The popular summary nowadays is to say that ex-Soviet fighters are dominating the Heavyweight division. The Heavyweight Championship used to be as American as apple pie and now like so much of what we used to take pride In—it's been outsourced.
The problem with this is that in what many consider to be a weak era for heavyweight fighters, the ex-Soviet fighters aren't any better than the other contenders.
Former WBC champ Oleg Maskaev had a history against American title-holder Hasim Rahman when they fought their rematch. Maskaev was an underdog going into the match and part of the reason he was able to win was because he had a leg up on the mental game. He had previously knocked Rahman out...clear out of the ring.
After a weak tune-up fight, Maskaev hasn't fought in over a year. And many are picking him to lose to Nigerian native and WBC champion, Sam Peter, when they finally get in the ring together. And of course, Maskaev lives in Brooklyn.
The WBA belt was taken from John Ruiz, another American, by Nikolai Valuev, in what most considered to be a robbery. Though after fighting laughable competition, Valuev did get legitimately out-pointed to lose the belt to an actual Russian fighter, Ruslan Chagaev.
Sergei Lyakhovich (who also lives in Arizona, by the way) won the WBO belt was from American knockout artist Lamon Brewster only to see it ripped from him in his very next fight thanks to a devastating, last-second knockout from another American KO artist, Shannon Briggs. Of course Briggs lost it in his very next fight, a painfully boring decision, to current champ Sultan Ibragimov.
My point is that, this is not what you'd call "dominance.” Most of these supposed ex-Soviet conquerors are paper champions that have no more relevance than the other fighters who play on the heavyweight merry-go-round.
The real root of the European dominance write-off has it's roots in one man: Wladimir Klitschko. He is from the Ukraine and he is the best heavyweight fighter in the world right now.
The same people in the sports media who write off the division as "owned by the Russians" are the same people who have helped set the odds for Klitschko's upcoming unification bout with Ibragimov this weekend.
A 6-to-1 favorite. Betting one-hundred dollars on a Klitschko win will yield you about a sixteen dollar payout. If there's such a thing as a "lock" in boxing, this is it.
All credit to Ibragimov for taking this fight. Not many men are willing leap so enthusiastically to their own demise. It's not that he's a bad fighter, but Klitschko is a great one. Klitschko, who took a huge paycut for this unification fight, does not yet have the "De la Hoya Mainstream Star" stamp of approval, but a 50-50 split with Ibragimov? Well, in this case it's for the best.
Klitschko has said it best himself:
"If you perform well, it doesn't matter where you're from, what religion you practice, what skin color you have, or your nationality."
Today's heavyweight division is not about ex-Soviet or American. It is about pretenders and performers. Fans don't want an American or a Brit or a Nigerian or a Ukranian. They want someone to clean up the division. They want one man, one heavyweight champion of the world.
Right now, Wladimir Klitschko is a king without a crown. Come this Saturday night, it will be made official: Wladimir Klitschko is the recognized heavyweight champion of the world.