On November 29, Tyson Fury toppled the long-established order in the heavyweight division when he de-throned Wladimir Klitschko. On Saturday night, former title-challenger Bryant Jennings and undefeated Luis Ortiz face off in an extremely compelling contender’s fight. It’s a good time to publish an up-dated ranking of boxing’s traditional glamour division.
No. 1. Tyson Fury
To be the man, you have to beat the man and Tyson Fury did exactly that last month, taking the lineal, WBA, WBO and IBF titles from Wladimir Klitschko. It might not have been a pretty performance, but Fury clearly deserved to win. I never thought I’d see Fury reign as a heavyweight champion, but I was wrong.
No. 2. Wladimir Klitschko
Klitschko looked absolutely horrible against Fury. Always a cautious fighter, he was ridiculously tentative in that bout. He’s said he wants a rematch. His legacy means he deserves it. And I’ve still got to rank him second in the world.
No. 3. Alexander Povetkin
Povetkin lost badly to Klitschko in October 2015. But he was victimized by a referee who refused to discipline Klitschko for excessive holding and leanings, which made it very tough for Povetkin against a much taller man. Still, he rebounded from that loss with outstanding KOs of Manuel Charr, Mike Perez, Carlos Takam and Mariusz Walsch. That’s the best recent four-fight winning streak in the division.
No. 4. Kubrat Pulev
The Bulgarian got flattened in five by Klitschko in November of last year. But he’s a big heavyweight with some boxing skill and he’s beaten some good contenders. I’d love to see him matched with either of the two men below him on this list.
No. 5. Bryant Jennings
Deontay Wilder has the WBC strap, but Bryant Jennings has the better resume. At this point, I view him as the top American heavyweight. He’s got a tough fight in front of him on Saturday night in Verona, New York. The fact that he took Luis Ortiz as an opponent in his return bout after losing to Klitschko speaks volumes to his confidence.
No. 6. Deontay Wilder
Wilder has a stunning record, 35-0 with 34 KOs. But he’s got exactly one impressive win on his resume: Bermane Stiverne by unanimous decision in January 2014. That gave him the WBC strap. Since then, he’s gone back to fighting fringe contenders and journeymen. But he’s got a legitimate challenge in January, against Artur Szpilka, a tough Pole who could justifiably be on this list. He’s also an opponent Jennings stopped in 10 rounds, so it will tell us something about Wilder’s true value.
No. 7. Carlos Takam
Takam represented his native Cameroon in the Olympics. He lives and fights out of France now. He should have won in his draw with Mike Perez in January 2014. He followed that bout with an impressive victory over Tony Thompson. His career took a step back when he was knocked out by Povetkin, but he’s a big, athletic guy with power. Nobody should count him out.
No. 8. Vyacheslav Glazkov
Glazkov is undefeated and clearly in line for a title shot. But I’ve watched almost all his recent fights, and his resume looks better on paper than it does in the ring. I think he should have lost in his draw to Malik Scott in February 2013. I think he should have lost to Steve Cunningham when he won by unanimous decision last March. You can make an argument that journeyman Derric Rossy could have earned the victory when Glazkov edged him by majority decision in August 2014. He’s a very good boxer and a tough guy, but he’s a smallish heavyweight by modern standards.
No. 9. Bermane Stiverne
Stiverne’s status was established on two victories over Chris Arreola. Those are outstanding wins. In the second fight, Arreola came in as well-conditioned and ready as he’s ever been and Stiverne knocked him out. He was cleanly defeated by Wilder, though.
No. 10. Steve Cunningham
I’m not sure any active fighter in the sport has had more unfair decisions than USS Cunningham, the former cruiserweight champion. I thought he should have got the nod over Tomasz Adamek in December 2012. I thought he got robbed against Glazkov last March. I had him winning his draw against Antonio Tarver in August, though that was a very close fight. In April 2013, Cunningham knocked Fury flat on his back, though he end up losing to the much larger man by KO.