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Joshua gets nearer to the crown

Boxing traditionally has only eight weight classes. This is the second installment of my Heavyweight Original Eight Ratings and much has changed at the top since the first installment. Most importantly, lineal champion Tyson Fury has remained inactive for more than 18 months, is still facing PED allegations, and does not have a fight scheduled.

A big part of the reason of recognizing only a lineal champion in the eight original divisions is to bring the former standards and criteria back to the sport. However, in this era we are seeing that even lineal champions must eventually be placed under some limits in their ability to hold the title if they do not meet certain criteria. The Ring already determined that Adonis Stevenson no longer met their championship criteria and they stripped him, and I recently found the same before Stevenson’s second fight with Fonfara. The Ring continued to recognize Tyson Fury, but I will no longer do so. More than eighteen months out of the ring without a fight scheduled is essentially a retirement, before evaluating the PED issue. Sadly, Fury must lose the title. He will be eligible to return to the ratings if he fights again and is not under any suspension for PEDs.

Alexander Povetkin also hit the end of the ratings line according to the consensus I happen to agree with: testing positively twice for PEDs and losing a federal civil trial to Deontay Wilder in the US which centered on the same issue. Despite the fact, he still fights in Russia. Povetkin is out, but he will be eligible to return later such as Luis Ortiz has.

In the ring, Wladimir Klitschko returned with a surprisingly spirited effort against Anthony Joshua. Joshua prevailed at a time Klitschko was ahead in my opinion and on one judge’s card. Considering Klitschko’s age and inactivity, that actually raises some questions regarding Joshua, but he’s done enough to be the new number one contender

Criteria: Fighters overall record, perceived talent level, quality of opposition, quality wins and level of performance in wins and losses, where the fighter is ranked in the Transnational Boxing Ranking Board’s Heavyweight and Cruiserweight Rankings and The Ring’s Heavyweight and Cruiserweight Rankings. Also strongly considered would be who would beat who and who and by how much one fighter would be favored over the other by odds makers were the fight to be signed tomorrow. The traditional standard of one year of inactivity will drop a fighter from the rankings will be taken into consideration but the fighter is eligible to re-enter as soon as he fights again. Champions will primarily be the recognized lineal champions, with consideration also given to champions recognized by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and The Ring. This is how the traditional heavyweight division looks today:

Champion: Vacant

1. Anthony Joshua (U.K. 19-0 19KO)
2. Deontay Wilder (U.S. 37-0 36KO)
3. Luis Ortiz (Cuba 27-0 23KO)
4. Wladimir Klitschko (Ukraine 64-5 53KO)
5. Joseph Parker (N.Z. 23-0 18KO)
6. Kubrat Pulev (Bulgaria 25-1 13KO)
7. Oleksandr Usyk (Ukraine 12-0 10KO)
8. Murat Gassiev (Russia 24-0 17KO)
9. Andy Ruiz (U.S. 29-1 19KO)
10. Jarrell Miller (U.S. 18-0-1 16KO)

Ratings Notes: Anthony Joshua was victorious in a thriller against Wladimir Klitschko and I think he’s done enough that he deserves to be number one. But to me the life-and-death struggle with a 41-year-old who had been inactive and was coming off a dreadful performance was a sign of more vulnerabilities than a sign of strength. The door seems open for a showdown with Wilder to see who is truly for real, but it doesn’t seem close to fruition. There does seem to be a rematch with Klitschko on deck, a fight Joshua should win. A Fury fight would also be a big seller and provide clarity at the top. Make no mistake, Joshua is the number one contender, but the title is vacant. Deontay Wilder dropped a bomb on a big man in Gerald Washington in a fifth-round KO in his return from the hand and bicep injury. He looked great in beating a legit Top Ten guy in Bermane Stiverene, the problem is he hasn’t fought a real Top Ten guy ever since. Yet I still believe he’s more underrated than overrated and he and Anthony Joshua seem to me to be the two heavyweights most ready to fill the vacuum. He may be going too long without fighting quality opposition to maintain his skill level, that is becoming a concern. It still seems it’s him and Joshua at this point. Luis Ortiz is still dangerous but hasn’t looked great since his annihilation of Bryant Jennings. The clock may have already started to run out. His last two stay-busy fights haven’t been impressive, but I think he still has too much for everyone outside of Joshua and Wilder at this point. A Jarrell Miller fight would be interesting.  Wladimir Klitschko returned to the ring in England against Anthony Joshua after a long period of inactivity and at 41 years-old. Considering those factors, he performed impressively, as he showed heart, almost stopped Joshua after flooring him, and I had him ahead, as did one of the judges at the time the wheels fell off. Joshua was favored going in but we can now see why Klitschko was a slight favorite over Tyson Fury at the time their rematch fell through.

Joseph Parker has a career that has clearly stalled, though he is legit Top Ten. He was unimpressive in his last three, despite wins, and before his last fight, his original opponent, Hughie Fury was only a slight underdog in Parker’s home country of New Zealand. One can now see why everyone now seems interested in his alphabet belt which they view as an easy pickup. He would seem to have no chance against Joshua or Wilder. At the higher levels he’s just kind of a mediocre boxer, though he’s earned his spot in the rankings in this era.  Kubrat Pulev, just when you think someone isn’t fighting anymore, he turns up in a fight with Kevin Johnson. He is 36 years-old and was blown out by Klitschko, the last KO scored by Wlad. He’s also earned his Top Ten spot in this era but there aren’t many in the Top Ten he has a chance against. Joshua would blow him out if that fight happens. Oleksandr Usyk was not impressive against Michael Hunter, the second straight fight I found him unimpressive in. He is still good enough to earn this spot but I no longer see any chance at heavyweight glory, and it will be hard for him to stay ahead of the winner of the upcoming cruiserweight tournament that it does not appear he will enter since he is with Top Rank and HBO. Murat Gassiev was barely behind Usyk in my mind and now he has entered the cruiserweight tournament, which I was originally not enthused by but which has drawn enough talent that it appears to me to be perfect for the young and talented Gassiev to use as a springboard to heavyweight; think Evander Holyfield moving quickly through all the best cruiserweights as a platform to heavyweight stardom. Andy Ruiz hasn’t done anything spectacular but if nothing else, he showed against Parker that he’s competitive against Top Ten heavyweights. Problem is he hasn’t fought since and will really need to do something to remain in the Top Ten and relevant. But like Pulev, you get the feeling he can beat guys on the fringes but not other guys in the Top Ten. Jarrell Miller is the division’s “X factor”. He just needs to get fights. He hasn’t fought since his very impressive win over spoiler Fred Kassi in August 2016. I think he’s the best American heavyweight outside of Wilder. He doesn’t have an amateur background but does have that “extra” stamina you always seem to see in ex-kickboxers, is big and has thudding, bludgeoning type power. He’s one of the guys in the sport, like Golovkin and Andrade that you just get the feeling no one is too anxious to fight.

Fighters not in the Top Ten but worthy of mention and watching include: Tony Bellew ended the David Haye comeback charade in resounding fashion but that doesn’t make him a threat. Like Parker, he now is someone everyone wants to fight. Dillan Whyte has only one loss, to Anthony Joshua, and since he and Joshua both continue to win it helps his resume. But he doesn’t have any legit Top Ten wins and probably can’t beat anyone in the Top Ten. He may get his chance to do so in the near future. He’s probably an ideal “fringe of the Top Ten” opponent type for the top guys who need to keep busy if talks of a Wilder offer were true, and the money is there, it’s somewhat surprising Wilder hasn’t taken the fight. Dominic Breazeale has plenty of flaws, but also plenty of heart and power as he showed against Izu Ugonoh in their brawl which is a Fight of the Year candidate. He’s very close to being in this Top Ten. He’s a guy you want to see fight as well, because in his fights, someone is going down. Bermane Stiverne has skills, power and durability, but took a lot of punishment against Wilder, has had a positive drug test before Povetkin also tested positive and their fight fell apart, and hasn’t fought since November 2015.

Championship Policy Applied: Tyson Fury, inactive for over 18 months, no fight scheduled, championship vacated. If Fury returns and has not been guilty of PED use, he will be eligible to reenter the ratings.