Ranking the 10 Most Overhyped Boxers of the Past Decade
We’ve all seen the type. The fighter who gets on television early on in a career amid breathy commentary that all but ensures a bust in Canastota—even before he advances past sub-.500 opposition.
Then, once the fighter discovers the next tier, the promise quickly evaporates.
Of course, that’s not the only available definition of overhyped. Some who were oversold actually have good careers against the flotsam and jetsam—some even win title belts—but ultimately they fall short when finally matched with the true elites.
Click through to take a look at our selections and drop in some of your own in the comments.
10. David Haye
He’s a two-division champion (cruiserweight and heavyweight) who’s won all but one of six championship bouts including four by stoppage.
But the problem for David Haye is that he’ll never live down that one loss.
The brash Englishman was all talk before climbing into the ring for a shot at consensus heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko in July 2011, but he went passively quiet once the punches began flying.
He won six of a possible 36 rounds across three scorecards in a one-sided loss. He has fought just once since as repeated promises of a whiz-bang comeback consistently fizzle thanks to myriad injuries and circumstance.
9. Nikolay Valuev
Just when you thought a 7-foot, 300-pound Russian could only find athletic work in a pro wrestling ring, Don King Productions brought Nikolay Valuev into the public eye.
The modern-day incarnation of Primo Carnera warranted the nickname “Russian Giant” in appearance, but he fought more like “Gangly Punching Bag” when finally faced with opposition with an intention to win.
He lost his first hold on the WBA heavyweight belt to 5’11” Ruslan Chagaev. Later, he rightfully would have lost the second grasp to a 46-year-old Evander Holyfield, if not for the dubious judges who awarded him a majority decision five years ago this month.
His next fight was a legitimate 12-round defeat at the hands of David Haye in November 2009, and the big man hasn’t been back in the ring since.
8. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
It’s almost a no-win situation for the son of a Hall of Famer, and to be fair, progeny Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has fared far better than the sons of similarly legendary dads.
He spent eight years working the novice circuit and hearing the claims that he was a fraud, before finally joining the belted class with a disputed majority-decision defeat of Sebastian Zbik in 2011.
Grudging respect began trickling in after defeats of Peter Manfredo, Marco Antonio Rubio and Andy Lee, but a one-sided loss to Sergio Martinez and an even more disputed “win” over Brian Vera have turned public opinion back against him.
Add in his issues with weight and post-fight urine tests, and it seems clear that Chavez is destined for a prolonged career with “overhyped” permanently attached.
7. Andre Berto
HBO was hot and heavy for Andre Berto and his strong familial connections to Haiti as he climbed the contender ladder, and it broadcast his entry to championship status with a stoppage win over Miguel Angel Rodriguez in 2008.
The win earned him the WBC title that Floyd Mayweather Jr. had vacated during a brief retirement, but that’s where the comparisons between Berto and the best of the best at 147 pounds come to a screeching halt.
He racked up five title defenses against a steady stream of former 140-pounders or flat-out fringe challengers, and then Victor Ortiz outhustled and outpointed him in a 12-rounder that gave the Californian the shot at a “Money” superfight that Berto had craved.
Three fights since have yielded two particularly brutal losses to Robert Guerrero and Jesus Soto Karass, which left Berto’s face a swollen mess and prompted some to say he ought to call it a career already.
6. Samuel Peter
He was nicknamed the “Nigerian Nightmare.” His powerful, thick-shouldered physique prompted billing as a modern-day Mike Tyson. And for a time, Samuel Peter seemed up to the familiar task.
When he dumped Wladimir Klitschko three times en route to a close decision loss, Peter was an up and comer. He annexed the WBC title six fights later against Oleg Maskaev and was expected to cut short the return of Wlad’s brother Vitali when they met seven months later.
Instead, the elder Klitschko took him to school en route to an eighth-round stoppage. Later, 200-pounder Eddie Chambers outpointed him in a subsequent made-for-ESPN return, and Wladimir erased the painful memories of the first match with a 10-round domination in 2010.
Robert Helenius stopped him in nine rounds a year later, and Peter has not been heard from since.
5. Jeff Lacy
It was only seven years ago that a 21-0 Jeff Lacy took his 17 knockouts and his IBF Super Middleweight Championship across the Atlantic for what was perceived to be a hammering of overprotected Welshman Joe Calzaghe in March 2006 in Manchester.
It seems like 70 years.
Calzaghe battered and embarrassed the one-dimensional American over 12 rounds, and Lacy has quite simply never been the same. He injured a shoulder in a subsequent razor-thin defeat of Vitaliy Tsypko and has spent as much time on the shelf as in the ring since.
It hasn’t mattered, though, because when he has fought, it hasn’t been good. A 4-3 record in seven fights has resulted since the Tsypko fight, including losses to Jermain Taylor (UD 12), Roy Jones Jr. (TKO 10) and 19-loss journeyman Dhafir Smith (UD 12).
4. Chris Arreola
Californian Chris Arreola was a made-for-TV entertainer. He talked a lot of junk, loved to go in the ring and mix it up with no pretense, and seemed ready to become the first Mexican-American to capture a heavyweight title.
Then, Vitali Klitschko happened. A 10th-round stoppage loss resulted when the two met for the WBC crown in September 2009, and Arreola has yet to regain similar status in the four years since.
He dropped a majority decision to former light heavyweight champ Tomasz Adamek in an eliminator two fights after the Klitschko loss, and he was beaten by previously unknown Bermane Stiverne over 12 one-sided rounds eight months ago in Ontario, Calif.
Another would-be comeback began in September, when Arreola stopped fellow overpublicized heavyweight Seth Mitchell in a single round.
3. Seth Mitchell
Even when the hype was at peak volume, Seth Mitchell was never a natural.
He was a collegiate football player who transitioned to boxing and scored a series of early victories against foes who either lacked the skill to beat any moderately skilled heavyweight or the chin to stand up to even a limited big man with a powerful punch.
Those weaknesses were exposed when Mitchell was matched with Kronk-reared ex-cruiserweight Johnathon Banks, who dropped him three times en route to a second-round knockout on an Adrien Broner undercard in Atlantic City in November 2012.
Mitchell bested Banks in a maddeningly inconsistent rematch seven months later, but the next step at reclamation fell miles short when fellow big man Chris Arreola blitzed him inside of three minutes.
2. James Kirkland
Everywhere you looked, James Kirkland appeared menacing.
Either he was hammering second-tier foes in the ring or he was engaging in throwback training endeavors under the watchful eye of his equally nasty trainer, Ann Wolfe.
Some of the bloom was lost in 2011 when Nobuhiro Ishida dumped Kirkland three times in a first-round knockout win on the Marcos Maidana vs. Erik Morales undercard in Las Vegas. Kirkland was on the verge of another loss, this time to Carlos Molina, before a bizarre disqualification victory was awarded in Round 10.
A jail stint for weapons possession prevented an immediate follow-up to the Molina “triumph,” though Kirkland will be back on TV on Saturday night. He faces unbeaten Glen Tapia on an HBO card featuring Guillermo Rigondeaux in Atlantic City.
1. David Price
Perhaps it was too good to be true all along.
The 6’8” Englishman with a big punch won his first 15 fights as a pro, but the run included 13 by knockouts against conspicuously unaccomplished foes like Audley Harrison, Matt Skelton and Sam Sexton.
His foil came in the form of 40-something American Tony Thompson, who hammered the giant to the canvas in just two rounds when they met in February.
Price sought redemption but got a repeat instead when he clashed with Thompson again. This time he gave up the ghost in five rounds as his career fell in tatters around him.
He was ordered to defend his British and Commonwealth titles against ex-world title challenger Dereck Chisora but chose to relinquish them and begin the rebuilding process against 35-year-old Russian Evgeny Orlov—he of the 14-12-1 record—in an eight-rounder on Dec. 14 in Germany.