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Introducing the Next Wave of European Heavyweights

In 1997, Lennox Lewis ripped the world heavyweight title from American hands, displacing the crown across the Atlantic from which it has yet to be recovered. American hubris viewed it as a temporary setback, mirroring the short reigns of Primo Carnera, Max Schmeling, and Ingemar Johansson. The amicable Lewis gave America visitation rights, and brief custody for seven months, defending the title 14 times in the USA. That has not been the case since the Klitschko brothers, with only three out of 21 title fights taking place on American soil.

Of course, the Klitschkos are well within their rights to avoid the heavyweight dead zone called America especially after they were unceremoniously exiled by HBO. In recent years, Chris Arreola has been the solitary American with enough popularity to lure a Klitschko into his lair. On the horizon, Seth Mitchell and Olympic bronze medalist Deontay Wilder have the potential and backstory to capture the American imagination. As they are the lone American bright spots, we should become acquainted with ten heavyweights whose surnames carry distinctly foreign pronunciations.

Denis Boytsov (Age 25, 6’1” 220 pounds, 28-0, 23 KOs) – Where others on this list lack the appearance of a bruising champion, Boytsov’s physique and style scream of aggression. German-based Russian has the attacking gene likely to catch on with American audiences, an athletic banger reminiscent of the early Mike Tyson. Yes, he lacks the size of the Klitschko behemoths but makes up for it with attacking angles and bursts of combination punches. An 82% kayo ratio fights speak to Boytsov’s power. Germany’s best trainer, Fritz Sdunek, who guided both Klitschkos to world titles, is in his corner, Boytsov comes from a well-rounded amateur background, three world cadet titles, but has been slowed in the pros by injuries. His momentum has ground to a halt, yet to fight in 2011 and has no fights scheduled.

Manuel Charr (Age 26, 6’3½” 240 pounds, 18-0, 10 KOs) – Nicknamed “Diamond Boy”, Charr has cut an impressive figure, stopping Danny Williams and Owen Beck after prolonged beatings. Born in Beirut, his Syrian nationality has attracted a strong following in a Germany that houses many Arab immigrants. Charr has that irritating tendency of fighting to the level of his opposition but likes the bright lights and saves his most impressive performances for the best opponents. Should fight more often than three bouts a year average over the last three years, building on his natural fluidity and good countering instincts. Took a chance this year when he switched from the powerful Universum-Box promotional stable to Felix Sturm’s fledgling outfit, which could stunt Charr’s progress.

Tyson Fury (Age 23, 6’9” 255 pounds, 15-0, 10 K.O’s) – Has the name and size to become a star and has moved beyond a work-in-progress with a dominant beating of fellow prospect Dereck Chisora. Yes, Fury thinks more of his abilities than independent observers do but that confidence fueled a heretofore-unseen tactician when the bell rang against Chisora. Fury came to the sport early, boxing since age 12, developing a jab-first pressure style with evident boxing skills. Only had a 30-4 amateur record but won a bronze at the world junior championships with a mobility that belies oafish traits his size prejudices up. An 85-inch reach only rates behind Nicolai Valuev and Fury’s lack of pectoral definition and shoulder musculature hides natural power. The Chisora victory proved that when Fury is mentally into a fight, he can live up to expectations his enormous physical dimensions create.

Edmund Gerber (Age 23, 6’3” 238 pounds, 16-0, 10 KOs) – Stop-and-go career is in a holding pattern for 2011, fighting below average opponents that are doing little to improve the sturdy stalker with good finishing skills. Gerber shocked German observers when he became the first boxer to stop tough-as-nails Rene Dettweiler and before that, beating capable Marcel Zeller in only his eighth bout. Those wins created expectations and insiders are wondering why he has not been featured more prominently. Gerber is not flashy, lacking an intelligent jab, a pressure fighter with a good sense of distance and sneaky right hand. Perhaps, his team is putting on the finishing touches in the gym but heavyweights are moved fast in Europe and Gerber’s stagnation seems counterintuitive.

Vyacheslav Glazkov (Age 26, 6’3” 220 pounds, 9-0, 6 KOs) – Boxing since age nine, this Ukrainian was an excellent amateur, winning silver at the World Championships and collected a Bronze at the 2008 Olympics. Displays an all-around skill set reminiscent of Alexander Povetkin but with slightly better movement and passion. Speed is best asset for now, and with experience will learn to put himself in a position to exploit those fast hands. Scored biggest victory in March, defeating 33-5 veteran Denis Bakhtov, winning every round with intelligent and accurate punching. Went eight rounds with no stamina problems but was not pushed and rarely has to fight off his back foot. Does everything by the book (allowed him to beat David Price and Denis Boytsov in amateurs), but once Glazkov is comfortable enough to take chances on the fly, we will see if he is as special as some suggest.

Robert Helenius (Age 27, 6’6½” 240 pounds, 15-0, 10 KOs) – “The Nordic Nightmare” does not look the part of a heavyweight champion, with a receding hairline and equally unimpressive musculature reminiscent of the aging Larry Holmes. Notable wins over Samuel Peter, Lamon Brewster, and Attila Levin before his 15th pro bout belie Helenius’ first impression. A proficient but unspectacular amateur, winning bronze and silver medals at the European level, nothing spoke to such future success at the pro level. Exercises a patient game plan, waiting for openings or mistakes, dominating two former world champions before scoring emphatic stoppages. Finland’s finest is eerily effective, his accurately thudding punches taking an increasing toll as the rounds ratchet up. Helenius stuffs a high-octane engine in a Volkswagen body.

Francesco Pianeta (Age 26, 6’5” 240 pounds, 23-0-1, 14 KOs) – Italian southpaw has scored good wins despite lack of aggression, perhaps not comfortable on offense yet coming to boxing via kick-boxing and having no amateur boxing experience. A world traveler, Pianeta has registered wins outside of his German base in Italy, Ireland, Austria, Poland, Belgium, Denmark, and Switzerland. Looked ready to emerge three years ago, beating undefeated Michael Marrone, Johann Duhaupas, and outpointing experienced Matt Skelton before he was held to a forgivable draw by hot-and-cold Albert Sosnowski. Only had one fight in 2010 but scored two keep-busy wins this year. All things considered, a still maturing Pianeta did well against Sosnowski and could morph into a force if he develops on the mental front as his physical boxing abilities have.

David Price (Age 28, 6’8” 245 pounds, 11-0, 9 KOs) – Seen as a more polished and well-schooled Tyson Fury, he defeated Fury twice in the amateurs, winning the English ABA trophy three times along with a Commonwealth title and bronze at the 2008 Olympics. Has sparred the likes of David Haye and Odlanier Solis but has to answer questions about his lean frame and chin since he was stopped in the amateurs a couple times. English pessimists doubt Price has the versatility to mix at the elite level but he has natural power and size that hides flaws well. Signed with Frank Maloney, who guided Lennox Lewis to fame, fighting three times this year including good wins over undefeated Tom Dallas and veteran Raphael Butler. If Tyson Fury and David Price continue to win, a match-up between the two would be huge and analogous to the Lennox Lewis - Frank Bruno match nearly two decades ago.

Kubrat Pulev (Age 30, 6’4½” 247 pounds, 13-0, 6 KOs ) – Bulgarian butcher had an amateur career comparable to Cubans’ résumés Americans have become accustomed to but a disappointing Olympic final convinced Pulev to turn pro. Enters fights with the boxing IQ and size to employ diverse offensive approaches to achieve victory but might not have much room for improvement despite positive reports of his work in the gym. Surprisingly nimble given his burly physique, Pulev possess quick hands that take the shortest route to the target. Defeated capable European and American veterans Paolo Vidoz, Matt Skelton, and Dominick Guinn, notching those wins before his tenth pro bout. Enters the ring with the proper amount of distain, quickly establishing a two-fisted presence to suppress an opponent’s ambition early.

Andrzej Wawrzyk (Age 23, 6’5” 230 pounds, 22-0, 11 KOs) – Former European junior champion in the amateurs, Polish puncher could be a hit here in America, given the support Tomasz Adamek has received. Has an intuitive style, reflexively reacting to openings and shows swift feet to get him into punching position quickly. Still maturing physically, with his power generated more by speed and accuracy than muscle for now. This is probably why he has not fought more than four times a year since 2007 when his opposition improved. Was knocked down by trial horse Harvey Jolly, in his only fight in America, but recovered quickly and pounded out a deserved decision win. Scheduled to fight former American Olympian Devin Vargas next month and looks like a solid prospect with substantial upside if he continues to work and improve.

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