5 Heavyweight Contenders Who Could Challenge the Klitschkos
For what seems like forever, the Klitschko brothers have held a monopoly on the World Heavyweight Championship, with Wladimir holding the WBO/IBF/WBA/Ring titles, while Vitali has the WBC heavyweight strap.
However, there are several fighters—some you may have never even heard of—that are coming up and may be able to challenge the Klitschko brothers.
They wouldn't necessarily win, but here are five contenders, and most importantly for U.S. readers, three Americans who I think have the ability to compete with the Klitschko brothers.
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5. Denis Boytsov: 30-0 25KO's
With a record of 30-0 with 25 knockouts, Boytsov is a Russian tank.
Just watch the above video, and you'll see he's one of the most ruthless fighters seen on tape since Mike Tyson. When Denis gets you hurt, he's going to viciously go for the finish—something we all love in a heavyweight champion.
Boytsov has struggled slightly with injury throughout his career, and has had a couple of hand surgeries.
However, Boytsov is a baby for a heavyweight at just 26 years of age, and finally appears to be healthy, so he certainly has time on his side. The only knock against him is that he's short at only 6'1", but he has tremendous power, and goes to the body like Miguel Cotto in his prime.
Boytsov may be ready for a Klitschko by early next year, and is a proven ticket seller and name in Germany where he fights regularly, so I wouldn't be surprised at all to see this fight take place.
He may not win, but Boytsov would give his all and make a tough fight for either Klitschko brother.
4. Bryant Jennings 13-0 6KO's
Jennings is the first American heavyweight on this list.
While he isn't a household name, Jennings has gained valuable TV exposure by fighting on two NBC Sports cards in the last few months, which are nationally broadcast in the U.S.
Jennings may be the best heavyweight out there that nobody has heard of.
The American heavyweight has excellent athleticism, a huge reach at 84" and decent size at 6' 2.5" 225 pounds. He's got tremendous speed for a heavyweight, and is keeping himself active—he'll fight for the third time this year in June.
Jennings is 27 and only has 13 fights, but he's only been a pro for about two years, so he has limited wear and tear. If he can continue to improve, he'll be a viable opponent for either Klitschko.
If he can learn to use his reach effectively, Jennings will be very dangerous for anyone in the heavyweight division.
3. Chris Arreola 35-2 30KO's
Chris Arreola is the second American on the list. He previously fought Vitali Klitschko in L.A. in 2009, but was stopped in 10 rounds, although he never stopped trying.
However, since then Arreola has lost about 25 pounds and has totally revamped his career.
Arreola has excellent power and good speed and boxing ability. He can definitely compete with the Klitschkos, it's just a matter of if he can commit himself in training and come to the ring at a good weight.
If disciplined, Arreola is one of the best heavyweights in the world. If he is out of shape, he's just average.
2. Robert Helenius 17-0, 11KO's
Helenius, or the "Nordic Nightmare" as he is known, is a guy who is 6'7'' and has good boxing ability.
That's really Helenius' biggest asset.
He won a highly controversial decision against Dereck Chisora in a fight most believe he clearly lost, but Helenius still has the size to compete with Wladimir or Vitali.
Usually the Klitschko brothers are just too big for their opponents, but Helenius can match them in strength and size. He's only 28, and needs to improve a little bit, but I wouldn't at all be surprised to see him fight one of the Klitschkos.
Helenius has shown excellent power at times, which he'd need against the Klitschkos. He's sidelined through the summer with an injury, but look for him to fight a Klitschko in 2013.
The Nordic Nightmare is known throughout Europe, and would make business sense for both Klitschkos.
1. Deontay Wilder 21-0 21KO's
Wilder's record looks incredible on the surface, although he hasn't fought anyone of merit yet. He does possess tremendous power, and has a great jab along with excellent speed.
Of everyone on this list, Wilder is the biggest wild card.
He is an Olympic medalist with a lot of raw talent, but until he steps up his competition, it's hard to know what his ceiling is. He said he wants to get to 25-0 and then wants a title shot.
However, at this rate it looks like it'll take longer than 25 fights before Wilder is ready. He's been extremely active which is good, it'll help him improve on his weak areas.
Personally, I'd like to see him take a step up this year and fight a couple of top 20 heavyweight fighters. If he can do that, his 6'7" frame, 84" reach, speed and great power could go a long way towards beating a Klitschko.