Welcome to “Ranks in Review,” our weekly look at one of boxing’s divisions. Now that we’ve been through the whole set, from heavyweight to mininumweight, we are changing the format a bit. The first time around, we introduced to the top fighters in each class, but from now on, we’re going to be looking at what is happening in the division.
Champion: Tyson Fury (25-0, England)
- Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, Ukraine)
- Alexander Povetkin (30-1, Russia)
- Deontay Wilder (35-0, United States)
- Kubrat Pulev (22-1, Bulgaria)
- Vyacheslav Glazkov (21-0-1, Ukraine)
- Malik Scott (38-2-1, United States)
- Erkan Teper (15-0, Germany)
- Antonio Tarver (31-6-1, United States)
- Joseph Parker (17-0, New Zealand)
- Bryant Jennings (19-1, United States)
Obviously, the biggest news since we last discussed the heavyweight division was Tyson Fury’s upset of Wladimir Klitschko to win the title. Fury didn’t fight a particularly good fight – he spent most of the time taunting the champ – but Klitschko seemed to age in front of our eyes. His jab was ineffective and his right hand seemed to have frozen in place. Until the desperate final rounds, when trainer Johnathan Banks told him he needed a knockout to win, Klitschko was throwing as few as one right hand in rounds. Even in the 12th, trailing badly on the cards, he would land one power punch and move right back into a clinch.
Klitschko quickly announced that he plans to exercise the rematch clause in his contract, hoping for a scenario like the one that Muhammad Ali faced with Leon Spinks almost 40 years ago. Ali looked incredibly old while losing his title to Spinks, but instead of retiring, he trained harder and regained his belt from Spinks in a rematch. If Klitschko can regain a large portion of his form, he can beat the limited Fury. If he does, hopefully, he’ll immediately retire on top instead of continuing to fight like Ali.
Fury has spent his short time with the belt making himself one of the most unpopular heavyweight champions in decades. His sexist and homophobic remarks have been ugly enough that the BBC has been deluged with demands to remove him as a finalist for their Sports Personality of the Year award. One finalist, long-jump champion Greg Rutherford, went as far as telling the BBC that he would not participate in the show because he refused to share a stage with Fury. Rutherford reconsidered under pressure from the network, but continued to criticize Fury’s views.
Fury has done one thing right, which is to insist on honoring the contract with Klitschko. The IBF stripped him of their title for not immediately signing to fight their No. 1 contender and our No. 5, Vyacheslav Glazkov. The 31-year-old Ukrainian has done nothing to earn a title shot, but is now going to fight No. 41 (yes, really) contender Charles Martin for the meaningless IBF belt.
The other top contenders have been keeping busy in recent months, almost universally without much risk. No. 2 Alexander Povtekin knocked out overmatched Mariusz Wach in 12 rounds last month, while No. 3 Deontay Wilder faces No. 18 Artur Szpilka in January.
Kubrat Pulev, the fourth-ranked contender who was knocked out by Klitschko in November 2014, has fought twice in the last two months, but without extending himself. He beat George Arias (56-14) in October, and Maurice Harris (26-21-3) earlier this month. At 34, Pulev is winding his career down in eight-round fights.
After the top five, things drop off very quickly. No. 6 Malik Scott is 35 and is 3-2-1 in his last six fights, while seventh-ranked Erkan Teper is a 33-year-old with 15 career fights. Sadly, the next name on the list isn’t Antonio Tarver Jr, fighting his way up the ranks as some kind of “Creed” tribute. That’s the 47-year-old former light-heavyweight champ, more than a decade removed from his three-fight series with Roy Jones Jr.