs is still playing con man and, luckily for him, there are enough suckers out there (hello, boxing media!) to fall for his tricks and keep him in main events. Right now, Briggs, 51-5-1 (45), is somehow the WBC Latino Heavyweight Champion. Briggs is a nice guy, so why knock his hustle? A bon vivant with all the mobility of an obelisk in the ring, Briggs has knocked out his last three “opponents” in less than a round. Boring against anyone who can remain upright for more than three minutes, Briggs will most likely never be on HBO or Showtime again, although his mouth might get him a shot at Klitschko in Germany.
10. Tony Thompson
Thompson is as hardworking as he is non-descript. The 6’5” southpaw has won three in a row since curling up at the feet of Wladimir Klitschko in 2008 after 10 rounds of dull but not uncompetitive milling. Thompson, 34-2, is probably too colorless for HBO or Showtime and his loss to Wladimir Klitschko likely diminishes his attractiveness to German television executives as well.