It’s no secret that the cruiserweight division languishes for attention in the American boxing media. This apathy for the 200-pound class is reflected in the rankings, where U.S. fighters are almost entirely absent from the rankings. With the exception of IBF belt holder Viktor Ramirez of Argentina, the champions and top contenders at cruiserweight hail from Central and Eastern Europe, or else Africa.
The former Soviet Bloc is especially well represented. WBC champion Grigory Drozd and WBA champ Denis Lebedev are Russians. WBO king Krzyzstof Glowacki is from Poland. Marco Huck, the man Glowacki knocked out for his belt, is a Serbian who lives in Germany, where he has been a major star in this century.
Illunga Makabu, who challenged Drozd in April, is from the Congo and fights out of South Africa. Thabiso Mchunu is South African and Youri Kalenga is from the Congo, but fights out of France. In Europe and Africa, the division is alive and healthy, producing legitimate stars.
But the top rated cruiserweight on Boxrec and only recognizable name from the United States is BJ Flores. Flores is 37. He turned in a decent fight in a loss to former light heavyweight champion Beibut Shuminov last July, but in recent years he’s really seemed to spend be focusing more energy on his emerging career in broadcasting.
Behind Flores, the U.S. picture is filled with obscure prospects. The No. 2 rated U.S. cruiserweight on Boxrec is Junior Wright, who knocked out 10-17-2 Jim Franklin last Friday night. Wright is 29, with a record of 15-1-1 with 12 KOs. He’s only really notable opponent was Rakhim Chakhkiev, a second-tier contender who knocked Wright out in five rounds last May.
The last truly elite American cruiserweight was Steve Cunningham, who twice held the IBF title. But he’s been campaigning as a heavyweight since September 2012. He’s had some success there, but his size has stood in his way. If not for giving up six inches and 60 pounds, I feel quite sure he would have defeated current heavyweight champion Tyson Fury when they fought in April 2013.
There’s really no good reason why the cruiserweights shouldn’t get more attention in the U.S. I actually see room for the division to gain new eyeballs in 2016. Glowacki’s defeat of Huck last year was among the best bouts of 2015 and it took place in New Jersey, on national television. Polish fighters have long drawn big numbers in areas like New Jersey and Chicago, where there is a large population of boxing-mad Polish-American fans. I’m hopeful we see Glowacki back in action in the States in the coming year.