Analysis: Heavyweights Still Mired in the Mud

By Tom Donelson
Updated: July 31, 2006

Ray Austin

Ray Austin

NEW YORK — Ray Austin found himself down in the fourth round in a fight that he was losing. Trying to sneak a right to Sultan Ibragimov, Austin got nailed by a right hook first from the southpaw Russian.

Austin showed something that contender needed to show above all else, the ability to adjust and find a way to persevere. Using his height to its utmost, he forced Ibragimov to come to him and countered.

In the latter rounds, it was the Russian who hit the canvas as result of a hook and the fight ended the way the fight began- as a draw.

This fight merely demonstrated the murky nature of the present Heavyweight division. This bout was scheduled to be an “eliminator” for Wladimir Klitschko’s title but with the bout ending in a draw; both fighters find their career in a temporary limbo.

In this case, the judges got it right. It was a close tense fight with the momentum going back and forth.

Austin is a tall but awkward fighter who merely paws with his jab to set up his right. Sultan Ibragimov is a solid technician with power in both hands.

In the early rounds, it was Ibragimov skills and power that determine the pace of the match but as the bout dragged on the in the later rounds, Austin height neutralized Ibragimov advantages.

Ibragimov could not use his superior boxing skills and at times, was forced to lunge at Austin. Austin took advantage and countered effectively with his right followed up on occasion by his left hook.

The result merely called for a rematch, which is not all that bad. But for the moment, both fighters are eliminated as contender for Klitschko’s title.

This week, David Tua stopped Edward Gutierrez with a picture perfect double left hook combination to the body and then the head. As for Tua, nothing was truly answered since Gutierrez proved to be inferior competition.

Since his comeback and the end of legal woes, Tua has feasted upon a diet of lower echelon fighters and Tua has been less than spectacular with two of those bouts going the distance.

The power is still there but the real question is whether Tua has either the skills left to match up with elite heavyweights or the true desire to finish up on what was a promising career.

Tua was once viewed as the second coming of Tyson and a potential champion. His loss to Lewis was his only shot at a title and since then, he drifted toward boxing purgatory.

At his peak, Tua often fought at 225-230 but as his career progressed, the weight went up. Tua’s boxing skills never improved and it appeared that he was stuck in a time warp.

Tua suffered from management problems that later ended up in court and this certainly played havoc with a once promising career.

Tua is only 33 and has fought very few wars over the past few wars. The left hook is still devastating but does Tua have the skills to deliver this punch against a legitimate contender?

The time will come shortly when the answer to that question appears.

The heavyweight division is still marred by the lack of that big name to take command of the division. Wladimir Klitschko is the best heavyweight but questions marks still swirl around him. The other champions appear to avoiding each other and every division appears to having their own version of elimination bouts.

In September, Samuel Peter fights James Toney in the WBC eliminator to take on the winner of the Hasim Rahman- Oleg Maskaev championship bout.

The Austin-Ibragimov was supposed to decide who would challenge for Wladimir title but nothing was solved there.

Nikolay Valuev defends his WBA title against Monte Barrett when he makes his first appearance in the United States but if you notice a pattern; it is that none of these champions are fighting each other.

Least I forget, WBO champion Serguei Lyakhovich is fighting Kevin McBride, who manage to turn his defeat of Tyson into a title shot.

Heavyweights today are no closer to having one truly unify the Heavyweight belt in the ring than a year ago or for that matter two years ago.