Weaknesses in the Heavyweight Division

By Tom Donelson
Updated: December 19, 2008

IOWA CITY — If you want to know the problems with the heavyweight division and boxing in general — the recent Hasim Rahman-Wladimir Klitschko was a prime example.

Rahman has lived off one punch, his right hand that sent Lennox Lewis down in their first fight. The second fight, the universe was righted as Lewis made short order of Rahman as he did what he always did in big moments — fail to deliver in the clutch.

There was no evidence that Rahman was ready to fight Klitschko, only that he filled the need as an opponent. The only chance for a Rahman victory depended upon whether Klitschko would come into after a seven-week movie shoot, hope that Klitschko keep his hand low and allow Rahman to hit him with a right hand.

Well, that didn’t happen and the sixth round summed up the whole fight.

In the opening 30 seconds, a Klitschko combination sent Rahman down and for the rest of the fight, Klitschko did what he did the whole fight, jab, jab, jab and then follow up with combinations.

Klitschko spend the entire fight jabbing and throwing combinations with nothing coming back in return and when the fight was stopped after a Klitschko combination that sent Rahman reeling; it was a mercy ending for Rahman.

As for Rahman, there was no reason that he should have fought for the title for his best days have long since passed him and all that he had was a right hand punch seven years ago.

And after beating Lewis in their first fight, Lewis ended Rahman reign as champion even quicker and from that point; Rahman never reached the championship summit.

This loss to Klitschko simply ended Rahman’s career as a contender and now he goes back to being nothing than a gate keeper for younger fighters and competitive only on the second tier boxing hierarchy.

As for Klitschko, this did little for his legacy by beating a name past his prime.

There’s no doubt that he’s the best fighter in the Heavyweight division and with Samuel Peter recent lost to his brother; there is very little above the horizon to challenge.

The fighters that might make actually challenge Wladimir Klitschko include the tough Chris Arreola and former cruiserweight champion David Haye, who has supposedly sign a contract with Klitschko for a June bout.

The David Haye-Wladimir Klitschko fight presents an intriguing matchup since Haye is excellent boxer with good hand speed and power. He was a devastating puncher at Cruiserweight and the question that often rises with fighters moving up in weight is whether the power will follow.

Haye is quick but not necessarily a orthodox fighter.

Arreola is still in the learning stages but he may be ready at the end of 2009 to take on the winner of the Haye-Klitschko bout, the true Heavyweight championship bout.

What is missing in the Heavyweight division is a fighter that the public can embrace and so far, the public has yet to embrace Klitschko, or I should say the American fighting public.

The reason is several fold beginning with Klitschko’s past losses, in which both boxing pundits and fans still hold against him. He lost to inferior fighters by knockouts and no discussion about Klitschko.

The other aspect is that he fights as often in Europe as he does in the state and while he has a loyal following in Europe, in particular, Germany; this has yet to translate to the states.

The third factor is that there hasn’t been an American Heavyweight that has truly mattered since Evander Holyfield. And Holyfield hasn’t been near his peak for over a decade.

Over the past decade fighters like Dominick Guinn, Eddie Chambers, and Calvin Brock have teased us with potential but in the big fights have often come up short.

Guinn is now mostly a opponent and Brock is now merely on the fringe of contention. Eddie Chambers proved to be another version of Chris Byrd, a small quick heavyweight in a land of behemoths and the jury is still out on whether his quickness will be enough.

The latest greatest American threat is the rough and tough Chris Arreola who survived a brutal three round fight with Travis Walker, who himself was once considered the next great thing.

For many Americans boxing fans, the great heavyweight is always over the horizon but never in the ring. As for Haye, he is a British fighter who may find a home in America and acceptance; if he beats Klitschko.

Americans may be forced to adopt a Brit as one of their own.

Which brings us to yet another evidence of the problems facing the Heavyweight division — the continuing the illusion of Holyfield fighting for a championship.

On Saturday, Holyfield fought Nicklai Valuev in a fight that no one really wants to see and any one really care. He’s but a shadow of himself and there is no evidence that Holyfield is going to beat Valuev.

Holyfield fighting for a championship is nothing but an illusion and one questions the motive of his continued fighting. Is it because he still craves the publicity, or simply needs to pay off bills?

With plenty of children and wives to support; Holyfield continues on a quest for a championship that is no longer obtainable and promoters keep allowing him his illusions.

It speaks for the weakness of a division that in order to attract attention, promoters must continue to recycle older fighters. Holyfield is becoming more of a tragic figure; a man once one of boxing great heavyweights but whose body is merely silhouette of what once was.

The time for Holyfield to leave the ring have long pass but the show continues like an old TV show. We know the ending of each episode but we can’t keep our eyes off the TV.

EDITORS’ NOTE: Nikolai Valuev narrowly defended his WBA heavyweight title with a majority decision over Evander Holyfield on Saturday. One judge scored the bout a draw, while the others had Valuev winning 116-112 and 115-114.