The New Normal in the Heavyweight Division
In short (no pun intended), Mike Tyson’s glory days ended in 1996 and I doubt we will ever see another 5’10” heavyweight champion…
“I think they are extremely talented six-foot-six, six-foot-seven guys, but this is the new generation. I myself never thought that much of a boxer over six-five because I know that was like a boundary and when you get to six-five that was like the end of your coordination for boxing, which was like Lewis and Bowe. The Klitschkos are the exception. They are the new generation of big heavyweights who have coordination.”—Emanuel Steward
The Klitschkos are the winningest brother act in heavyweight boxing history with a combined record of 98-5. In a division where boxing’s biggest compete, they are close to being the tallest. One is 6′7½″, the other 6’6”. When they hit the scene, the floodgates opened and Russians, Ukrainians, Uzbekistanis, Kazakhstanians, Belarusians and others from Eastern Europe made their presence felt—some quickly winning world titles.
Today, however, 6’6” fighters are no longer rare. The UK has a few giants who are about to make some statements. Tyson Fury (15-0) at 6’9” may be the best of the bunch. Richard Towers (11-0) towers at 6’8”. Tom Dallas (15-1) tops out at 6′ 6″. As for former Olympian David Price (11-0), this talented 6’8’ Brit beat Fury as an amateur. Fury, Price, Dallas, and the aptly named Towers are men who bear watching. Even Audley Harrison stands 6′ 5½” but he is no longer watchable. At 6’3”, brash David Haye seems short.
Eastern Euros Alexander Ustinov (24-0) measures 6′ 7½″, Ivan Drago lookalike Alexander Dimitrenko (31-1) stands 6’7”, Siarhei “White Wolf” Liakhovich (25-3) is a short 6’4”, and Andrzej Wawrzyk (22-0) is at 6’5”. Frenchman Gregory Tony (15-2) is at 6’5”, “Nordic Nightmare” Robert Helenius (15-0) measures 6’7”, and German Timo Hoffman (39-7-2) is at 6’7 ½.”
In the U.S., “Big” Michael Grant, 6’7”, is still around at 47-4 and recently dispatched fellow-giant Tye “Big Sky” Fields. Tye is 6’8” and also has a great record at 48-4, but unlike Grant tallied it against terrible opposition. Deontay Wilder (17-0) is 6’7” but has so far been fed a diet of easy marks. He needs to step it up. Still, he may be the best of the younger heavyweights. Tony “The Tiger” Thompson (36-2) stands 6’5” and is making another bid for a title shot. Ray Austin is 6’6” but his “best days” are well behind him.
The aforementioned boxers mostly weigh well in excess of 235 pounds with reaches in the neighborhood of 80″ and even longer.
In the late 1940s the legendary Cleveland Browns of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC), led by Coach Paul Brown, Otto Graham, Lou Groza, and Marion Motley, were arguably the best team in Pro Football. But as great as they were, they likely would be hard-pressed to compete with the top college teams of today where offensive lines average well over 300 pounds per man. The new normal in football is now big and fast.
It is submitted that the same holds true for the heavyweight division where 6’5” may become the new threshold. The fighters will continue to get taller with attendant heavier torsos and better coordination and this will bode ill for those shorter fighters like Tomasz Adamek (6′1½″) and even Chris Arreola (6’4”) who are among the few who seem able and willing to compete with bigger men.
Reinforcing this view is the fact that many champions in recent years were tall. Riddick Bowe was 6’5” and so was Lennox Lewis. Larry Holmes was 6’3”. Rahman, Bruno, and McCall snuck in but not for very long. In short (no pun intended), Mike Tyson’s glory days ended in 1996 and I doubt we will ever see another 5’10” heavyweight champion.