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By Drew Markol, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
Nobody asked me, but...
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - If you can place the following folks, jump to the head of the class:

  • Tomasz Adamek
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
  • Kubrat Pulev
  • Janko Tipsarevic
  • Ruslan Chagaev
  • Juan Martin del Potro

    If you can't place them, welcome to the club.

    Well, starting from the top, Adamek is a heavyweight boxer Tsonga is a men's tennis player, Pulev is a heavyweight boxer, Tipsarevic plays tennis, Chagaev is a heavyweight boxer and del Potro plays tennis.

    And they're all ranked in the Top 10 in their respective sports.

    The problem, for us Americans at least, is that if any of these six knocked on our door, would 99 percent of us have any idea of who they were?

    My guess is no.

    The top-ranked American heavyweight boxer (of course all boxing ratings are subjective based on a lot of things, including politics) is Chris Arreola, who sits at No. 8.

    The top-ranked American men's tennis player is Mardy Fish at No. 10.

    Arreola is 31 years old.

    Fish is 30.

    Both young men in real life.

    Both not so young men in sporting terms.

    No. 2 in these groups: boxing - Tony "The Tiger" Thompson, age 40, and ranked No. 10 in the world; tennis - John Isner, 27, and ranked No. 11 in the world.

    These quick little stats beg the question: What will happen first, will there be an American heavyweight boxing champion or an American man who wins a Grand Slam event?

    Just think about it. Who was the last really good American heavyweight boxing champion?

    Riddick Bowe? He's overlooked, but belongs in the conversation.

    Evander Holyfield? Absolutely.
    Mike Tyson? Well, yeah, you have to go back that far to find quality.

    In fact, you have to go back over a decade to find the last time Holyfield held the belt. Jeesh.

    Men's tennis is almost as bad.

    The last three U.S. men to win a Grand Slam: Andy Roddick (2003, U.S. Open); Andre Agassi (2003, Australian Open); and Pete Sampras (2002, U.S. Open). Since then, 34 Grand Slam tournaments have been played and we're 0-for-34.

    Jeesh.

    Is there hope on the horizon? Well, not really.

    Seth Mitchell is a former Michigan State linebacker-turned-boxer (due to some knee injuries) with a 25-0-1 record.

    He's moving up the rankings and may crack the Top 10 soon, but he's 30. He didn't turn pro until 2008. If only he had started younger.

    That's what we need. Potential college and NFL linebackers who eschew football and instead take up boxing when they're 15. That's how you get a heavyweight champ.

    The answer for tennis? Unless Isner really gets hot (he's stuck in an era of great players), the next best young American is Donald Young, 22, who is currently hovering around No. 50 in the world rankings. That, needless to say, is a steep climb.

    So, what is the answer to the question?

    My best guess? You have to say a heavyweight boxing champion because all a boxer needs is one good punch and he could - stress the word "could" - win a title. Of course, getting that title shot isn't easy. And landing the big punch isn't, either. But slogging your way past Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, just to name four, looks harder at this time.

    "The Tiger" Thompson will get a chance to be the first when he faces heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko on July 7. The problem is, when they fought four years ago, Klitschko, a vastly under-appreciated fighter, won by TKO in the 11th round.

    Since then, Klitschko has gotten better and Thompson, well, has gotten four years older.

    After that, Arreola may get a shot at Klitschko in the fall. If Arreola goes down, he'll go down swinging, meaning he could land the biggie. Or not.

    Until then, and probably long after then, we'll wait.



    Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several newspapers in the Philadelphia area for more than 25 years.

    Copyright 2012