The improved state of the heavyweight middle class

By Cain Bradley on February 8, 2018
The improved state of the heavyweight middle class
Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, Joseph Parker and Luis Ortiz will be fighting in March.

Along with the top four who are not mentioned, these fighters compose the top fifteen heavyweights for most people…

The heavyweight division is arguably at its most intriguing for over 15 years. Perhaps its greatest quality is the depth which has not been anywhere near as strong over the time period. The top four (Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, Joseph Parker and Luis Ortiz) are all lined up for clashes in March. The fringe heavyweights beneath them are all possibly intriguing contenders. Most of them are proven but there is even a strong group of prospects on the way up who will be looking to get themselves into contention. Hopefully we see them in intriguing clashes amongst each other and get to definitively rank them. 

Alexander Povetkin (33-1)
Age: 38
Best wins: UD Ruslan Chagaev, KO Carlos Takam and UD Marco Huck
Last fight: UD win Christian Hammer
Next fight: David Price
Povetkin you would expect is entering his final years as a professional. He has failed two drug tests over the last couple of years but has only been removed from the WBC rankings. He is ranked number one by both the WBO and WBA, belts which the winner of the Joshua vs. Parker will hold. He will be on the undercard of that bout facing off against David Price. That would put him in place to be the natural fight for the winner with him being the mandatory. He has proven the most out of any boxer in this list, with a strong résumé of good wins and has an argument to have been the number three boxer during the latter era of Klitschko brother dominance. Povetkin is a pressure fighter who looks to get on the inside behind his jab. He tends to throw in combinations on the inside and although not regarded as a knockout puncher, his finish of Takam suggests otherwise. The jab is not a weapon and his defense is fairly rudimentary without a lot of movement. He remains rather one-paced whatever is happening in the fight. Povetkin likely has one shot left, which he would hope comes later this year, but I think the Russian does not have enough skills to beat any of current top four.

Kubrat Pulev (25-1)
Age: 36
Best wins: KO Alexander Ustinov, RTD Samuel Peter and SD Dereck Chisora
Last fight: UD win Kevin Johnson
Next fight: Unconfirmed
Pulev was the man lined up to be Anthony Joshua’s last defense but pulled out with an injury picked up in training. He is the top ranked contender on the IBF and is in the top five of the WBC and WBA rankings. He still wants the Joshua bout but has also mentioned Manuel Charr as a potential opponent. His biggest bout also came when losing to Wladimir Klitschko, which saw him knocked down four times and stopped despite landing some of the best shots on Klitschko for years. Pulev was an impressive amateur who spent major tournaments losing to Oscar Rivas, Roberto Cammarelle and Odlainer Solis. He is a well sized heavyweight with a good boxing IQ and variety of skills. He is quick for his size and has a consistently good one-two. Unfortunately, he does lack great movement, coming in straight lines and is open to a left hook. Pulev may be another man who only has one chance left. You have to think that he may well find himself squeezed out of the title picture in 2018.

Carlos Takam (35-4-1)
Age: 37
Best wins: UD Tony Thompson, TKO Michael Grant and TKO Frans Botha
Last fight: TKO loss Anthony Joshua
Next fight: Unconfirmed
Takam was the man to replace Pulev against Anthony Joshua. If anything, he increased his stock. Although never showing signs of winning the bout, he took it to Joshua and did not look close to be being stopped. It was his third fight against top level competition having previously been stopped by Povetkin and edged in a tight contest by Parker. He is a short heavyweight but looks to take the fight to opponents coming forward. He prefers to get his opponent into the pocket where he can trade with them throwing good combination punches. Carlos is happy to trade down the middle but has shown a lack of stamina. His chin came out with the most credit against Joshua and it took a superb shot from Povetkin to finish him.
Dominic Breazeale (19-1)
Age: 32
Best wins: RTD Eric Molina, KO Izu Ugonoh and RTD Amir Mansour
Last fight: RTD win Eric Molina
Next fight: Unconfirmed
The American Footballer turned boxer has shown a good ability to put his athletic traits to use. He qualified for the Olympics and has only improved as a professional. He has had a title shot, against Anthony Joshua where he was stopped but was credited for his chin and determination. He has shown it in other fights, getting up off the canvas to beat Amir Mansour and Izu Ugonoh. Charles Martin has claimed he is next up for Breazeale in the battle of Anthony Joshua victims. He is number two ranked by the WBC and given a past confrontation with Deontay Wilder, a clash between the two is certainly intriguing. He is a big man at 6’9 and 265 pounds but he does not dominate with a jab. Instead he relies on his power and heart. He eats too many shots against top class opponent but that has made for some fun fights. I think Breazeale could act as a high level gatekeeper, hopefully with fights this year against Martin and potentially Wilder.

Jarrell Miller (20-0-1)
Age: 29
Best wins: RTD Fred Kassi, RTD Gerald Washington and TKO Mariusz Wach
Last fight: TKO Win Mariusz Wach
Next fight: Unconfirmed
Miller is a rising prospect who started out as a Muay Thai fighter and then a kick boxer before changing over to boxing. His two kickboxing losses came against Mirko Cro Cop. He has been linked to bouts with the Eddie Hearn camp and claimed not to be intimidated by the muscles of Anthony Joshua. Part of his package is his ability to talk and help sell matchups. Miller is a huge heavyweight, topping 300 pounds for his last fight. He uses that mass to wear down an opponent physically and mentally. He is quicker than he looks though and has a good punch variety. He also matches up quite well against the heavyweight champions as he has a good chin. He is a definite risk for any champion but should also be a good sell. For Miller you would hope 2018 sees him take on somebody from this list, my major hope would be the winner of Whyte vs. Browne but they may actually get a title shot.

Dillian Whyte (22-1)
Age: 29
Best wins: UD Dave Allen, SD Dereck Chisora and UD Robert Helenius
Last fight: UD win Robert Helenius
Next fight: Lucas Browne
Another boxer who came from the realm of kickboxing where he had a decent record. For a long time his biggest win came in the amateurs, when he defeated Anthony Joshua in his first bout. The rematch happened in the professional ranks where Joshua stopped Whyte but Whyte was the first to land well and take some of Joshua’s shots. Since then he has beaten a group of gatekeeper fighters and put himself into the reckoning as a potential world title challenger. He is a loudmouth character backed by Eddie Hearn. He has a great chin but very tough and lacks the real game-changing power of most heavyweights. Instead he is very active looking to put constant pressure of his opponent but it is not always intelligent. A win against Browne, puts him in the reckoning for another big fight. Whyte vs. Joshua 2 sells itself whilst he has called over Wilder numerous times. I can see him having another big fight at the end of 2018.

Tony Bellew (29-2-1)
Age: 35
Best wins: TKO David Haye, KO Ilunga Makabu and SD Nathan Cleverly
Last fight: TKO Win David Haye
Next fight: David Haye
Bellew has made his way up to heavyweight from light heavyweight. He lost his biggest fight in that division to Adonis Stevenson but became a world champion in the cruiserweight division. His move up to heavyweight came about due to a feud with David Haye and a desire to look after his family financially. He will rematch David Haye later this year and a win will take him on to bigger things, possibly a Tyson Fury bout. He has shown a poor chin at times but his heart is huge. He looks to fight at a pace and use his speed to trouble the bigger heavyweights. If he defeats David Haye, I suspect we will see him in a big money fight at the end of the year against either a world champion, Dillian Whyte or Tyson Fury.

Lucas Browne (25-0)
Age: 38
Best wins: TKO Ruslan Chagaev, UD Andriy Rudenko and TKO Richard Towers
Last fight: TKO win Matthew Greer
Next fight: Dillian Whyte
Browne also came from MMA, once losing to Daniel Cormier. As a boxer though he has remained unbeaten without taking on a great fighter. He won the WBA regular title against Ruslan Chagaev. He was stripped of the title with two failed drug tests for ostarine and clenbuterol. He was rumored to take on Kuzmin and Parker but has instead ended up in a bout opposite motor mouthed Dillian Whyte. He is powerful but has a crude style using his pressure. Browne is also hittable and has been hurt before, notably against Chagaev when his power changed the fight. He is usually quite slow and given his two positive drug tests, you have to wonder if he looks less impressive in the future.

Adam Kownacki (17-0)
Age: 28
Best wins: TKO Iago Kiladze, TKO Artur Szpilka and TKO Joshua Tufte
Last fight: TKO win Iago Kiladze
Next fight: Unconfirmed
Kownacki became the top Polish heavyweight when he defeated Szpilka and believes he can become the first Polish heavyweight champion of the world. He left Poland when seven and came over to Brooklyn. He was twice the New York Golden Gloves champion. An injury kept him out for over two years at the start of his career. Kownacki is reminiscent of Chris Arreola. He can be hit far too easily and seems to lack discipline, especially in his weight. He is more active than Arreola and puts good pressure on his opponent using his physical toughness and power to get the results.

Manuel Charr (31-4)
Age: 33
Best wins: UD Taras Bidenko, UD Alex Leapai, UD Alexander Ustinov
Last fight: UD win Alexander Ustinov
Next fight: Fres Oguendo (Unconfirmed)
Charr was another man who got into martial arts, first kickboxing and then through Thai boxing. Born in Lebanon, he boxes out of Germany where he took on Vitali Klitschko. He also has losses to Alexander Povetkin, Johan Duhaupas and Mairis Breidis but those losses came with interest in boxing at a low. He has fought through adversity including when he was shot four times in the stomach and the osteoarthritis in his hips which has led to him being the only professional sportsman with two artificial hips. Every so often he puts his punches together impressively with a lot of power. He has shown more evidence of having a solid chin. He will take on Fres Oguendo when defending his title. After that, who knows who he will take on? It would be good to see if he has improved in his comeback or if he would once again fall short at the top level.

Along with the top four who are not mentioned, these fighters compose the top fifteen for most people. Beneath that though is another group of impressive fighters. Some of them have had their chances and been defeated at the top level. Charles Martin is working his way back from a crushing title defeat to Anthony Joshua. David Haye is entering final chance saloon when he takes on Tony Bellew. Christian Hammer has beat a lot of gatekeeper level fighters but was defeated by Alexander Povetkin. Bryant Jennings is on the comeback trail, along with Johann Duhaupas while Alexander Dimitrenko has the best recent win of the group when defeating Adrian Granat last year. Hughie Fury was controversially defeated by Joseph Parker but at only 23, will no doubt return. Mariusz Wach, Eric Molina, Artur Szpilka, Bermane Stiverne, Erken Teper, Robert Helenius and Dereck Chisora all experienced losses in 2017 which could rule them out for at least a year.

The prospects are more exciting, if only because they bring fresh blood to an oft familiar group of boxers. The Chinese are finally making a mark in the world of boxing and have two heavyweights ranked in some organizations’ top fifteens in Zhilei Zhang and Junglong Zhang. Agit Kabayel may have the best win of all the prospects listed with his victory over Dereck Chisora for the European Title. Oleksandr Teslenko comes from a strong amateur background and may be the best of the lot whilst Bogdan Dinu has seemed to not want to step up. Martin Bakole has claimed to be heavily avoided because of his huge power. Tom Schwarz, Vladyslav Sirenko, Simon Kean, Jermain Franklin and Nathan Gorman are unbeaten with time on their side due to their young ages. Sergey Kuzmin is a skilful pressure fighter from Russia who looks willing to begin his step up. Oscar Rivas is coming off a strong amateur pedigree and should be stepping up soon. The Rio Olympics has also seen some good prospects enter the system. The four medalists are all unbeaten as pros and look to being fast tracked to some extent in Joe Joyce, Tony Yoka, Ivan Dychko and Filip Hrgovic. 2018 likely comes too soon but it will be interesting to see if any of them do look to take a step up and fight anyone else mentioned on the list. Efe Ajagba, Darmani Rock and Daniel Dubois are in a similar position with less pedigree but have shown incredible power.

The other name worth mentioning is Tyson Fury. He was the man who brought the dominance of Wladimir Klitschko to an end with a shocking decision victory in 2015. Since then the ‘Gypsy King’ has struggled with motivation, substance abuse and weight issues. He is currently in training and indicating that a return in 2018 is hugely likely. He has called out varying names in the division with a concentration on Anthony Joshua. If he returns to top form, he is a stylistic nightmare. He is 6’9 and 250 pounds. However he is an unorthodox boxer, quick on his feet and good at avoiding punches. He uses his size well and along with his intelligent feints it opens up opportunities for him. It is still a big if as to whether Fury can come back to that level but if he does, the big fights in the division arguably revolve around him.

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  1. Lucas McCain 06:41am, 02/09/2018

    Good to read an upbeat, optimistic piece in a sport that generates so much of the opposite!  I’m not sure about Big Baby though—he’s being sold as the second coming of Buster Mathis or Greg Page (or Tony Tubbs) but he has nowhere near the skills of those guys—at least not yet.  Still—a great nickname doesn’t hurt and he may build on his background.  He’s certainly not an anonymous figure!

  2. Rufus R. Jones 04:13pm, 02/08/2018

    Tyson Fury isn’t getting any younger and its been over two years since he last fought. He hasn’t exactly been indulging in a healthy lifestyle on top of the inactivity.  Guy is pushing 30, had to lose a ton of weight, and sweat out a ton of drugs, alcohol, and bad food. I don’t think the guy ever loved fighting in the first place, and I don’t think it is a huge priority in 2018 either. I don’t look for Tyson to fight again. One and done as far as heavyweight title fights are concerned. Well at least he joins Marciano and Tunney as the only heavyweight champs to retire undefeated.

  3. Alfonso Bedoya 11:02am, 02/08/2018

    Lotsa’ names here as always….boiled down it’s the top four then Tyson Fury then Povetkin and Miller with Teslenko as the prospect and that as they say is that!

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