Saturday, April 01, 2023  |



State of the Game: Cruiserweights

Fighters Network

This is the 16th in a series of stories from “The State of the Game,” the popular annual feature of THE RING magazine. We’re posting one weight class per day, starting with strawweight and working our way up to heavyweight. The package was featured in the July issue of the magazine. The August issue, with Floyd Mayweather Jr. as the cover story, is on newsstands now. Today: Cruiserweights.

It’s often been said that in boxing, the top two percent of the fighters make about 98 percent of the money. Well, we’re about to feed directly into that inequity. Not only do the top two percent get most of the money, but they get most of the attention too, and in “The State of the Game,” we focus primarily on that top two percent – the cream of every weight class. Maybe it’s not fair to the 145th best junior featherweight in the world, but hey, there’s a reason he’s only 145th best.

Still, you have to admit, we go deeper and include more fighters in State of the Game than just about any other article you’ll read all year. Where else will you find Wladimir Klitschko, Fernando Guerrero, Alfonso Gomez and Hekkie Budler all discussed in the same story?

Basically, the State of the Game is just what it sounds like: an all-encompassing exploration of where every division in boxing stands at this particular moment. As for the state of the sport as a whole, we know the balance of power is continuing to shift away from American fighters and away from the heavyweight division, but does that mean boxing is any worse off than it was a year ago or five years ago or 10 years ago? In a global sense, and judged in relativity to the economic climate across most of the world, no. Remember, some people in both the boxing community and the mainstream media opined three years ago that Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather was going to be the last megafight we’d see for years. How laughable is that now? We’ve since had four different pay-per-views cross the million-buy mark, and if Manny Pacquiao vs. Mayweather ever happens, it will crush every number Mayweather-De La Hoya posted.

Of course, all that this means is that the guys at the very top are getting exponentially richer while everyone else is struggling to make ends meet. Hey, that’s the way boxing has always been, and in a nutshell, that’s how life works. Boxing has loads of problems, no doubt, but year after year, it entertains and amazes those loyal followers who persevere through all the crap to get to the good stuff.


Cruiserweight has always been one of those revolving-door divisions. The best fighters don’t stay long; they invariably move up to heavyweight in hopes of making the big bucks. And for every successful cruiserweight who moves up, there’s usually a failed small-ish heavyweight who moves down to try to claim a belt in the 200-pound division. Plus, you have significant light heavyweights making the move up every so often, and occasionally you have cruisers making the move down to 175. All of these revolving-door qualities have been on display in the past year or so, and the division has suffered slightly from all of the instability.

Tomasz Adamek gave up THE RING title and moved up to heavyweight (following the lead of previous RING champ David Haye), depriving the division of its best and most exciting fighter. In return, the heavyweights gave back Brian Minto, who failed in his bid to take Marco Huck’s title in May. Also rumored to be considering a move down is Eddie Chambers, who recently learned he can’t beat the Klitschkos and might have a better chance of claiming a belt at cruiser. Then there was No. 5-rated Zsolt Erdei, who moved up from light heavyweight in November ’09 to take a belt from No. 8 Giacobbe Fragomeni.

The primary pillar of stability in the face of all of the comings and goings is No. 1 Steve Cunningham, a highly skilled, supremely conditioned boxer who just can’t get any breaks on the business end of boxing. His latest drama came when he was slated for significant exposure on ESPN2 in a vacant alphabet title bout against No. 10 Matt Godfrey in March. However, promoter Don King defaulted on his winning purse bid, the fight seemed off, organizers hurried to resurrect it and Godfrey made the dubious decision to back out. Instead, Cunningham stopped No. 4 Troy Ross in five rounds, thus regaining the belt he lost to Tomasz Adamek in 2008 and perhaps establishing some momentum.

Aside from Cunningham, Ross, and Godfrey, nearly everyone else of note in the division is based in Europe. No. 2 Krzysztof Wlodarczyk stopped Fragomeni in eight rounds in May, meaning a Cunningham-Wlodarczyk fight could be for the RING championship. Huck, who stopped Minto in the ninth round, is an exciting and hard-punching beltholder based in Germany. And No. 7 Denis Lebedev is an undefeated Russian fighter gradually gaining notice.

One wild card in the division, a fighter who hails from neither North America nor Europe, is No. 6 Danny Green of Australia, who sent shockwaves through the boxing world by stopping Roy Jones in the first round last October. Based on that single win, Green is one of the biggest names in the division, and any cruiserweight looking for a payday would happily head Down Under to take him on.

Think About It: More fighters than ever are experiencing success deep into their 30s mostly because of less-taxing fighting schedules and advances in medical science. Even so, it’s an extreme rarity when a boxer turns pro in his 30s and experiences success. That’s what makes Fragomeni such a remarkable story. After a lengthy amateur career that peaked with an Olympic appearance in 2000 at the age of 31, the Italian finally turned pro, won his first 21 fights, eventually claimed an alphabet belt, and is still a contender as he nears his 41st birthday. It’s kind of amazing that someone like Herbie Hide, who turned pro in 1989, is actually two years younger than Fragomeni. But as Teddy Atlas likes to say, you measure a boxer’s age by the punches he’s taken, not the date on his birth certificate.


Best Puncher
Marco Huck
Best Boxer
Steve Cunningham
Most Protected
B.J. Flores
Most Avoided
Steve Cunningham
Is He Still Around?
Herbie Hide
Matchmaker’s Dream
Marco Huck-Danny Green
Deserves A Title Shot
Steve Cunningham
Most Fun To Watch
Ola Afolabi
On The Way Up
Denis Lebedev
On The Way Down
Adam Richards
Best Fight In 2009
Ola Afolabi KO 9 Enzo Maccarinelli

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS: blog/2088/state_of_the_game_light_heavyweights /

SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS: blog/2081/state_of_the_game_super_middleweights /

MIDDLEWEIGHTS: blog/2078/state_of_the_game_middleweights /

JUNIOR MIDDLEWEIGHTS: blog/2075/state_of_the_game_junior_middleweights /

WELTERWEIGHTS: blog/2071/state_of_the_game_welterweights /

JUNIOR WELTERWEIGHTS: blog/2069/state_of_the_game_junior_welterweights /

LIGHTWEIGHTS: blog/2067/state_of_the_game_lightweights/

JUNIOR LIGHTWEIGHTS: blog/2061/state_of_the_game_junior_lightweights /