Now the hype is over, and a fight that appeared to be interesting for several rounds lulled into another anticlimactic affair. Wladimir Klitschko emerged victorious yet again and further cemented his position at the top of the heavyweight division.
But where should he rank on the all-time list of heavyweight boxers? There seem to be two schools of though, as polarized as the opinions about both Klitschko brothers.
On one hand you have those who think that the heavyweight division is depleted and shallow, perhaps at an all-time low. With no sound competition, it's only natural that one (or two) decent fighters dominate the scene, even if they would be B-level fighters in any other era. Citing Wladimir's three embarrassing knockout losses to less-than-great fighters, they argue that he doesn't belong in the all-time top 50.
Others, however, point to Wladimir's complete dominance of his title fights recently, wherein he has nearly pitched shutouts across the board. Other respected heavies (Holmes and Tyson, for example, in the 80s, and even Louis and Marciano) spent the majority of their reigns beating fighters that don't show up on anyone's all-time best lists. Wladimir has been unchallenged for over half a decade, which ranks with the best. Further, they argue, boxing has never seen the likes of the Klitschkos, who are super-heavies and size and height, and with their weight and reach advantage, they could arguably beat any fighter who ever lived; perhaps, then, Wladimir Klitschko should be at or near #1 on the all-time list.
By our all-time rankings formula, Wladimir Klitschko has moved—for the first time—into the top ten. His five-year string of wins over top ten foes has helped him amass enough points to pass the likes of George Foreman, Sonny Liston, and Jersey Joe Walcott in the last year.
SportsRatings All-Time Heavyweight Top 10 (click here for full Top 500)
|1 year ago||All-time
|Rated Record||Peak rating date &
|1||1||MUHAMMAD ALI||110.04||47-5-0|| peak rating: 9/1977
win: 9/1978 UD 15 #42 LEON SPINKS
|2||2||ROCKY MARCIANO||108.81||29-0-0|| peak rating: 9/1955
win: 9/1952 KO 13 #10 JERSEY JOE WALCOT
|3||3||JOE LOUIS||107.10||59-3-0|| peak rating: 3/1942
win: 6/1938 KO 1 #21 MAX SCHMELING
|4||4||LARRY HOLMES||94.29||45-6-0|| peak rating: 5/1985
win: 10/1980 KO 11 #1 MUHAMMAD ALI
|5||5||MIKE TYSON||89.02||34-6-0|| peak rating: 7/1989
win: 6/1988 KO 1 #19 MICHAEL SPINKS
|6||6||EZZARD CHARLES||84.04||58-23-0|| peak rating: 5/1951
win: 9/1950 UD 15 #3 JOE LOUIS
|7||7||LENNOX LEWIS||80.58||33-2-1|| peak rating: 11/2000
win: 11/1999 UD 12 #13 EVANDER HOLYFIELD
|8||8||ARCHIE MOORE||80.51||86-12-5|| peak rating: 5/1955
win: 8/1954 KO 14 #22 HAROLD JOHNSON
|12||9||WLAD KLITSCHKO||80.23||34-3-0|| peak rating: 7/2011
win: 6/2009 KO 9 #199 RUSLAN CHAGAEV
|9||10||JERSEY JOE WALCOT||79.34||26-17-1|| peak rating: 6/1952
win: 7/1951 KO 7 #6 EZZARD CHARLES
Still a long, long way away from reaching Muhammed Ali at the top spot (or #2 Marciano and #3 Louis), Klitschko is within striking distance of reaching the top 5, and could pass Lennox Lewis with another win or two.
No formula, of course, is going to ring "true" in all cases, and in Klitschko's case any ranking, period, is unsatisfying. Without worthy competition, a fighter can't prove he's one of the all-time greats. But dominating in any era should be worth something. What, then, is the best balance?
Klitschko has defeated many of the better fighters of the current era, and without breaking much of a sweat in most cases. But most observers wouldn't rank these fighters very highly on an all-time scale, and our system bears this out. Here is a look at Wladimir's career and the contemporary (time of fight) and all-time ranking for each opponent:
Date Result Rankings Opponent
12/1998: LOSS by KO to #101 #1051 ROSS PURITTY
05/1999: Win by KO over #114 #2257 TONY LAROSA
09/1999: Win by KO over #84 #590 AXEL SCHULZ
11/1999: Win by KO over #201 #499 PHIL JACKSON
12/1999: Win by KO over #66 #3050 LAJOS EROS
03/2000: Win by KO over #42 #1127 PAEA WOLFGRAMM
04/2000: Win by KO over #45 #510 DAVID BOSTICE
07/2000: Win by KO over #47 #390 MONTE BARRETT
10/2000: Win by UD over #7 #146 CHRIS BYRD
03/2001: Win by KO over #113 #713 DERRICK JEFFERSON
08/2001: Win by KO over #61 #746 CHARLES SHUFFORD
03/2002: Win by KO over #90 #356 FRANS BOTHA
06/2002: Win by KO over #99 #238 RAY MERCER
12/2002: Win by KO over #6 #303 JAMEEL MCCLINE
03/2003: LOSS by KO to #88 #247 CORRIE SANDERS
08/2003: Win by KO over #53 #456 FABIO MOLI
12/2003: Win by KO over #116 #458 DANELL NICHOLSON
04/2004: LOSS by KO to #75 #321 LAMON BREWSTER
10/2004: Win by TDW over #16 #317 DAVARL WILLIAMSON
04/2005: Win by KO over #50 #2558 ELISEO CASTILLO
09/2005: Win by UD over #5 #184 SAMUEL PETER
04/2006: Win by KO over #2 #146 CHRIS BYRD
11/2006: Win by KO over #8 #355 CALVIN BROCK
03/2007: Win by KO over #30 #281 RAY AUSTIN
07/2007: Win by KO over #17 #321 LAMON BREWSTER
02/2008: Win by UD over #9 #601 SULTAN IBRAGIMOV
07/2008: Win by KO over #7 #196 TONY THOMPSON
12/2008: Win by KO over #13 #98 HASIM RAHMAN
06/2009: Win by KO over #2 #199 RUSLAN CHAGAEV
03/2010: Win by KO over #4 #285 EDDIE CHAMBERS
09/2010: Win by KO over #12 #184 SAMUEL PETER
07/2011: Win by UD over #4 #697 DAVID HAYE
As you can see, he has a string of wins over top 10 foes—10 in all counting Haye—but he's beaten only one fighter in the All-Time top 100, Hasim Rahman (who wasn't in the top ten at the time). Further, Klitschko lost to three low-rated fighters, including Ross Puritty who is only #1,051 by our system!
Early losses by fighters tend to be forgiven, and our system concentrates on wins. Klitschko is clearly a different fighter than he was when he lost to Puritty, Sanders, and Brewster. And the all-time rankings of the boxers he's defeated will go up as their careers continue, so Wlad's resumé won't always look so paltry.
Still, it's telling to compare to an era when big matchups were commonplace. When George Foreman beat Joe Frazier, Joltin' Joe was not only ranked #1, but he was already in the all-time top 10. Likewise, Foreman was in the all-time top ten when Ali beat him. Compare that to Wlad's most-hyped fight, where David Haye is not in the top 500, and to his highest-rated win, over all-time #199 Ruslan Chagaev.
Suffice it to say, there's a reason these fights didn't capture the public's imagination like boxing did in the 1970's, and it goes beyond the fact that, to fans the United States, these men are all foreigners (though that plays a part). It also goes beyond the widely-held view that Klitschkos fights aren't very exciting (though that also plays a part). For fans to really be engaged, there has to be competition, and for a fighter to truly earn respect, he needs a worthy foe.
Right now there is only one fighter who could challenge Wladimir Klitschko, and that is his brother Vitali.
It would be a great fight, on par with any in boxing history, but it will never happen. When people debate Wlad's all-time rank, they also debate his current rank, as many feel Vitali is the better boxer. Vitali, however, ranks only #33 on our all-time list. Why? Here's a look at his relevant resumé:
Date Result Rankings Opponent
10/1998: Win by KO over #87 #961 MARIO SCHIESSER
06/1999: Win by KO over #12 #223 HERBIE HIDE
10/1999: Win by KO over #15 #546 ED MAHONE
12/1999: Win by KO over #180 #511 OBED SULLIVAN
04/2000: LOSS by KO to #25 #146 CHRIS BYRD
11/2000: Win by UD over #24 #301 TIMO HOFFMAN
01/2001: Win by KO over #147 #170 ORLIN NORRIS
12/2001: Win by KO over #125 #1051 ROSS PURITTY
02/2002: Win by KO over #149 #1719 VAUGHN BEAN
11/2002: Win by KO over #37 #187 LARRY DONALD
06/2003: LOSS by KO to #1 #7 LENNOX LEWIS
12/2003: Win by KO over #17 #252 KIRK JOHNSON
04/2004: Win by KO over #5 #247 CORRIE SANDERS
12/2004: Win by KO over #14 #176 DANNY WILLIAMS
10/2008: Win by KO over #3 #184 SAMUEL PETER
03/2009: Win by KO over #7 #411 JUAN C GOMEZ
09/2009: Win by KO over #6 #225 CHRIS ARREOLA
12/2009: Win by UD over #28 #662 KEVIN JOHNSON
05/2010: Win by KO over #16 #540 ALBERT SOSNOWSKI
10/2010: Win by UD over #96 #200 SHANNON BRIGGS
03/2011: Win by KO over #10 #681 ODLANIER SOLIS
Two things stand out. One, Vitali has far fewer wins over top 10 opponents (just 5), and two, he took four years off from fighting during his prime. Both of these will do quite a bit of harm to his standing in any algorithmic, point-based system. The level of respect Vitali has from the boxing community—generally greater than that afforded to Wladimir—comes from his loss to all-time great Lennox Lewis, wherein Vitali had Lewis in big trouble before succumbing to a doctor's stoppage. This fight alone overshadows anything else either brother has accomplished.
But in our system, unfortunately, it just goes down as a loss. Without many big wins, and four years off that lowered his peak score due to inactivity, Vitali doesn't measure up to Wlad, even if he may be the better boxer. He doesn't hold a win over anyone ranked in our all-time top 150.
All of this shows how difficult it is to place both brothers in boxing history in an unbiased way. Are they the culmination of decades of refinement of nutrition, technique, and training? Or are they flukes, freaks of nature who would be exposed in a different era? And without these two greats battling each other, how can we tell for sure who deserves to be ranked ahead of the other, let alone against other fighters?
No one has the answer. But in my personal opinion, I think both Klitschkos are all-time greats. Vitali proved himself against Lennox Lewis, and Wladimir has accomplished more in terms of winning than Vitali. Without great competition, I don't know if they'll ever be considered among the very best. Maybe if they fought, the victor could take his place among the Alis, Lewises, and Marcianos of the world, but since that will never happen, the Klitschkos will probably remain a double question mark. Great, but not the greatest.