Heavyweight: 2013, Nov 25- Dec 1

The Hernandez-Alekseev undercard in Bamberg, Germany featured a pretty significant upset.  #20 Denis Boytsov, who was probably in line for a shot at Wlad in his next fight, having been considered among the best available options for years, was soundly outpointed by Samoan gatekeeper Alex Leapai.  Boytsov appeared to be in mediocre shape, having cruised to easy victories against weak opponents for years.  Leapai’s punches seemed to have more steam at the start, and to have held that steam better down the stretch.  Leapai also appeared to want the win a lot more than the Russian.


We almost saw another upset in Macau on Sunday (Saturday US time), where undefeated Mexican prospect Andy Ruiz looked to be rather outclassed against gatekeeper Tor Hamer, getting out-hustled and out-punched, while looking very easy to hit.  But Hamer had a rough third and took some shots, and promptly quit before the 4th.  This is unfortunately Hamer’s M.O., as he did very much the same thing against Vyacheslav Glazkov.


I agonized a bit over this news, because frankly I think in the end it will just be a case of posturing and attention-seeking, but #1 Tyson Fury retired this week.  He couldn’t have been more clear about it, stating on Twitter that he is “officially” retired, and even after his promoter and his uncle/trainer vehemently denied the retirement, Fury himself confirmed it, clarifying that he is, in fact, a million percent retired.  Fury is very undisciplined in his use of Twitter, and is prone to blurt out dramatic sound bytes based on however he’s feeling at the moment, and I suspect this is little different, but ultimately if I started ignoring unequivocal statements from fighters regarding their statuses, there wouldn’t really be any effective way for a fighter to retire from the rankings at all.  That being the case, and even though I think the result is rather artificial and silly in this case, I am forced to take Fury at his word and remove him from the rankings.  He won’t be eligible until he fights again, since he is essentially inactive now, and can’t change that until he actually enters the ring.  Everyone ranked #2-13 last week moves up a spot, allowing Erkan Teper to make his debut in the top 10.


Both of the week’s fights prompt a shakeup in the division this week, as well.  Leapai is naturally going to benefit from clearly beating a top 20 contender.  He does have one inconsistent loss on his record- a fairly dominant TKO loss to Kevin Johnson- but that loss is far enough in the past (over 18 months) that it can detract from his resume without leading to the conclusion that he’s proven to be that kind of fighter in the present day.  He’s also got a 2009 6-round draw to a complete nobody, but that has to be treated as a fluke, since he has destroyed many much better fighters since then.  While comparing resumes as a whole without respect to timing would not allow this result, when weighting recent results more, it’s clear that Leapai belongs ahead of Robert Helenius.  Helenius has had two consecutive inconclusive fights with clearly non-top-20 opposition and a clear loss to Chisora before that.  One of those opponents was not even top 50.  Leapai just beat a top 20 guy, and I think it would be hard to say that Helenius is currently capable of doing that with any degree of confidence.  Obviously injury has played a major part in that, but the Nordic Nightmare has been fighting with injury for so long now that it’s become a part of who he is as a fighter.  For these reasons, Leapai debuts at #13.  


Ruiz’s opponent Hamer, meanwhile, was not quite as good as Boytsov.  Hamer made a name for himself by- perhaps ironically- beating Kevin Johnson on Prizefighter.  Johnson was a borderline top 20 guy at the time, and so that got Hamer near that level.  But it was a non-shutout decision in a 3-round fight.  You’ve gotta take that into account, especially after he straight up quit against Glazkov.  He also had a loss to an unheralded prospect in Kelvin Price earlier on.  I had Hamer as roughly the #29 heavyweight in the world going in.  Not bad, but not Boytsov, who if anything was viewed as underrated at #20.  When comparing Ruiz to Helenius, a different result emerges.  While I’m not willing to give Helenius credit for wins over Sprott and Williams (I scored both fights as draws), he also didn’t lose.  When I treat a fight as a draw, I generally imagine a midpoint between the status of the two fighters, and act as if both guys showed a level right around that point.  Even as lowly as Sherman Williams was in the ranks at the time of their fight, Helenius was high enough that the midpoint still was around the fringe contender level.  Even after Helenius was diminished by that fight, the Sprott fight had him roughly at the same level, since Sprott himself was nearly a fringe contender after beating Gerber.  So I’ve yet to see anything to suggest that Helenius has fallen so far that he can’t compete at around the level of the top 25, and the aging wins over Peter, Brewster, and Bidenko still justifiably buoy him to a great extent.  Ruiz’s win over Hamer was at a level just below what I’d call the fringe contender level…roughly equivalent to Sprott.  So even taking only the most recent performances into account, it’s not a slam dunk.  The fact that Helenius has beaten a #6 contender and one or two more guys roughly equivalent to Hamer- even if it was in the fairly distant past- is dispositive in this case.  


Ruiz does, however, surpass Seth Mitchell in a close call.  Mitchell got a win over #19 Ibragimov to give him the advantage, but then got stopped by a guy only a shade more credible than Hamer in Johnathan Banks.  Technically Mitchell then beat a #10 contender by winning his rematch with Banks, but you’ve gotta discount that for the most part, since essentially he had created that #10 contender himself by the first fight.  So he beat #19, and then lost and won against a guy ranked between 20-25 on his own merits.  That means he had probably proved himself pretty much in his element around the 19-25 range, which is a notch better than Ruiz has done in the one relevant fight.  But unfortunately for Mitchell, his last fight was a demolition at the hands of Chris Arreola, who was ranked in the low-mid 20’s, and just a couple spots ahead of Hamer at the time.  That’s a pretty compelling case that Ruiz has proven himself at the higher level of late.  


Accordingly, Ruiz debuts at #15.  Helenius holds firm at #14.  Mitchell remains at #16.  Alexander Dimitrenko, with his win over Luan Krasniqi now over 5 years old, takes a dive from #15 to #17.  Glazkov and Scott each fall two places to #18 and 19, respectively, and Banks hangs on at #20.  Boytsov doesn’t need the help to make his own exit.  I must say that the heavyweight division is getting more exciting overall with all of this new blood, though the top of the division is greatly diminished by the removal of the top two contenders in the past two weeks.


Dan’s Top 20 (Weeks in current position-weeks in top 10 (if applicable)-weeks in top 20)
Champ: Wladimir Klitschko (231-444-444)
Last Fight: 10/5/2013- UD12 #3 Alexander Povetkin
Next Fight: Unknown
While the order is unclear at least to me, Klitschko’s current mandatory obligations include Alex Leapai and Kubrat Pulev.  In the WBA, it looks like the spot would be filled by an eliminator at some point, either between Povetkin and Luis Ortiz, or whatever other fighters in their rankings would be available.  The technically retired Tyson Fury also called Wlad out right before his retirement.
1) Alexander Povetkin (1-318-318)
Last Fight: 10/5/2013- L (UD12) vs. Champ Wladimir Klitschko
Next Fight: Unknown
Povetkin is calling for a rematch.  He would probably need to become the WBA mandatory by winning an eliminator (possibly against Luis Ortiz) in order to get that shot.
2) Steve Cunningham (1-49-49)
Last Fight: 4/20/2013- L (KO7) vs. #6 Tyson Fury
Next Fight: 12/14/2013- vs. Unknown Opponent
Cunningham will appear on a December 14 card in Atlantic City.
3) Tomasz Adamek (1-188-188)
Last Fight: 8/3/2013- UD10 Dominick Guinn (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Kathy Duva, who promotes both fighters, says she will reschedule the cancelled Adamek-Glazkov fight.
4) Kubrat Pulev (1-82-159)
Last Fight: 8/24/2013- UD12 #11 Tony Thompson
Next Fight: 12/14/2013- vs. Ondrej Pala (UNR)
Pulev will be fighting on December 14 while waiting for a shot at Wlad.  His opponent is reported to be, interestingly, Ondrej Pala.  Pala is scheduled to fight Dereck Chisora this weekend, so there’s a lot that can happen on the way to that fight, obviously, if true.
5) Dereck Chisora (1-104-167)
Last Fight: 9/21/2013- TKO5 Edmund Gerber (UNR)
Next Fight: 11/30/2013- vs. Ondrej Pala (UNR)
Chisora has secured Ondrej Pala as a replacement opponent for this weekend- an upgrade from the original opponent.  This begins what could be a heck of a 3-weekend span for Pala, who according to Bulgarian media has also agreed to fight Kubrat Pulev on 12/14.
6) Odlanier Solis (1-36-183)
Last Fight: 7/27/2013- TKO7 Yakup Saglam (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Solis was briefly set to fight Kevin Johnson on November 26, but quickly withdrew due to an IBF mandate that he fight Carlos Takam, instead.  Reportedly that fight will now happen in January, though it’s not finalized yet.
7) Bermane Stiverne (1-23-39)
Last Fight: 4/27/2013- UD12 #15 Chris Arreola
Next Fight: Unknown
Stiverne is currently fighting his promoter Don King, in court, for the right to possibly fight Vitali in February.
8) Chris Arreola (1-12-12)
Last Fight: 9/7/2013- TKO1 #12 Seth Mitchell
Next Fight: Unknown
Arreola may be a candidate for Wilder, or could fight for a vacant title in a rematch with Stiverne, should Vitali retire.  Fury has also named him as someone he’d like to replace David Haye with for February 8.
9) Tony Thompson (1-2-183)
Last Fight: 8/24/2013- L (UD12) vs. #8 Kubrat Pulev
Next Fight: Unknown
Thompson is now actively seeking a fight with Povetkin, Fury, Adamek, or Wilder.
10) Erkan Teper (1-1-13)
Last Fight: 11/16/2013- KO1 Martin Rogan (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Teper might have scored the heavyweight knockout of the year, and probably retired Martin Rogan in the process.
11) Mike Perez (1-4)
Last Fight: 11/2/2013- UD10 Magomed Abdusalamov (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Perez will have to do what many great fighters have had to do in the past- get over the psychological difficulty of having beaten a man to within an inch of his life, just by doing his job.
12) Deontay Wilder (1-31)
Last Fight: 10/26/2013- TKO4 Nicolai Firtha (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
In the immediate aftermath of the Haye-Fury fallout, Wilder apparently agreed verbally to fight Fury on February 8.  But a couple days later, Wilder’s promoter revealed that Fury’s management wasn’t returning phone calls, and Fury announced his retirement around that same time.  The fight looks dead.
13) Alex Leapai (1-1)
Last Fight: 11/23/2013- UD10 #20 Denis Boytsov
Next Fight: Unknown
Leapai, in Rocky-like fashion, now stands as one of Wlad’s two mandatory challengers, and should get his shot in the early part of 2014.
14) Robert Helenius (2-183)
Last Fight: 3/23/2013- W*(UD10) vs. Michael Sprott (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
If there was a fatal rift between Helenius and Sauerland, it appears to have been quietly repaired, as Helenius’ team now claims there is no plan to buy out his contract.  Helenius is reportedly back in fighting condition after a wrist injury in his last fight, and intends to return in early 2014.
15) Andy Ruiz (1-1)
Last Fight: 11/24/2013- RTD3 Tor Hamer (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
I’m not sure we got a good picture of Ruiz’s ability against Hamer, as he really needed just one solid round to make the mentally fragile New Yorker submit.
16) Seth Mitchell (2-25)
Last Fight: 9/7/2013- L (TKO1) vs. Chris Arreola (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Mitchell’s chin is so fragile that he might want to consider calling it a career.  Golden Boy’s CEO says he’s advised Mitchell to do just that, though he reports that Mitchell seems to have no such intention.
17) Alexander Dimitrenko (1-150)
Last Fight: 3/9/2013- UD8 Ivica Perkovic (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Dimitrenko is rumored at least to be fighting Sam Sexton in the first round of the WBC World Cup, but that tournament appears to be in limbo for the time being, at least.
18) Vyacheslav Glazkov (1-49)
Last Fight: 11/16/2013- UD10 Garrett Wilson (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
See Adamek’s notes, above.
19) Malik Scott (1-40)
Last Fight: 7/20/2013- L (KO6*) vs. #8 Dereck Chisora
Next Fight: Unknown
Scott is getting serious buzz for a fight with Wilder.
20) Johnathon Banks (1-54)
Last Fight: 6/22/2013- L (UD12) vs. #20 Seth Mitchell
Next Fight: Unknown
Banks apparently dinged his hands up pretty good in the Mitchell fight- an alternate explanation for those who, like me, thought his inexplicable failure to follow up on his early success was a bit suspicious.  He’s been doing physical therapy, and is about ready to get back in the ring.  He’d like a rematch with Mitchell, but unfortunately a trilogy probably isn’t of much benefit to the fragile young contender at this point.  He’s penciled-in for the second round of the WBC World Cup, against the winner of Sam Sexton and Alexander Dimitrenko, but as noted above, that whole tournament is delayed and in doubt.


THE WEEK AHEAD: Monday features a rare occurrence in Tokyo.  No, not Godzilla, but rather a boxrec top-50 heavyweight in action.  Kyotaro Fujimoto is his name.  He’s a one-loss prospect.  Not a great prospect, I’ll admit, having lost to Solomon Haumono within the last year, but his back-to-back stoppage wins over fairly low-level journeymen since then have nevertheless given him the rankings points necessary.  For what it’s worth, he’s the Japanese Champion- the best of 5 currently active Japanese heavyweights.


The next night in Sunrise, Florida, Antonio Tarver returns from a steroid suspension to fight journeyman Mike Sheppard in a heavyweight match from Sunrise, Florida, to be televised by Fox Sports 1.


Saturday in London, #5 Derek Chisora takes on reasonably solid Czech journeyman Ondrej Pala, who does have a few decent wins over arguably top 50 opposition in his career.

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