A Heavy Burden

By Timothy Seaver on October 5, 2015
A Heavy Burden
Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko was seen like one of the successors of Tunney or Marciano.

These men, their stories, their history, their skill, and their grit could help to waken interest in long-dormant heavyweight division…

Driving the unanimous belief of sports pages that boxing is in the gutter has been the prevailing view that the heavyweight division is at a low point. The health of the heavyweights drives the rest of boxing, and for years it was clearly in a weak spot. There were no men who excited the fans. Over this period fans felt drowned in fighters that were all too forgettable. But this sad flood of mediocrity might just be receding.

Several young fighters—Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury, and Anthony Joshua—are helping to bring excitement into the ring, while a couple of long-standing veterans—Wladimir Klitschko, and Alexander Povetkin—are finally earning respect from their long careers. If these developments don’t excite fervent passion for the big men, they might at least give reason to hope that the heavyweights will rise again.

A vacuum was left in 2003 When Lennox Lewis retired as undisputed champion. It happens every time a champion steps away with the crown still on his head. People are always reluctant to accept his immediate successor. There is something unsatisfying about a man who simply emerged as king, rather than took the kingdom by force.

When Gene Tunney retired, the belt was passed around by a series of titlists. It took the force of Joe Louis to reestablish a hold on the division. When Rocky Marciano left undefeated, his successor Floyd Patterson failed to prove himself as a dominate champion. It was his conqueror Sonny Liston who brought the requisite gravitas.

For years, Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko was seen like one of the successors of Tunney or Marciano. But after a decade on top and eighteen title defenses, it’s hard to remain too critical of his accomplishments. He is by any measure a great champion. His fights will never be thrilling, but they at least create some buzz. People want to know if he can reach Larry Holmes’ nineteen title defenses, or even Louis’ twenty five.

Russian heavyweight Alexander Povetkin’s professional career is supported by a glossy amateur record of 125-7, which topped off with a gold medal in 2004. At 6’2’’ he is not as physically imposing as others in the division. But what he lacks in size he makes up in experience and a willingness to fight. Unlike Klitschko, he brings an exciting element to the sport. His fight with Wladimir was a hug-fest, but that was blamed on the much bigger Klitschko. Most of Povetkin’s other fights have been dynamic and if he were an American, he’d be a star.

The UK’s Tyson Fury had looked crude when he started fighting several years ago. With his great size there was little need for elegance. But he has since added some nuance to his game and is smarter in the ring. He’ll use a jab and rely on more than just his massive, 6’9’’ body. He also likes to knock people out and fans pick up on that. He is scheduled to face Klitschko in November, and it’s his inclusion in the match that has people excited. The Ukrainian’s silent confidence will meet Tyson’s unhinged boastfulness. Wladimir will bring the respect, Tyson with bring the fireworks.

American slugger Deontay Wilder has emerged as a legitimate top contender. Although most will dismiss his claim as champion, the belt he has at least confers a degree of respect. He has qualities that are unmistakable. He’s 6’7’’, stacked with muscle, a big puncher, and most of all, he’s American. The U.S. fans, as with fans everywhere, are ethnocentric when it comes to sports. If an American isn’t on top, interest is lost. All countries love their guy and hate or ignore the other guys. Whether or not Deontay is the real deal is undetermined, many of his opponents have often been ordinary. But at the very least he comes in swinging, and he’s always looking to go home early.

Anthony Joshua, like Fury, is a UK fighter. At twenty-five years old, he hopes to emerge at his fullest just in time to ruin the plans for all these other men looking to usurp Klitschko as king. He’s another big man at 6’6’’. His opposition has not been electric thus far, but in only two years as a pro he has already had fourteen fights, and he has never had to hear the bell of the final round.

The sport needs a lift, and it needs the big men to handle the lifting. These men, their stories, their history, their skill, and their grit could help to waken interest in long-dormant heavyweight division.

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  1. Darrell 07:46pm, 10/06/2015

    Being ethnocentric to some degree myself, I’ll add Joseph Parker to this mix if Joshua is part of it…...Joshua shouldn’t be, neither should Parker, at least not right now.

  2. KB 06:23pm, 10/06/2015

    I think Povetkin also beats Wilder because he is a much smarter fighter. But that one is no lock.

  3. peter 03:51am, 10/06/2015

    It’s taken Wilder too long to unfold as a pro fighter. There is no timetable to become a champion, (ie., Jersey Joe Walcott), but it’s been eight years since Wilder won The Olympic Bronze medal. It took Olympian Muhammad Ali only four years of maturation to beat Sonny Liston to claim the heavyweight crown. Olympian Joe Frazier needed four years to claim the NY version of the crown. Olympian Sugar Ray Leonard became the WBC champ in only three years. And the divisions back then were much more fierce then they are now. My interest and evaluation of Deontay Wilder has diminished significantly.

  4. KB 05:02pm, 10/05/2015

    Jake, I think you might be right. One guy wings and loops. The other comes in and stands down on his straight punches.

  5. Jake 01:17pm, 10/05/2015

    I have to say, I think Wilder is absolutely useless. He wouldn’t last 3 rounds with Joshua.

  6. kb 09:09am, 10/05/2015

    OK

  7. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:34am, 10/05/2015

    For all those that suffer from ADHD and believe me many of them are boxing enthusiasts, I know, here’s a memo to all of the commenters and some of the writers on this site: Get to the point Godammit….we don’t have all day.

  8. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:18am, 10/05/2015

    No more set ups for Joshua and Wilder…..nothing sporting about a “sport” where those on top can pick and choose who they can beat up next….kinda’ like bullies on the playground at recess. Especially for an entitled asshole like Hopkins saying he wants that perfect foil Abraham next.

  9. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 06:27am, 10/05/2015

    God how the Koreans do hate the Japanese….they bring a freak punching Bailey over to damn near decapitate Shusaku. That’s just not right…..who was the hateful Korean who thought that one up….give it a rest for Christ’s sake already!

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