Cruiserweight: 2012, Feb 6-12

Give Yoan Pablo Hernandez credit.  He came out on the friendly end of a bad job of officiating in his first fight with Steve Cunningham.  And he didn’t run and hide and sit on his ill-gotten gain.  He wasted little time scheduling a rematch with the likely wronged party, and this time he took care of business and left no doubt as to the winner of the fight.  And credit the judges, too.  They got it right this time around.  There is no scandalous headline this time to obscure Hernandez’ victory, and he deserves to revel in it.


On the same card, in a fight that was a bit inexplicably the main event, #17 Alexander Alexeev beat #15 Enad Licina in a very solid decision.  Licina showed nice power and timing early in the fight and was very competitive over the first half.  By the middle rounds, however, the younger Alexeev had started to break the Serbian veteran down.  Licina began to cover up and stand flat-footed in the middle of the ring, and from there he began to get busted up.  Alexeev wound up winning impressively in a fight I scored 117-111. 


On the undercard, #20 Mateusz Masternak faced decent journeyman Michael Simms, and managed to stop him in the 4th round of a scheduled 8.  Also, Troy Ross- unranked only due to inactivity- fought a no-hope opponent in Poland’s Lukasz Rusiewicz, and lost only one of a possible 24 rounds on the three judges’ cards.  Prior to Saturday, Ross was inactive for 15 months, and hasn’t fought a decent opponent since his controversial loss to Steve Cunningham 20 months ago.


Now to the inevitable shakeup:  It  was a VERY tough call on who would hold the number 2 spot this week, but ultimately Hernandez has now erased the doubt as to who is the better fighter between he and Steve Cunningham- a guy that was ranked #2 when the two began their rivalry late last year.  Lebedev has also beaten a #2 contender, though he didn’t get credit for it.  To me, Hernandez’ two fights with Cunningham and Lebedev’s fight with Huck amount to a wash.  Ultimately the main difference was that Hernandez has a longer resume overall, and Lebedev has been spending his time lately fighting washed up former middleweights.  As a result, Yoan Pablo Hernandez is the new #1 contender in this division.


Next issue: how far does last week’s #4 Steve Cunningham fall?  Let’s compare him with #5 Huck.  Each guy has recently lost (or should have) to a guy that was ranked #6 when they first met (Huck vs. Lebedev, Cunningham vs. Hernandez), so that’s a wash.  Cunningham has a couple relatively recent successes- one a stoppage win over Troy Ross that it’s easy to argue he should have lost in a technical decision.  I basically set that fight aside.  He also won a decision over then-14th-ranked Enad Licina.  Compare that to Huck’s opponent’s since Lebedev, which has basically been 3 gatekeepers, fringe contenders and prospects.  I consider these two parts of the resume a wash, as well.  Here’s the big bomb: Cunningham beat Huck in the ring.  Drawback?  That fight was over 4 years ago.  Since then, Cunningham’s only significant win that we haven’t already dealt with was a decision over contender Wayne Braithwaite in July ’09.  For Huck, the list includes a top-10 contender in 8th-ranked Ola Afolabi, another contender in Victor Ramirez, and a third top-20 guy in Matt Godfrey.  Add to that a liberal assortment of lesser top-50 fighters, and it’s really hard not to allow the weight of Huck’s activity to crush Cunningham’s hopes to hang on to the 4th position.  Luckily, Cunningham finds his firewall secure at #5, since another guy that he’s beaten in Krzysztof Wlodarczyk sits there.  This win was even more in the distant past than the Huck win, but Wlodarczyk has enough mixed results on his track record to give the result even of that close fight more weight, even despite the Pole’s recent come-from-behind knockout win over 9th-ranked Danny Green.


Fallout from the Alexeev-Licina fight.  Pretty clear-cut here.  Alexeev now has a better win than anything on Kayode’s (#13 last week) resume, and thus moves past the Nigerian.  The Uzbek-born Russian does have a couple losses to good fighters, but Kayode hasn’t yet been tested at quite the same level at which Alexeev has failed.  Alexeev stalls short of passing #12 Palacios, since I still consider Palacios’ likely undeserved loss to Wlodarczyk to be of slightly higher quality than a win over Licina.    Speaking of the Serbian veteran, he now has not won a significant fight in over 3 years, covering 3 losses.  That’s not good.  But looking at the guy below him last week, we see Firat Arslan, who lost to Steve Herelius in the middle of all Licina’s losing efforts.  Though Herelius made a lot of hay in my rankings based on that win, it must be said that he was not as highly thought of at the time of that bout as any of the guys Licina lost to.  Arslan has defeated the decent Lubos Suda since that loss, but all that really means logically is that he’s somewhere between the level of Suda and Herelius.  Licina had proved to be better than Jose Luis Herrera- who was seen as much better than Suda- back at the dawn of 2009, and his losses haven’t done quite as much to chip away at that reputation as did Arslan’s loss to Herelius.  Arslan’s age doesn’t help, either.  Therefore, Licina manages to avoid any unforced drop in the rankings despite the loss to a lower-ranked fighter.


Troy Ross’ victory over a very weak opponent did nothing more than return him to the status of an active fighter.  Even though he certainly has a lot more proven ability than those rated in his neighborhood, Ross’ resume simply doesn’t support his being ranked any higher than between Licina and Arslan.  You could argue he proved enough by arguably beating Cunningham in an abbreviated fight, but I believe that bout to have been too inconclusive to base any major adjustments upon. 


So just to summarize: Hernandez’ win bumps him from #3 to #1 this week, forcing down Lebedev and Tarver to #2 and 3, respectively.  Last week’s #4 and #5- Steve Cunningham and Marco Huck- switch places.  No changes between #6 and #12.  Alexeev advances from #17 to #13, forcing down #13-15 Kayode, Herelius, and Licina one place apiece.  Ross returns to the rankings at #17, forcing Arslan down 2 places to 18, while everybody rated 18 or below last week drops one position in the shakeup.  This includes #20 Mateusz Masternak, who exits the rankings after 14 weeks despite his low-level win this weekend.


Dan’s Top 20
Champ: None
1) Yoan Pablo Hernandez (1-85-85)
Last Fight: 2/4/2012- UD12 #4 Steve Cunningham
Next Fight: Unknown
Erased any doubt as to the better fighter between him and Cunningham.  A fight with Lebedev now would be huge.
2) Denis Lebedev (1-105-105)
Last Fight: 11/4/2011- UD12 James Toney (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
The talks with Guillermo Jones appear to have fallen apart, and both men are now blaming each other for the failure of negotiations.
3) Antonio Tarver (1-29-29)
Last Fight: 7/20/2011- RTD9 #7 Danny Green
Next Fight: Unknown
The latest word is that there is a 75% chance that Tarver will fight Wlodarczyk on Showtime, April 28.
4) Marco Huck (1-270-270)
Last Fight: 10/22/2011- KO5 Rogelio Rossi (UNR)
Next Fight: 2/25/2011- vs. HW #2 Alexander Povetkin (at HW)
Povetkin vs. Huck is now set a division to the north.
5) Steve Cunningham (1-399-399)
Last Fight: 2/4/2012- L(UD12) vs. #3 Yoan Pablo Hernandez
Next Fight: Unknown
After several shaky performances, Cunningham’s career is starting to take on water.
6) Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (10-346-346)
Last Fight: 11/30/2011- TKO11 #9 Danny Green
Next Fight: Unknown
See Tarver’s notes, above.
7) Ola Afolabi (10-152-152)
Last Fight: 9/10/2011- UD8 Lukasz Rusiewicz (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Afolabi might get a shot at Huck’s alphabet title despite Huck’s moving up to Heavyweight, as there may be a fight with Denis Lebedev offered for the vacant title.
8) Guillermo Jones (10-71-71)
Last Fight: 11/5/2011- TKO6 Michael Marrone (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
See Lebedev’s notes above.  Also, the WBA has ordered a fight between him and Lateef Kayode.
9) Danny Green (29-114-114)
Last Fight: 11/30/2011- L(TKO11) vs. #8 Krzysztof Wlodarczyk
Next Fight: Unknown
Green says he would like a rematch with Anthony Mundine- something that’s unlikely at best now that Mundine is fighting about 4 divisions to the south of him.  I do not believe retirement has been ruled out for Green.
10) Giacobbe Fragomeni (29-169-169)
Last Fight: 7/8/2011- UD6 Remigijus Ziausys (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
11) B.J. Flores (17-85)
Last Fight: 1/28/2012- TKO6 Hugo Pineda (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Flores wants Wlodarczyk next after easily brushing aside Pineda.
12) Francisco Palacios (17-45)
Last Fight: 11/5/2011- UD8 Joell Godfrey (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
The WBC has mandated a rematch with Wlodarczyk, but that seems almost forgotten as Wlodarczyk appears poised for a fight with Antonio Tarver.
13) Alexander Alexeev (1-56)
Last Fight: 2/4/2012- UD12 #15 Enad Licina
Next Fight: Unknown
If his record is any indication, he has probably reached just about the ranking he currently tops out at.
14) Lateef Kayode (1-64)
Last Fight: 9/9/2011- UD10 Felix Cora, Jr. (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
WBA titlist Guillermo Jones has been ordered to fight Kayode.
15) Steve Herelius (1-84)
Last Fight: 2/12/2011- L(KO7) vs. #6 Yoan Pablo Hernandez
Next Fight: Unknown
Herelius has been inactive for a year as of Sunday after being on the wrong end of a brutal KO in his last fight.  He will be removed if he doesn’t schedule something this week.
16) Enad Licina (1-85)
Last Fight: 2/4/2012- L(UD12) vs. #17 Alexander Alexeev
Next Fight: Unknown
May be getting a little shopworn.  He’s not a pushover by any means, but you’d have to be crazy to imagine him as a top-10-type guy.
17) Troy Ross (1-1)
Last Fight: 2/4/2012- UD8 Lukasz Rusiewicz (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Inactivity combined with poor competition are killing the career of top-level talent Ross, but at least he’s technically an active cruiserweight again, and thus eligible to remain in the rankings.
18) Firat Arslan (1-30)
Last Fight: 1/28/2012- TKO2 Orlando Farias (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Arslan is 41 and not getting any younger.  Unless he’s already decided to call it a day, expect a better opponent in his next fight than Farias.
19) Matt Godfrey (1-21)
Last Fight: 6/10/2011- L(UD10) vs. #17 Lateef Kayode
Next Fight: Unknown
It’s a testament to the stagnation in the bottom half of the rankings that Godfrey- who last had a significant win over 3 years ago- continues to hang around the top 20.
20) Eric Fields (1-17)
Last Fight: 1/28/2011- UD8 Derrick Brown (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Fields is the latest in a fairly long line of iffy candidates to enter in the rankings.  He’s a one-loss prospect with a win over marginal gatekeeper Danny Batchelder back in June.  What separates him from the 2 or 3 guys he beat out for this spot is the fact that his loss- in 2008 against current #6 Ola Afolabi- is a lot more forgivable than the losses of his competitors.


THE WEEK AHEAD: The only show in town this week at the 200 pound limit is a hump day showdown in Moscow between gatekeepers Grigory Drozd of Russia and Jamaica’s Richard Hall.


Outside the ring, #15 Steve Herelius is in danger of being removed for inactivity if he doesn’t schedule a fight this week.

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