Recapping The Action in Boxing’s Heavyweight Division in 2009: Klitschko Dominance, American Prospects, David Haye and more…
Despite being overshadowed by the smaller divisions in 2009, the heavyweights were far from inactive around the globe. A number of potential stars are making waves in the division and 2010 could separate the boys from the men. Here is a look at what went on in ’09 in boxing’s heavyweight division and what the future holds for each fighter.
The Creme de la Creme:
One family rests atop a division that is struggling to regain its global appeal, but has managed to make some head way in 2009. Vitali Kitschko (39-2) and brother Wladimir Klitschko (53-3) sit side-by-side atop the leader board, with Vitali earning a slight edge based mainly on his activity this year. The two are the clear front runners in the division while just about every other fighter is stuck at the starting line, choking on their dust.
In ’09 Vitali fought three times and won all three bouts convincingly. He kicked off the year in March with a ninth round TKO victory over Juan Carlos Gomez (44-1). Next up was the biggest heavyweight fight of the year that pitted Dr. Ironfist against Mexican sensation Chris Arreola (27-0) in September. Klitschko dominated from the opening bell and ended the fight in the tenth round. Two judges had the fight scored 99-91 with the third giving all 10 rounds to Vitali.
Less than three months later Klitschko took on another undefeated challenger in Kevin Johnson (22-0-1) and cruised to a unanimous decision victory. Two judges scored the contest 120-108 and a third scored it 119-109. Next up for Vitali? That remains to be seen, but a date with David Haye may be in order at some point.
Wladimir fought just once in the past 12 months. In June, he defeated Ruslan Chagaev (25-0-1) by stoppage in the ninth round. Hopefully “Dr. Steelhammer” will be more active in 2010. The older Klitschko has a date with Eddie Chambers in March and the fight may serve as a reminder of who the better brother is.
Middle of the Pack:
Eddie Chambers (35-1) may be the biggest threat to the top dogs in the division after earning two wins over quality opponents in ‘09. Chambers won a decision over Samuel Peter in March and handed Alexander Dimitrenko his first loss with a majority decision in July during a title shot eliminator. “Fast” Eddie Chambers and Wladimir Klitschko will meet in Germany on March 20 for the IBF, WBO and IBO belts.
David Haye (23-1) made the most noise this year, calling out the Klitschko brothers midway through 2009. Haye barked loudly, and even wore t-shirts depicting himself holding the severed heads of Vitali and Wladimir to a press conference.
The London based fighter got the attention he was going for, signed a fight contract, and then backed out of the fight citing injuries. In November he finally stepped in to the ring and won a majority decision over Nikolay Valuev to earn his first heavyweight title. Now it is Vitali that is calling out Haye. Hopefully the two will square-off in the coming year, but the Hayemaker should consider taking a few more fights in his new weight class before going after Dr. Ironfist.
Chris Arreola (28-1) made the most of his year by fighting frequently and courageously.
In April he took on Jameel McCline and won by KO in the fourth round to earn the WBC Continental Americas title and retain his NABF title.
In September “The Nightmare” was defeated for the first time in his career. Although Arreola was dominated from beginning to end, he earned the respect of his opponent and displayed immense heart before the fight was stopped. There is no shame in losing to one of the Klitschko brothers and Arreola wasted no time in getting back on his horse after the loss. Less than three months later, he got back on the winning track and defeated Brian Minto (34-3) by TKO in the fourth round.
Tomasz Adamek (39-1) hasn’t lost in two years. In that time he has gone 6-0, with three of those wins coming in 2009. Adamek stopped then undefeated Johnathan Banks (20-0) in February by TKO in the eighth round. In July the Poland native defended his IBF cruiserweight title again, stopping Bobby Gunn in the fourth round.
In October “Goral” crushed Andrew Golota by fifth round TKO to win a regional heavyweight title. The fight pitted two of Poland’s favorite sons, and although Golota is far from the fighter he used to be, he is still a decent opponent to have on your resume. Next up for Adamek is a bout with Jason Estrada (16-2) in February.
Alexander Povetkin (18-0) added two wins in ‘09 to remain one of the top undefeated prospects in the division. Although the Russian doesn’t have many fights for a professional, he has faced quality competition over the past two years. In April, Povetkin went the distance with Jason Estrada en route to a unanimous decision and then knocked out Leo Nolan in December.
Denis Boytsov (26-0) faced less impressive competition but decimated all three of his opponents in ’09.
First, he earned a TKO victory over Israel Carlos Garcia (19-2) in February. Then he knocked out Taras Bidenko (26-2) in June. In October, Boytsov knocked out Jason Gavern to run his knockout total to 21.
All of Boytsov’s fights have taken place in either Germany or Austria thus far. Hopefully he can branch out in 2010 and take on some of the other prospects to gain some exposure.
Alexander Dimitrenko (29-1) fought just once this year and lost to Chambers. He needs to be more active, and more successful if he wants to get a shot at a belt this year.
Now or Never:
Nicolay Valuev (50-2) fell to Haye in November in his only fight of ’09. The fight was competitive, but Valuev may have served his purpose of a side show attraction for Don King. If he can’t gain some wins over highly regarded opponents next year, it might by the end for the Russian giant.
David Tua (50-3-1) returned from a two-year lay-off with a second round knockout victory over Shane Cameron in October. Tua was a big draw years ago but never quite lived up to his potential. He may have one last run in him but the 37-year-old isn’t getting any younger. The Tuamanator could find his way back in to the limelight in 2010, whether it is as a stepping stone or as a challenger to one of the many belts.
Image Credits – Vitali Klitschko: Mike Boehm/ Pro Boxing Fans; Chris Arreola: Jan Sanders/Goossen Tutor Promotions