Do The Heavyweights Matter?

By Tom Donelson
Updated: March 8, 2009

Boxing Gloves IOWA CITY — Does the Heavyweight division matter? This was a question asked by host L.A. Batchelor on his talk show ” The Batchlor Pad” last week.

A good question because since the retirement of Lennox Lewis, the division has been non-descript with the title slipping among Russians and Ukrainians, mostly the Klitschko’s brothers.

Seven of Ring Magazine’s top ten are either Russians or Ukrainians and there is no American in sight of the title.

This explains partially why the division is no longer relevant in the minds of many Americans.

Another reason is that many of the championship fights are often fought in Europe and away from the prying eyes of American fans.

Wladimir Klitschko is the best of the Heavyweights and his brother, Vitali, second best; which means the majority of championships are in the hands of the Klitschkos and the WBA title is in the hand of the Nikolay Valuev, the big Russian.

Valuev shows both the weakness and the reason for the present unpopularity of the division. He’s a big seven foot fighter with strength and even throws a left jab and right cross in a semblance of order.

He throws punches like a boxer but no one will mistake Valuev as one of boxing quicker fighters. He barely beat Evander Holyfield in a close and controversial decision.

Despite being a foot shorter and outweighed by a hundred pounds, Holyfield occasionally shot out combinations of old.

In the eyes of some pundits, the “Real Deal” should have been declared the winner and when you consider that Holyfield have long been past his past, this was a fight that Valuev should have won easy.

Many of the Russians and Ukrainian have extensive amateur background and their boxing skills are ahead of their American counterparts.

Yet, many of these fighters have yet to catch fire with American fans and despite their amateur background, their skills don’t seem to match past heavyweights.

The Heavyweights closest to past Heavyweights are the Klitschko’s brothers, who are trained by Emmanuel Steward, the man who made Lennox Lewis the best of his era.

It wasn’t that long ago that not only did Americans dominate the division but 90’s were one of Heavyweight best in depth and skills.

Lewis, Holyfield and Tyson were among the beat in boxing history plus Riddick Bowe at his peak was an excellent heavyweight.

Now, there is very little to distinguish the top ten Heavyweights with the exception of Klitschko’s. It doesn’t help that the Klitschko’s won’t fight each other so any title they owned is merely the prize of the family.

The first order of business begins with Vitali defense of his WBC title against Julio Gomez. Vitali Klitschko will be favored and Wladimir is supposedly readied himself to fight David Haye, the former Cruiserweight champion.

As for Valuev, who knows what in store for him?

And some boxing pundits might just ask, who cares? Valuev is not just a curiosity but he is not championship caliber when compared to others.

The major American threat to the title is the young, hard punching Chris Arreola who has yet to make his move from prospect to contender.

And on his march to the title, he may have to deal with young Ukrainian fighters Alexander Povetkin and Alexander Dimitrenko among others before actually fighting for any championship belt.

Boxing have often been dependent a strong Heavyweight division for substantial popularity and income but over the past decade.

However, the Heavyweights have not pulled their own weight when it came to boxing popularity nor has any excitement been created by those at the top of the division.

Not since the early 80’s when Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns and Roberto Duran ruled the Welterweights through Middleweight division has the lower weight division carried boxing.

But even in the early 80’s, there was a great Heavyweight in Larry Holmes at the top of the division.

Holmes may not have the charisma of Ali, who he supplemented as champion or Tyson, who followed but there was no doubt that he was a Hall of Fame fighter.

There is nothing to suggest that this division is consisted of Hall of Fame fighters and the sport is now being carried by the lower weights.

The Heavyweight division is surviving to full crowds in Europe, but it has a lack of interest in America.