This is the second of two articles focusing on the guys who do, and the guys who mostly don’t, fight the best in the sport. Last time, I looked at those fighters who are consistently in super-fights, facing the best that their division has to offer, and to whom we as fans should be grateful. This time around, I look at the guys who I feel have either too often taken the easy road, or have swayed the fight odds too heavily in their favour for it to be seen as competitive. (Note: active fighters only, in no particular order).
His ferocious punching power does little to distract from the obvious fact that he isn’t facing a high enough caliber of opponent. Bermane Stiverne, whom Wilder defeated for the title, is the only man of any substance on his resume, and he has drifted into obscurity since the loss. What earned Wilder the title shot were back-to-back knockout victories over Nicolai Firtha, Malik Scott and Jason Gavern, all of whom are (with due respect) several tiers below world level, and since owning the belt he has struggled with similarly limited opposition. Perhaps the heavyweight division was still under the reign of Wladimir Klitschko at the time, but he needs to step up now, and he won’t be doing that any time soon after Alexander Povetkin failed a drugs test which threw their fight into doubt.
Supposedly one of the best fighters on the planet, he continues to muddy his legacy by insisting on competing at catch-weights. He is most famous for fighting at 155lbs whilst defending the world title in a 160lbs division, which has frustrated fans throughout the sport. Beating Amir Khan recently (a welterweight) rather than a bonafide middleweight drew further criticism, and vacating his WBC belt rather than face Gennady Golovkin at the 160lbs limit suggests this pattern is set to continue. But this actually isn’t unusual. Back in 2010 he was dragging Carlos Baldomir and Lovemore Ndou to 150lbs, and he won his first ever world title against Matthew Hatton a year later with the same catch-weight in place (which he failed to make). Guys like Alfonso Gomez and Josesito Lopez were fought without catch-weights, but were making their debuts in a new weight division, and since his only loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2013 (ironically fought at a catch-weight that favored the American) he has been operating at 155lbs, entering the ring on fight night at 175lbs, yet insisting he isn’t a middleweight. A great talent, but he deserves his place on this list.
You’d be hard pushed to find a champion’s CV as long as Braehmer’s with so few ‘names’ on it. He hasn’t beaten any of the elite light-heavyweights, because he simply hasn’t faced them. Who do you pick as the shining stars out of his recent victories? Robin Krasniqi? Enzo Maccarinelli? Roberto Bolonti? Well, I haven’t heard of many of the others; I don’t know how to compare Konni Konrad, Eduard Gutknecht or Pawel Glazewski in any meaningful way. The 7 opponents he has fought since winning the WBA ‘regular’ title in 2013 have just two world title shots between them, a track record which gets worse the further back you look; 2010 saw him beat the virtually unknown Dmitry Sukhotsky and Mariano Plotinsky during a short stint as WBO champ. He has fought outside his native homeland just once, preferring to lure over-matched opposition to Germany instead, one of several countries where the judging has been dubious on many occasions. His blunt southpaw style may well trouble the division’s best, but at 37, he is probably thinking more about hanging up his gloves than facing any of the top 10. A damn shame.
Roy Jones Jr.
I’m sorry for putting such a man on such a list. His career deserves better, but he only has himself to blame. Incredible speed and timing saw him win titles at middle, super-middle and heavyweight, and the world watched in amazement as he unified the light heavyweight division with utter flawlessness. At his peak he was bullying every elite available. When the speed and timing faded with age ( consequences of which were at times severe), he started to bully tough but grossly outgunned gatekeepers. Not fair. To his credit, he used this to gain momentum, and chose to take on still-relevant Enzo Maccarinelli, who KO’d Jones out cold with a huge right hook. Still unable to read the writing on the wall, he has now taken to bullying novices, thrashing Vyron Phillips in his boxing debut. He’s an all time great and sure Hall Of Famer, but really, WHAT is going on here? Jones is a good pundit and coach, practices which may be the future for him, but his fight career is a thing of the past.
David Haye – A former unified cruiserweight world champion and heavyweight champion, you have to question his choice of comeback opponents. Mark de Mori was a just-about-respectable test to see if there was any serious degree of ring rust, but after Haye blew him to pieces in 1 round, to announce a match with completely unheard-of Arnold Gjergjaj was a step in exactly the wrong direction. A match with Shannon Briggs looks to be compulsory for the 35 year old, but afterwards, a serious step up in class is needed.
Anthony Joshua – I’m a big Joshua fan, but he has thus far been the victim of his own punch power. Hardly ever in the ring long enough to properly learn anything, he has blasted away opponents with such ease that no one knows what to do with him. Keep feeding him gatekeepers in the hope he will learn something? Eddie Hearn decided no, and instead give him a world title shot, which he won inside two rounds (against the unimpressive Charles Martin). Huge things await the Londoner, but as it stands, he surely has one of the least complete CVs of any current world champion.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr – Increasingly looking like a case of “what could have been”. The guy has boxing in his DNA, and he became world champion at middleweight in 2011. But the legacy of his father weighed heavy on his mind (which was never 100% focused anyway), and since a loss to Sergio Martinez in 2012, he has ballooned up through the weight classes, fighting guys who are capable, but who ultimately aren’t going to give him another shot at greatness. Now at light-heavy, he needs to make some decisions about the future, because time is running out, and 175lbs is starting to get really competitive.