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Rankings: Would Klitschkos be successful in the heavyweight divison in a different era?

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

The numbers that brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko have compiled should say all that needs to be said: 102 wins in a combined 107 fights, with 91 of those coming by knockout. Between them, they hold every major heavyweight championship belt there is.

Those numbers, though, are a bit misleading. Imagine how LSU or Alabama would be regarded at the end of the college football season if their 12-0 marks included wins over Buffalo, Duke, UNLV, Army and Kent. There would be outrage and their position in the polls would reflect that.

There is, however, a difference: The Klitschko brothers aren't choosing to fight a weak caliber of opponents. The guys they're fighting are the best there are, by and large, in a heavyweight division that is among the weakest in history.

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Beating guys like Tony Thompson isn't doing much for Wladimir Klitschko's legacy. (AP)

They're doing what they should do to the kind of opposition they are facing: They're obliterating them. Wladimir Klitschko has scored knockouts in seven of his last eight fights and has barely lost so much as a round along the way. Vitali has knockouts in nine of his last 12.

But they're beating second- and third-tier guys such as Kevin Johnson, Albert Sosnowski and others of that ilk.

If we were able to drop them in their primes into 1992 when the heavyweight division was one of boxing's best, how would they fare? Just 20 years ago, the top heavyweights included Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Riddick Bowe, Michael Moorer, Razor Ruddock, Ray Mercer, Buster Douglas, Tommy Morrison and Tony Tucker, among others.

It was an impressive group.

One of the advantages the Klitschko brothers have today over many of their opponents is their massive size. Wladimir is 6-foot-6 with an 81-inch reach; Vitali is 6-7 with a 79-inch reach.

But they wouldn't have such big advantages, if they had any advantage at all, against guys like Bowe (6-5, 81-inch reach); Lewis (6-5, 84-inch reach); Foreman (6-3, 82-inch reach) and Tucker (6-5, 82-inch reach).

The difficulty in evaluating the Klitschko brothers accurately is it is hard to get a barometer on them because of their opposition. They would have been competitive in every era, but by no means would have they have dominant.

Would they have, for instance, been able to handle the relentless pressure and the punishing power of Sonny Liston, as Muhammad Ali was able to do? Would they have been able to keep a buzzsaw like Joe Frazier from punishing their rib cage by keeping him at the end of their jabs, the way they easily do to opponents today?

All good questions, and all, sadly, unanswerable. The brothers are both in the Yahoo! Sports Top 10 rankings based upon their brilliant records and great knockout percentages. There are fighters, though, who have beaten far better opposition who didn't make it. The question is, how much should the brothers be dinged for their level of opposition?

One can only beat the fighters put in front of them. There is nobody the brothers could have fought whom they haven't met, so it's not like they're ducking the big challenges.

Each voter makes that decision for himself. When I evaluate the Klitschkos, I give the nod to others who have beaten better competition when all else is equal.

For the record, my personal votes are, one through 10, Floyd Mayweather, Andre Ward, Manny Pacquiao, Nonito Donaire, Juan Manuel Marquez, Sergio Martinez, Timothy Bradley, Vitali Klitschko, Wladimir Klitschko and Carl Froch.

Before we get to the newest rankings, I'd like to welcome our newest panelist, Bob Velin of USA Today.

With that, here is the August rankings that are the result of votes of boxing writers world-wide:

Mayweather

1. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Points: 284 (23 of 29 first-place votes)
Record: 43-0 (26 KOs)
Title: WBA super welterweight champion
Last outing: W12 over Miguel Cotto on May 5
Previous ranking: 1
Up next:Nothing scheduled
Analysis:What will impact of two-month jail sentence be upon his career?

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Pacquiao

2. Manny Pacquiao

Points: 246 (2 of 29 first-place votes)
Record: 54-4-2 (38 KOs)
Title: None
Last outing: L12 to No. 8 Timothy Bradley
Previous ranking: 2
Up next:Nov. 10 vs TBA
Analysis:It's been nearly three years since he had a stoppage

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Martinez

3. Sergio Martinez
Points: 200
Record: 49-2-2 (28 KOs)
Title: Ring middleweight champion
Last outing: KO11 Matthew Macklin on March 17
Previous ranking: 3
Up next: Sept. 15 vs Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Analysis: Needs to find a wa to overcome Chavez's size advantage

Ward


4. Andre Ward
Points: 189 (2 of 29 first-place votes)
Record: 25-0 (13 KOs)
Title: WBA, WBC super middleweight champion
Last outing: W12 over Carl Froch on Dec. 17
Previous ranking: 5
Up next: Sept. 8 vs Chad Dawson
Analysis: A win over Dawson should make him a Top 3 fighter

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Ward

5. Juan Manuel Marquez
Points: 180
Record: 54-6-1 (39 KOs)
Title: Interim WBO super lightweight champion
Last outing: W12 Sergey Fedchenko on April 14
Previous ranking: 4
Up next: TBA
Analysis: In mix for Nov. 10 bout with Pacquiao

Donaire


6. Nonito Donaire Jr.
Points: 140
Record: 29-1 (18 KOs)
Title: IBF, WBO super bantamweight champion
Last outing: W12 over Jeffrey Mathebula on July 7
Previous ranking: T6
Up next: Oct. 13 vs. Toshiaki Nishioka
Analysis: Among the sport's most complete fighters

W. Klitschko


7. Wladimir Klitschko
Points: 101
Record: 58-3 (51 KOs)
Title: Ring, IBF, WBA, WBO heavyweight champion
Last outing: TKO6 over Tony Thompson on July 7
Previous ranking: T6
Up next: Nothing scheduled
Analysis: No one on the horizon is remotely close to him

Bradley


8. Timothy Bradley
Points: 88
Record: 29-0 (12 KOs)
Title: WBO welterweight champion
Last outing: W12 over No. 2 Manny Pacquiao on June 9
Previous ranking: 8
Up next: TBA
Analysis: Might be the most underrated unbeaten fighter in the sport

V. Klitschko


9. Vitali Klitschko
Points: 44
Record: 44-2 (40 KOs)
Title: WBC heavyweight champion
Last outing: W12 over Dereck Chisora on Feb. 18
Previous ranking: 9
Up next: Vs Manuel Charr on Sept. 8
Analysis: Down to his final few fights

Froch


10. Carl Froch
Points: 32
Record: 29-2 (21 Kos)
Title: IBF super middleweight champion
Last outing: TKO5 Lucian Bute on May 26
Previous ranking: 10
Up next: TBA
Analysis: Continues to fight, and beat, highly ranked opponents

Others receiving votes: Miguel Cotto 24; Chad Dawson 23; Yuriorkis Gamboa 16; Chris John 10; Anselmo Moreno 6; Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. 4; Roman Gonzalez 3; Canelo Alvarez 2; Adrian Broner 1; Guillermo Rigondeaux 1.

Voting panel: Raul Alzaga, Primera Hoya; Al Bernstein, Showtime; Ron Borges, Boston Herald; Damian Calhoun, Orange County Register; Brian Campbell, ESPN.com; Scott Christ, Bad Left Hook.com; Steve Cofield, ESPN Radio 1100; Jake Donovan, BoxingScene.com; Steve Farhood, Showtime; Thomas Gerbasi, BoxingScene.com; Carlos Gonzalez, Primera Hora; Randy Gordon, Sirius/XM; Lee Groves, Ring Magazine; Keith Idec, The Record; Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports; Scott Mallon, Boxing Digest; Rich Marotta, Fox Sports; Gunnar Meinhardt, Die Welt; Robert Morales, Los Angeles Daily News; Marty Mulcahey, MaxBoxing.com; Kieran Mulvaney, Reuters; Santos Perez, Miami Herald; Cliff Rold, BoxingScene.com; Lem Satterfield, RingTV.com; Tim Starks, The Queensbury Rules; Don Steinberg, Philadelphia Inquirer/Wall Street Journal; T.K. Stewart, RingTV.com; Bob Velin, USA Today; Dave Weinberg, Press of Atlantic City.

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