What’s the best heavyweight fight you’ve seen lately? Chris Arreola-Brian Minto, maybe, in December? Martin Rogan-Matt Skelton, perhaps, back in March? Fun fights, both. But of negligible consequence.
Consequence in the heavyweight division — we’ve had a little of that, too. Wladimir Klitschko-Ruslan Chagaev last summer for the Ring magazine lineal championship had meaning. Klitschko-Sultan Ibragimov in 2008 had some meaning, if you care about alphabet title unification fights. But both fights were boring to the point of catastrophe.
So it’s mildly good news that for the first time since Lamon Brewster-Sergei Liakhovich in 2006 — by my memory’s tally — we’ll get a heavyweight fight that shapes up on paper as having both meaning and thrills. Arreola is set to rumble April 24 with Tomasz Adamek, with the official announcement expected Friday. Arreola is the #6 heavyweight in the Ring rankings, and Adamek is the cruiserweight champ who’s won two good fights as a heavy. Each of them have skill, and each of them are action stars who have been in wars that warranted Fight of the Year consideration.
I say mildly good news because… think of it this way: Is heavyweight the only division where you can get both good and meaningful fights once every four years? Admittedly, that’s not quite the rate — Lennox Lewis-Vitali Klitschko was in 2003, so let’s round it up to once every 3.5 years — but it’s not encouraging. Run down the divisions mentally and I bet you can think of meaningful action fights in every division, except maybe strawweight, at least once a year or once every other year.
Dan P. and Scott Kraus recently convinced me in a discussion in the comments section that the heavyweight division is probably on an upward arc more than a downward one. Yes, the Klitschko brothers both still rule the division with a ruthlessly numbing albeit efficient use of exceptional height and the know-how for employing it, and there’s no evidence that they’ll stop mowing down everyone in the weight class anytime soon. But there’s a second tier of pretty good heavyweights who aren’t so giant-sized and often are quite fun to watch, like Arreola, Adamek, David Haye, Alexander Povetkin and some others. Many of them are young and have their best years ahead of them.
So as happy as I am to have a good fight like Arreola-Adamek lined up, and as much as I’m tempted to think, “Maybe this is the fight that starts the turnaround of the division,” I’m not going to. For one, maybe it doesn’t end up being as good as it looks on paper — Adamek’s relatively untested at heavyweight, and he may want to play keep-away from Arreola’s power, for instance. But for another thing, every time I’ve gotten optimistic about the heavies, they’ve let me down.
For now, I’m simply going to be happy that the big boys are hosting a corker of a bout between quality boxers. Sometimes, a good and meaningful fight is nothing more than a good and meaningful fight, however rarely it may come in the division that once was almost synonymous with the sport.