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Eric Molina and other undeserving Heavyweight Challengers

Deontay WilderBy Darmuid Sherry: On Saturday, Deontay Wilder (33-0) makes his first defence of the WBC Heavyweight Title, in his home state of Alabama against the heavy betting underdog, Eric Molina (23-2).

On paper, the contest looks like a dastardly mismatch. In one corner you have Wilder, a lean, powerful, an athletic 6´7 Olympic Medalist with 18 of his 32 knockouts arriving before the end of the first round. Opposite him, with Molina, you have a journeyman heavyweight, whose 2 losses have both come from first round knockouts, and his most recent calibre of opposition is against the likes of Rafael Zumbano Love and Theo Kruger. Already, this looks pretty ominous for `Drummer Boy´ Molina.

Many boxing analysts and fans have labelled Molina one of the softest challengers for a Heavyweight Title in recent times, even during an era that is often derided as being lacklustre, poor, and lacking any real challengers to end the Klitschko dominance. Indeed could Molina be the worst challenger, on paper, in the last decade or so. Here are some other undeserving title challengers in the recent era, that may, or may not compare to Eric Molina.

Audley Harrison – 27-4

Revisionist Boxing Historians in the future may argue that Harrison, as an Olympic Gold Medallist and European Champion had a rather stellar career. However he will forever be remembered for when he froze in his challenge against bitter domestic rival, David Haye for his WBA Title in 2010. In a match that was heavily promoted and broadcast on PPV in the UK, ´Fraudly´as some of his detractors labelled him, simply stunk that night. In 3 rounds of boxing, Harrison threw one lame jab before Haye brutally knocked him out. Harrison could talk like a champion but simply at the highest level, did not have the bravery, or chin of a champion. Now retired, sadly with some brain damage accumulated, Audley has been proven popular away from the ring in the UK with some reality show performances. However, the night he froze against David Haye will never be forgotten in British boxing.

Albert Sosnowski – 45-2-1

Similarly to Harrison, Sosnowski was also European Champion, however, much more surprisingly, Sosnowski actually brought a very spirited performance to the fearsome Vitali Klitschko in 2010, and made him work harder than was anticipated, before the Pole was stopped in the 10th round. Indeed, Sosnowski normally boxed in venues such as York Hall and Goresbrook Leisure Centre in England prior to his challenge to Vitali, and the fact that like Harrison, Sosnowski was European Champions, highlights how low the quality of Heavyweights were 5 years ago. A forgettable career followed for the Polish boxer after this challenge.

Alex Leapai – 30-4-3

Don´t blame Wladimir Klitschko for this joke of a match-up, instead blame the WBO, whom after Leapai shocked their then number 1 contender, Denis Boytsov in a decision victory, farcically installed Leapai as their mandatory challenger. Leapai, only just 6 foot tall, and sporting a knockout defeat to Kevin Johnson on his recent record pre-fight was out-gunned in all aspects of the contest in 2014, before Klitschko predictably stopped the Samoan-Australian in the 5th round. By far more entertaining than the one-sided contest itself, was the pre-fight lunacy of Shannon Briggs. More about him later.

Mariusz Wach – 27-0

Another Pole on the list, this time the giant Mariusz Wach, only got an opportunity at the title, because he was taller than Wladimir Klitschko. That was it. Although unbeaten, Wach´s best victories prior to this 2012 contest was against Tye Fields, Jason Gavern and Kevin McBride. All of them hardly championship material. Wach was clinically out-boxed and knocked down once against the classy Klitshcko in a disappointing contest. Indeed, a post-fight positive drugs test only increases Wach´s unwanted claim to be one of the more undeserving challengers in recent times. 3 wins against typically nondescript opponents have followed since his comeback from a doping ban.

Hasim Rahman – 45-6-2

In 2008, ´The Rock´ Rahman was a completely different calibre of fighter from the fighter who shockingly beat Lennox Lewis many years previously to claim the heavyweight title. Indeed, a punching bag would have provided more resistance to Wladimir Klitschko that Rahman did that night. Rahman had already retired twice in his career before he signed to fight the Ukrainian champion as a late replacement for Alexander Povetkin. Allowed to fight simply because of name recognition rather than recent career acvhievement, Rahman was brutally beaten for 7 rounds before the fight was thankfully called off. The American unadvisedly continued fighting for 6 more years after his defeat to Klitschko, finally retiring last year after a defeat to a fighter named Anthony Nansen, who had a record of 3-2 (1KO) in New Zealand.

Jean Marc Mormeck – 36-4

The Frenchman Mormeck, was a great Cruiserweight champion. However, by the time he moved up to Heavyweight, he was old, slowing and maybe even shot. Mormeck took 2 years off after his Cruiserweight title defeat to David Haye, and hadn´t fought for 15 months before he challenged Wladimir Klitschko in 2012. His previous fight being a split decision victory against the unheralded Timur Ibragimov. Predictably Mormeck was too small, slow, and not powerful enough to prevent the giant Klitschko wrecking him in 4 rounds. A brief comeback in 2014 ensued for Mormeck, but a home defeat to Mateusz Masternak ended any more championship ambitions for Mormeck.

Shannon Briggs – 51-5-1

Now more famous for his comical videos pestering Wladimir Klitschkoin restaurants and on a speed boat, it is easier to forget that Briggs was a credible champion in the 1990s. However, by the time he was challenging Vitali Klitschko in 2010, Briggs was old before his time. First round knockout victories over Rob Calloway, Dominique Alexander and Rafael Pedro had apparently ´earned´ ´The Cannon´ Briggs his title shot in Hamburg, Germany. This was also after a positive drugs test in 2009. While Briggs is certainly one of the more undeserving challengers in recent times, he is also certainly, one of, if not the bravest challenger. Vitali, destructively beat Briggs for a 12 round decision, and an extended stay in hospital was required. His injuries included; a left orbital fracture, a broken nose, torn left biceps, a facial fracture and a burst ear-drum.

4 years after this beating, Briggs has made an ill-advised comeback in his pursuit of the heavyweight title, and if Wladimir Klitschko were to give the brash American a shot, simply because of the comical popularity of his Youtube video and press conference crashings, then Briggs would then certainly top the list of most undeserving heavyweight challengers in recent times, maybe even in history.


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