One man who will be hoping to add himself into the mix in the division is Russian Rakhim Chakhkiev (16-0, 12) a fighter who has long been tipped for major professional success.
Prior to turning professional in 2009 the Russian had recorded an excellent career in the amateur ranks. He had not only claimed a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics but also a silver medal in the 2007 World Amateur Champions and multiple medals in the Russian National championships. His trophy cabinet certainly had a nice collection of medals.
Standing in Chakhkiev's way this coming Friday is Poland's Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (47-2-1, 33), the current WBC Cruiserweight champion who will be looking to make his 5th defense of the belt.
On paper this is an excellent match up between two fighters who carry thunderous power though one of whom is far more experienced than the other. Sometimes however, as we all know, the professional records of the two men don't tell the whole story in terms of experience, especially not when a fighter has an amateur career like Chakhkiev.
The 31 year old champion maybe the more experienced professional with 50 bouts in the paid ranks but this will just be his 7th fight outside of his homeland. On the road Wlodarczyk is 4-1-1, a much less impressive record than his 43-1 record when fighting in his homeland.
Just a year younger than the champion Chakhkiev is oddly fighting in Russia for the first time having been based in Germany for much of his career. Despite this it's unlikely than he will be anything but the crowd favourite with the Moscow crowd likely to be well behind a man who represented them on the amateur stage.
The Polish fighter has had a genuine career of ups and downs. He's a 2-time world champion having claimed the IBF Cruiserweight title back in 2006 in controversial fashion over Steve Cunningham though lost it in his first defense (a rematch with Cunningham). In 2009 he was unfortunate to only draw with Giacobbe Fragomeni for the vacant WBC title (needing a rematch with Fragomeni in Poland to finally get the title) and was fortunate in his second defense to claim a victory over Francisco Palacios.
Following the victory over Palacios there was reports that Wlodarczyk had attempted to commit suicide and that he was having serious issues out of the ring which saw him fighting just once in the following year.
Going in to this bout Wlodarczyk has actually just fought once in a year and with ring rust as well as well as fighting away from home he may have a number of problems.
For Chakhkiev things haven't been as up and down, just more frustrating than anything else.
After turning professional in 2009 it was assume that he would be fasted tracked to a world title fight in just 2 or 3 years. Instead his career has been slowly bubbling rather than exploding and instead of being fast tracked he has been forced to slowly work his way up the rankings with promotional issues really slowing him down over the last year.
Going in to the fight it's easy to see that Wlodarczyk has fought better opponents. Fighters like Cunningham, Fragomeni, Palacios and even Danny Green are better than the likes of Alexander Kotlobay and Zack Page (arguably the second best result on Chakhkiev's record) however he's also struggled to impress.
In terms of the Pole's style he can be made to look like a lazy and disinterested fighter. He has genuinely hurtful power, a lovely jab when he chooses to use it and a toughness to him that will always make him difficult. He has plenty of experience of the 12 round distance and has what appears to be a solid gas tank (though there are questions regarding whether he can actually step it up when needed as he really can be lazy). Notably however Wlodarczyk is a slow starter having only stopped 4 opponents in the first 5 rounds since his first bout with Cunningham.
Chakhkiev, like Wlodarzyck, is heavy handed, every shot he lands hurts. Technically he's very solid and doesn't appear to really have any out and out weakness to him though he can occasionally take a shot that he should have avoided. So far in his career he has shown to be aggressively minded and his power carries through in any round. Although he is an offensive fighter he certainly has the boxing ability to fight on the back foot if necessary, though so far in his professional career we've never really seen too much of that.
In a number of interviews leading up to the fight Chakhkiev has said that he won't go out to stop Wlodarczyk early. Although he's said that, it's hard to imagine him not going for the kill early if he manages to hurt Wlodarczyk. If he can't hurt him then
The video below shows some of Chakhkiev's highlights and is thanks to Piotr Miazgowicz.