Saturday, March 25, 2023  |


State of the Game: Heavyweights


This is the 17th 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: Heavyweights.

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.


Forget the 1970s  this is the Golden Age of the heavyweight division! (Well, it is if you live in Germany or a former Soviet Bloc nation, anyway.)

In the good ol’ U.S. of A., the division has arguably never been this weak. The sad truth is that it has been 20 years since the emergence of the last great American heavyweight, Evander Holyfield. Nobody since has come close to greatness. And we can’t blame the Klitschko brothers for that. America’s most athletic big kids don’t want to be the next Muhammad Ali anymore. Today’s would-be American heavyweights grow up wanting to be the next Michael Jordan or the next Reggie White.

We can, however, blame Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko for the fact that HBO and Showtime are barely in the heavyweight business anymore. The Ukrainian brothers employ an undeniably efficient and effective style that leads them to easy, drama-free victories. Good for them. Bad for TV audiences. And since the Klitschkos will never fight each other, the division has been reduced to a mess with no single leader (even though Wlad is THE RING champ and Vitali is rated No. 1), where we see one hopeless challenger after another come up way short – both in terms of height and performance – against the brothers.

Wladimir’s diet since the last “State of the Game” consisted of No. 5 Ruslan Chagaev and No. 6 Eddie Chambers, both Top-5 RING contenders at the time they were stopped by Klitschko. Meanwhile, Vitali TKO’d No. 10 Chris Arreola and decisioned Kevin Johnson — both top-10 heavyweights. Other than calling the Klitschkos boring or defensive-minded, there’s no criticism you can levy. They’re fighting the best available opponents (Vitali’s 10th-round KO of Albert Sosnowski excluded) and it’s hard to find a round either has lost. Somewhat promising up-and-comers (American or otherwise) are having the shine rubbed off by the Klitschkos one after another, which isn’t good for business in America, but it seems to be working out just fine in Germany.

About the best we can hope for is that the more-exciting heavyweights fight each other regardless of whether supremacy is at stake. That list includes No. 4 Tomasz Adamek and Arreola, who the former cruiserweight champ outpointed in an entertaining 12-round scrap in April, titleholder and No. 2 David Haye, and the undefeated and No. 3 Alexander Povetkin, who is somewhat relevant on the American scene now that he’s being trained by Teddy Atlas. Povetkin fights Wladimir Klitschko on Sept. 11 in Germany.

Beyond those guys, there isn’t much to get excited about. Chambers is a skilled boxer but might have better title hopes at cruiserweight. Young veteran puncher Sam Peter and old veteran puncher David Tua seem destined to let us down. Chagaev and No. 8 Nicolay Valuev are serviceable in their own ways, but it’s hard to offer them a better adjective than that. We don’t know yet what No. 7 Denis Boytsov can do; maybe he’ll be another solid Povetkin type. And Cuban Odlanier Solis has the talent, but his gut tells our gut not to get overly excited.

Think About It: Just because HBO and Showtime have lost interest in the heavyweights doesn’t mean there aren’t good matchups to be made in what was once the sport’s glamor division. While news that Vitali Klitschko is mulling over a fight with former lineal champ Shannon Briggs isn't terribly exciting, his younger brother's RING title defense against Povetkin should produce a quality fight. The 30-year-old Russian contender's stellar amateur background (which culminated in a world championship and Olympic gold medal), professional credentials (which include victories over former belthodler Chris Byrd and fellow contender Eddie Chambers), and aggressive volume-punching style suggest that he may have a shot against the champ. Although it appears that Haye would rather talk about fighting the Klitschkos than actually getting in the ring with the Ukrainian giants, fan-friendly matchups can be made between the brash Brit and Adamek, who fights Michael Grant on August 21, or Arreola, who gets back in action against Manuel Quezada on Aug. 13.


Best Puncher
Wladimir Klitschko
Best Boxer
Wladimir Klitschko
Most Protected
Deontay Wilder
Most Avoided
Vitali Klitschko
Is He Still Around?
Oliver McCall
Matchmaker’s Dream
David Haye-Chris Arreola
Deserves A Title Shot
Vitali Klitschko
Most Fun To Watch
Chris Arreola
On The Way Up
Odlanier Solis
On The Way Down
Martin Rogan
Best Fight In 2009
Tony Grano KO 4 Travis Kauffman

CRUISERWEIGHTS: blog/2089/state_of_the_game_cruiserweights /

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 /