The New Normal in the Heavyweight Division

By Ted Sares on August 16, 2011
The New Normal in the Heavyweight Division
In a division where boxing's biggest compete, the Klitschkos are close to being the tallest

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.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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  1. Rafer Johnson 03:26pm, 09/22/2018

    The inference seems to be that past fighters couldn’t march with the giants of today but I disagree. Ali easily disposed of James J Beattie [6/8] and Ernie Terrell [6/6]. At his peak Mike Tyson would have disposed of the Klitschkos, Fury, Wilder and Joshua on the same night

  2. Darrell 09:44pm, 01/01/2013

    Tex Hassler…..same old, same old.  Still pining for the black & white days ay?  The Klit’s would destroy many of those heroes of yours.  Must be hard to be stuck…..back there.  BTW, Buster was about 6’ 3 & was outstanding for….just one fight.  Good for him.

    bikermike says that there are a lot of fat heavies around, he may be right.  I recall quite a few fatties back in the seventies & eighties myself.  I couldn’t say they work any harder than todays fighters or not….as usual, it’s always been an individuals sport & some, both today & yesteryear, work a lot harder than others.  But generalizations are easy to pin on todays heavyweights when the Eastern Euro’s & Brits are at the top of the tree….

    Back on topic, fiddling with the weight classes has its merits but as The Thresher says, not yet.  I don’t think the borderline heavyweights would be wanting to fight for a super cruiser belt if they had the opportunity of fighting for the heavyweight crown.  Too much tradition invested in that top weight division.

  3. Your Name 10:37am, 12/25/2012

    I agree with biker mike.  The fighters of today are not dedicated, they just want the title shot and to get the money, when a challenger like david haye can make the same as a champ without doing too much, its is clear the competitors are very weak.  The guys of today fighting in the hw division have plenty of beer bellies or are taking shortcuts by using weights to give them a good looking physique that is truly weak kind of like Frank Bruno.  Why is it that he could not last as long as some of tyson’s smaller weaker opponents who were not lifting 300 pounds?

    The Klitschkos are not so greatly skilled, but their opponents are often so underprepared or out of shape or plain bad.  seriously look at how Wlad got dropped 3 times by Samuel Peter in his prime, a big belly guy who should lose about 80 pounds of that bell and is not even really a heavyweight once he loses all that fat.

  4. bikermike 09:20am, 12/25/2012

    Still….when you brought it down from 15 rounds of Title `12 rounds…those last three rounds make a lot of difference….....known as the CHAMPIONSHIP ROUNDS….

    If a guy doesn’t have to train for those last three rounds….on top of the 12 rounds he just fought… are going to get a fatter guy who isn’t so bent on fitness and stamina… much as big punch for cupla rounds…and splatto…he wins..or loses
    The Klitschko boys both have defeats….but they bring the best game they can to the ring…every time….they come prepared…....The competition comes to get paid

  5. bikermike 06:19am, 12/25/2012

    Here’s the thing…...In today’s HW divisions….weight ...not fitness gets them into the Division.
    Klitschko’s are not ‘gifted ’ Heavyweights.  They are well trained…come from Eastern European amateur ranks…and ...and this is the difference…
    The Klitschko brothers are professionals.  Every day is spent maintaining their physical fitness/nutrition clean living.  Sure..a cupla smashes from time to time…but these guys are always training for a fight..or negotiating for a fight..or fighting…Compare a day in their lives with the competition !!  When these guys have a bowel of soup…competition cleans out a restaurant’s buffet.
    When Klitschkos are in the gym or sparring..or working out…competition is in the bars and doing horizontal aerobics…if anything at all

    If a dedicated HW , who took his profession seriously and was as disciplined and focussed as these guys….with a less mechanical and more agressive quick style….(Tyson had that)...the Klitschko’s would be ex champs.

    If my aunt had balls ...she’d be my uncle.  Competion wants to get a shot at the title….not Win the title

    Klitsckos’ don’t have a lot to worry about…from the known competition

  6. andrew 09:39pm, 12/21/2012

    I suppose Ted Tilden would have used his superior skill to blast Andy Roddick serves back at him and triumph in straight sets. Why do boxing fans show their age by clinging to the debunked notion that athletes from back in their youth were superior to today’s super fighters? As in all other sports, some of which can be quantitatively compared, it is obvious today’s boxers are superior to the old heroes, except when viewed through the rose tint of nostalgia.

  7. hernanday 01:04am, 10/22/2012

    Well Mike Tyson wrote the guide on beating tall fighters, just watch his fights in his prime 86-89 or just watch his fights after prison.  Even watch a ukrainina amteur boxer called lomachenko, he exemplifies why a tall guy has gross disadvantages in fighting a small quick guy.  The reality is you need the following skill set to fight small
    1. Explosive speed.  Hand and foot, you need to jump in quickly or be able to get in at least mid range where you can unleash your most powerful punches faster than your taller oppoenent
    2.  Good head movement.  you need to be able to move your head through upper body movements out the way of jabs
    3. Strong legs, Look at marciano (who never fought anyone taller than 6’2 Louis) or Tyson, they have legs like elephants.
    4. Good punching power.  Which requires either good technique, or just natural power
    5.  Good left hook.  From Tyson to tua to frazier to charles, every great heavyweight who was small had to throw a great left hook.  Joe Frazier would destroy a guy like Klitshcko in about a round.  As Klitsho so willingly clinches and allows his opponents to get inside.
    6.A good jab.  Despite what you may think, when your taller guy is throwing his hooks,you should be jabbing, and you should be countering his jab by slipping and jabbing your way in. TYson jab was often so fast it could not be seen except as a blur and he could put 3-4 of them together.
    7. Fast hands.  You need to be able throw punches at a speed so fast your opponent cannot see/react them, if they can see them, they will just move back.
    8. Decent endurance.  Tall guys tend to lack endurance because there hearts are comparatively smaller.  this is why bantamweights can throw 200 punches per round and not get tired as a heavy throwing 60.
    9. Long arms don’t hurt some short guys like sony liston who are 6’0 have (84 inch) arms longer than guys who are 6’6 or 6’8 like k2(80+82)
    10. An overhand right, let a tall puncher see a punch coming DOWN not up, its hard for them to defend and unexpected to see punches coming up all night then out of nowehere one comes down.
    11.  Go for the body and the tree will fall. Tall guys tend to not be able to absorb punches because they are taller and have a larger area to protect, also they tend to be per capita less muscular but simultaneously weaker.  Going to the body saps their endurance.
    12.  The real reason why there are more tall fighters is because there are no more championship rounds (13,14,15), hence their bad endurance is less a factor now than before
    13. Can;t fear being hit, and I believe this is the real reason.  Tyson had no problem absorbing uppercuts from big tall guys, he had a really thick neck to do so.  Most guys like Haye have comparatively slim necks, can’t take a punch from a heavier guy.  Joe Frazier would eat alot of jabs coming in, but once he was in 1 left hook were enough to drop 6’6 250 pound opponents.
    14. If you are fighting a taller guy, move back, move in or move down (duck).  and then attack. By making yourself smaller there is less of a target, and your opponent will have to come to you which will allow you to hit your opponent on an equal plain.  Not to mention the power you can use from your legs when croching to put into a power.  Watch how Marciano would bend down til his knee almost touched the canvas and would explode with a punch to a taller guy coming down.  Usually if it hit the fight was over.
    15.  A good trainer to teach this all to you or the will to watch top small fighters, and they don’t necessarily have to be heavyweights, Floyd Mayweather vs de la hoya or leonard vs hearns shows how to fight small.

    Given all this you can understand that had Tyson had a different trainer, they’d just encourage him to lose weight and fight in a different weight class.

    For example, I have the knowledge to fight as a heavy but rather be tall and give out all the punishment to a small guy.

  8. The Thresher 12:50pm, 08/19/2011

    How About:

    HEAVYWEIGHTS = 220 – 235 POUNDS?
    190 – 220 = CRUISERWEIGHTS
    175 – 190 = LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS

  9. The Thresher 05:05pm, 08/18/2011

    Rax, I agree with you, matey.

  10. raxman 04:57pm, 08/18/2011

    Ted - do you agree with me that would be a good thing - or do you favour sticking with tradition? On another note I would love to think that Adamek could beat Vitali but giving up 6 inches and 40+ pounds makes what Pac has accomplished a walk in the park. I’m astounded on the Australian books Adamek is only paying 5-1. I would’ve thought he’d have been around the early Del Boy market which was 10-1 before the fight was called off.

  11. The Thresher 04:50pm, 08/18/2011

    I think it might if the big guys keep on winning.

  12. raxman 03:46pm, 08/18/2011

    Hence the need to change up the weight classes. Cruiser is such a dud weight class for the most part but it shouldn’t be - those guys are a great size - powerful but still able to box -  it would be even better if the weight limit was pushed out to a 220-pound limit. Those guys you’re talking about Ted are, by and large (sorry), graceless to the point of being awkward - if cruisers were a little bigger it would be like watching the heavyweights of old. And while I’m on the subject I’d be all for calling cruiser heavyweight and follow the amateurs by calling the freaks super heavy, but I know the tradition of heavy being as it is that will never happen.

  13. Tex Hassler 12:26pm, 08/18/2011

    George Foreman is another heavyweight who in his prime would have walked right through the Klitschko brothers and KO’d them. George would have out reached them with his jab and George in not a midget. A prime Holyfield would have given them a run for their money and he stopped 6-ft 5-inch Buster Douglas with one single right hand.

  14. The Thresher 11:20am, 08/18/2011

    Points taken, Tex.

  15. Tex Hassler 07:19am, 08/18/2011

    Joe Louis at 6’1 and a half had little trouble with big heavyweights and would have beaten both Klitschko brothers with ease. He has far superior boxing skills and one punch KO power. The Klitschkos are where they are because of the fact there are no highly skilled heavyweight contenders. I doube they would have been champions during the ‘70s, and Sonny Liston in his prime would have destroyed them. Ali would have outboxed them. The have beat the best available to them so I am not faulting them.

  16. The Thresher 04:50am, 08/18/2011

    Not just yet.

  17. Iron Beach 02:51am, 08/18/2011

    Nice read Bull, what do you see happening, a lot more competetion in the Cruisers, a weight limit change, a supercruiser division, say 215,  a new super heavy division or everything stays as is?

  18. The Thresher 03:52pm, 08/17/2011

    Yes, 6’4” is the minimum IMO

  19. Pugknows 03:46pm, 08/17/2011

    I agree. You have to be big to compete these days. 6’4” appears to be the minimum height.

  20. "Old Yank" Schneider 02:30pm, 08/17/2011

    These big guys are indeed the prototypes for what the heavyweight division is going to look like for a long time.

  21. The Thresher 11:38am, 08/17/2011

    Thanks Pavel.

  22. Pavel 06:03am, 08/17/2011

    Nice article, Bull. Another interesting fact about today’s heavies is age: they are fighting at chronological ages greater than anything seen in the past. The average age of Boxrec’s top 25 heavies is appr. 33; the middle 50% of ages is appr. 27 to 39. If the sample group is expanded to include Boxrec’s top 50, the average is 32.5, with the middle 50% ranging from 27 to 38. Amazing.

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