Boxing traditionally has only eight weight classes. In 2017, most importantly, lineal champion Tyson Fury remained inactive now for more than two years and does not have a fight scheduled. His PED allegations were finally settled when he could take a retroactive penalty of the two years. He failed to fight in exchange for the PED allegations being dropped. One still has no idea if he is in any kind of condition to fight, or if he will do so in 2018. After over two years out of the ring, and the loss of the linear title, he will be eligible to reenter the ratings if he enters the ring once again.
A big part of the reason of recognizing only a lineal champion in the eight original divisions is to bring the former standards and criteria back to the sport. However, in this era we are seeing that even lineal champions must eventually be placed under some limits in their ability to hold the title if they do not meet certain criteria. More than eighteen months out of the ring without a fight scheduled was essentially a retirement, even before evaluating the PED issue. Sadly, Fury had to lose the title.
Alexander Povetkin also hit the end of the ratings line according to the consensus I happen to agree with; testing positively twice for PEDs and losing a federal civil trial to Deontay Wilder in the US which centered on the same issue. Despite the fact, he still fights in Russia, having won fights against the limited Duhapus and Hammer. Luis Ortiz is also out after a second positive PED test and despite the fact he returned in a blowout over the overmatched Daniel Martz and that it appears he will fight Deontay Wilder in March. In 2017, Wladimir Klitschko returned with a surprisingly spirited effort against Anthony Joshua. Klitschko wisely decided to retire, dropping him out of the ratings. He finishes at 64-5 53KO.
Between the PED issues surrounding Fury, Povetkin and Ortiz, Fury’s inactivity and Klitschko’s retirement, a heavyweight division that once again appeared to be on the rise closes 2017 in dreadful shape and with a vacant title. This only leaves one fight that the sport craves, and which would provide a new clear lineal champion: Joshua-Wilder. The two are now a combined 58-0 57KO and both have knocked out every man they have faced in their careers. In the Klitschko Era, Wladimir and Vitali were clearly the top two and head and shoulders above the other contenders but understandably did not fight because they were brothers. Joshua and Wilder are clearly the top two and miles above the other contenders and are not brothers. They need to fight now. If a returning Fury ever gets ready and is around to fight the winner; so be it, as it will add to the clarity.
Criteria: Fighters overall record, perceived talent level, quality of opposition, quality wins and level of performance in wins and losses, where the fighter is ranked in the Transnational Boxing Ranking Board’s Heavyweight and Cruiserweight Rankings and The Ring’s Heavyweight and Cruiserweight Rankings. Also, strongly considered would be who would beat who and who and by how much one fighter would be favored over the other by odds makers were the fight to be signed tomorrow. The traditional standard of one year of inactivity will drop a fighter from the rankings will be taken into consideration but the fighter is eligible to re-enter as soon as he fights again. Champions will primarily be the recognized lineal champions, with consideration also given to champions recognized by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and The Ring. This is how the traditional heavyweight division looks today:
1. Anthony Joshua (U.K. 20-0 20KO)
2. Deontay Wilder (U.S. 38-0 37KO)
3. Joseph Parker (N.Z. 24-0 18KO)
4. Kubrat Pulev (Bulgaria 25-1 13KO)
5. Oleksandr Usyk (Ukraine 13-0 11KO)
6. Murat Gassiev (Russia 25-0 18KO)
7. Jarrell Miller (U.S. 19-0-1 17KO)
8. Dominic Breazeale (U.S. 19-1 17KO)
9. Dillian Whyte (U.K 22-1 16KO)
10. Yunier Dorticos (Cuba 22-0 21KO)
Ratings Notes: Anthony Joshua kept busy with a stoppage over Carlos Takam in an underwhelming performance. He also struggled with a 41-year old Wladimir Klitschko who was coming off a lengthy period of inactivity and a non-combative performance against Tyson Fury. One could argue Joshua’s competition has simply been a little bit more difficult but I thought he looked better in dominations of Martin and Breazeale. Joshua has still earned the number 1 spot based on his resume but clarity is needed with a fight against Deontay Wilder. An expected blowout over Joseph Parker will prove little, despite Parker’s high-ranking, because suddenly the division looks like the Klitschko era: two guys at the top and no one else. Deontay Wilder took everything out of Bermane Stiverne in their first fight when he gave him such a beating he caused him to be hospitalized. I have no doubt Stiverne was shot and underprepared for the rematch, yet Wilder still was impressive because he properly took care of business. The first-round blowout went viral and the time for a Joshua-Wilder fight is now. Joseph Parker moves to number 3 by default; he has a career that has clearly stalled. He was unimpressive in his last four, despite wins over solid competition—the most recent being an unimpressive snoozer over Hughie Fury. He doesn’t have a shot against Joshua, or Wilder for that matter, but it appears Joshua will get to knock him out first. Parker is a somewhat competent boxer but his power hasn’t translated against marginally better opposition and he simply doesn’t have enough for Joshua or Wilder and probably would struggle with against the others in the top ten.
Kubrat Pulev pulled out of a scheduled fight with number 1 guy Anthony Joshua, who then appeared to go in a different direction. Pulev will probably be a stepping-stone for someone else to make their way to the top ten. Oleksandr Usyk took 10 rounds to stop an over-the-hill Marco Huck, who he was a huge favorite against in the WBSS Cruiserweight tournament. He has another opponent up next who he will not be threatened by in Maris Bredis. We will find out what he has when he faces the Gassiev-Dorticos winner in the final, a fight that should give us one or two good heavyweight contenders, considering the weakened state of the division. That’s what this cruiserweight tournament is good for. Murat Gassiev looked very formidable in stopping experienced veteran Krzysztof Wlodarczyk with a body shot in the WBSS Cruiserweight Tournament. However due to the impressive surge of Yunier Dorticos, he is only a slight favorite in that February 2018 fight, which will be a big test for both. The winner should get Usyk in the final. I still think this tournament is perfect for the young and talented Gassiev to use as a springboard to heavyweight; think Evander Holyfield moving quickly through all the best cruiserweights as a platform to heavyweight stardom.
Jarrell Miller is the division’s “X” factor and he continued his march into contention with a bludgeoning of Mariuz Wach on HBO, his new American TV network. Wach went late with Povetkin and went the distance with Wladimir Klitschko. Only Miller and Gassiev appear to me to have enough upside of the top ten fighters outside of Wilder and Joshua to make some noise. Miller could help himself by being a little lighter. I think he’s the best American heavyweight outside of Wilder. He doesn’t have an amateur background but does have that “extra” stamina you always seem to see in ex-kickboxers, is big and has thudding, bludgeoning type power. He’s one of the guys in the sport, like Golovkin and Andrade, that you just get the feeling no one is too anxious to fight. Dominic Breazeale has plenty of flaws, but also plenty of heart and power as he showed against Izu Ugonoh in their brawl which is a Fight of the Year candidate He’s very close to being in this top ten. He’s a guy you want to see fight as well, because in his fights, someone is going down. Dillian Whyte registered an unimpressive decision over the faded Robert Helenius and has only one loss, to Anthony Joshua, and since he and Joshua both continue to win it helps his resume. But he doesn’t have any legit top ten wins and probably can’t beat anyone in the top ten, but may get his chance to do so soon. He’s probably an ideal “fringe of the top ten” opponent type for the top guys who need to keep busy. Yunier Dorticos showed he is someone to be reckoned with in his last two fights—blowouts of Youri Kalenga and the hard-punching Dmitry Kudryashov in two rounds in the WBSS cruiserweight tournament. Dorticos has amateur pedigree, with 257 amateur fights and the odds makers are convinced he is for real, as he is only a slight underdog against Gassiev for their fight in February. Dorticos stands 6’3”, so like Usyk and Gassiev, he has the height for the heavyweight division.
Fighters not in the Top Ten but worthy of mention and watching include: Adam Kownacki is a Polish-American from Brooklyn, NY, USA who was impressive in stopping Artur Szpilka in four rounds. Kownacki is a very strange package in that he is a big, heavy guy but he relies on high punch volume to get to his opponents. He is on the verge of contention in the weakened state of the division and looks to be a guy who can provide an explosion in a match with another action opponent. Tony Bellew ended the David Haye comeback charade in resounding fashion but that doesn’t make him a threat. Like Parker, he now is someone everyone wants to fight, but he’s taken the highest reward/least risk in waiting for David Haye to finally be ready for the rematch, despite Haye’s fade into irrelevance. Andy Ruiz hasn’t done anything spectacular but if nothing else, he showed against Parker that he’s competitive against top ten heavyweights. Problem is he hasn’t fought since and drops out of the top ten due to inactivity.
Hughie Fury was good enough to go the distance with Joseph Parker in a close but dull fight. His cautious style may not build his fan base. Daniel DuBois is an untested British prospect who is 6- 6KO but is big and hasn’t even let anyone survive past the second round yet. The division is so weak right now, he could crack the top ten soon. Izu Ugonoh had a Fight of the Year type war with Dominic Breazeale. He almost had Breazeale out. He showed enough that all fight fans would like to see him again and he deserves the chance. Amir Mansour beat Travis Kaufmann and traveled to Russia to take on unbeaten prospect Sergey Kuzmin. Mansour did not come to fold, as he was performing competently against the plodding Kuzmin until a clash of heads caused the fight to be stopped and end in a technical draw. He fought Breazeale, Gerald Washington and Steve Cunningham tough, he’s a physical marvel for his age and can’t yet be completely discounted in this division. Sergey Kuzmin is 11-0-1 8KO and had a technical draw in his first test against Amir Mansour. He looks slow and plodding but the division is wide open. He was threatening enough to Mansour to cause Mansour to box during their fight.
Additional Ratings Criteria Applied in 2017: Fighters testing positive for PEDs will be dropped from the ratings and remain out of the ratings until sufficient penalty has been served. This policy applied to Alexander Povetkin and Luis Ortiz in 2017.
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