COMMENTARY | For those fight fans who gnash their teeth and curse the day the Klitschko brothers were ever born, the good news is that 2013 could be the last year of total Klitschko lock-down on the heavyweight division.
Father time may end the career of elder Klitschko, Vitali, who at 41 years of age, is actively looking for a way to bow out gracefully. The winner of the upcoming Chris Arreola-Bermane Stiverne WBC title eliminator won't likely retire the long-reigning WBC champ and neither will David Haye, if and when that one gets made. Most likely, Vitali Klitschko will go out gracefully at the end of 2013, unless something big presents itself for 2014.
WBA/IBF/WBO champ, Wladimir Klitschko, on the other hand, still has plenty of prime boxing career left and he also has the Emanuel Steward blueprint to help him stay on top. What he doesn't have, though, is a weak set of upcoming mandatory challengers to ensure a smooth ride throughout the year.
The WBA is pushing "regular" champ, Alexander Povetkin into a showdown with Wladimir, apparently whether Povetkin and his people feel "ready" or not. Povetkin won't likely score the upset, but he's certainly a solid enough challenger and represents stage one of a very solid three-part mandatory gauntlet for Klitschko that also includes IBF no. 1 challenger, Kubrat Pulev, and WBO mandatory, Robert Helenius.
It's very conceivable that Klitschko will get by all three challenges, but, unlike much of the last couple of years, none are "gimmes" and all three are legitimate, quality heavyweights.
Odds are pretty good that at least one of the Klitschko brothers' titles will be up for grabs by the beginning of 2014. If that is the case, then one of the younger or lesser-accomplished heavyweights will have a big opportunity waiting for him.
In the UK, twin towers, Tyson Fury and David Price, keep developing and, while it's not likely either will get near a Klitschko in 2013, both will be involved in some key developmental fights.
The heavy-handed, 6' 8" Price will be meeting his toughest challenge to date when he faces two-time world title challenger, Tony Thompson in February. From there, it's all about proper positioning for a run at a world title in 2014.
6' 9" Fury is on a similar path, but actually a step or two ahead of his British rival. At 24, he's five years younger than Price, ranked in the Top Five of the WBC and just outside the Top Five by the WBO. He also has the deeper overall resume of the two UK giants. A world title shot is possible this year, but also not very probable.
Still in Europe, the heavyweight scene has become remarkably solid at the very top. Undefeated IBF top challenger, Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria is an underrated talent who is both big enough to stun and athletic enough to box. The UK's David Haye is an explosive talent when/if he decides to fight. "Nordic Nightmare," Robert Helenius is big, strong, and aggressive. He's also coming off shoulder surgery and an utterly forgettable bout with journeyman, Sherman Williams in November. Then, of course, there's WBA "regular" champ, Alexander Povetkin, who is possibly as good as any heavyweight not named Klitschko. Poland's Tomasz Adamek lacks the skills and physical presence to be a long-term, high-end heavyweight, but he's as tough as anyone in the division and good enough to give any non-Klitschko a real battle.
Meanwhile, as the European contenders jockey for position and line up for a shot at toppling the Klitschkos, the American scene continues to underwhelm.
Seth Mitchell was knocked out in two rounds by Johnathon Banks in November, but will get another crack at things this February. However, even should Mitchell get the win this time, a fragile chin on a prospect with a long road until true title contention is not very promising. On the other hand, Banks, who replaced the late Emanuel Steward as head trainer for Wladimir Klitschko, would be put into an odd position with another win. He'd either find himself challenging the fighter he trains or that fighter's older brother. No matter who wins the rematch, though, it's not likely that either Mitchell or Banks will get a world title shot in 2013.
Chris Arreola probably represents the best chance for an American heavyweight to capture a world title this year-- and that's not really saying much. First, the Mexican-American slugger would have to beat Haitian-Canadian, Bermane Stiverne, in February's WBC title eliminator. Then, he'd have to find a way to somehow do better against Vitali Klitschko than he did three years ago when he lost every round en route to a 10-round RTD loss in a failed bid for the WBC title.
Bryant Jennings has proven to be a solid prospect, but is still a long way from being a legitimate world class contender. Also put 6' 7" Deontay Wilder in the same boat-- promising, but still far from main stage material.
Overall, with the proper matchmaking, the heavyweight scene in 2013 should actually be pretty solid. Unless, of course, anyone is expecting anything, whatsoever, from the Americans.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
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