12-12-2008, 01:07 PM
Status: Can't rain all the time
Join Date: Jun 2006
| | Don’t blame Klitschko for heavyweight woes
Wladimir Klitschko packs 245 pounds on a 6-foot, 6-inch frame and is so powerfully built that a car might dent its fender if it runs into him. |
If you’re a heavyweight with ambitions of wearing a title belt, the image of Klitschko standing across the ring from you has to be the worst sight since Mama picked your date for the junior prom.
He’s become a knockout machine and his career KO percentage of 83.3 is roughly the same as George Foreman’s (83.95) and is better than Joe Louis’s (75.0) and Mike Tyson’s (75.86).
Yet, Klitschko (51-3, 35 KOs) commands so little respect that not a single American boxing writer will be ringside on Saturday in Mannheim, Germany, when he defends his IBF and WBO belts in an HBO-televised bout against Hasim Rahman.
Even accepting that a fight with Rahman (45-6-2, 36 KOs) is about as attractive as Bengals-Seahawks game, the lack of interest in Klitschko is beyond perplexing.
Fans, media, television executives and promoters – and not necessarily in that order – frequently rue the state of the heavyweight division and wish for the day that a star will emerge who will capture the public’s fancy.
Why that man isn’t Wladimir Klitschko, though, is beyond me.
His overly cautious approach in a title unification fight with Sultan Ibragimov in February certainly didn’t help boost his image, but the reason the fight was as bad as it was is largely because Ibragimov was fearful that Klitschko would hurt him and end the fight with a single punch.
Clearly, if Ibragimov felt he’d had a legitimate chance, he wouldn’t have spent most of the 12 rounds making like Forrest Gump.
And even if one chooses to blame Klitschko for that debacle, he deserves to be cut a break, given that he’s 12-2 with 10 knockouts in 14 world title fights. In the two world championship bouts he won by decision, he won 87.5 percent of the rounds scored.
He’ll likely add another knockout victory Saturday against the china-chinned Rahman, who took the somewhat unusual rout to a title bout by quitting his last time out against James Toney.
Rahman is a replacement for top-ranked and unbeaten Alexander Povetkin, who was forced to pull out of the fight when he twisted an ankle while running.
The one-time heavyweight champion lost his belt to Oleg Maskaev in 2006, which isn’t equivalent to Foreman surrendering the title to Muhammad Ali. Since then, he’s beaten a collection of tomato cans, beating Taurus Sykes, Cerrone Fox, Dicky Ryan and Zuri Lawrence.
He’s hardly an attractive opponent, but that’s not Klitschko’s fault. The division is bereft of worthy contenders, which is why Evander Holyfield is getting another crack at the WBA title next week.
Klitschko’s lack of acclaim is puzzling, because other than about an 18-month stretch in 2003 and 2004, he’s been nothing short of brilliant since he’s moved into the big time.
He fights frequently, he’s faced most of the world’s top-rated heavyweights and he’s consistently improved.
While he still has his flaws, there isn’t an honest man alive who wouldn’t concede that Klitschko is a better fighter at the end of 2008 than he was, say, at the end of 2005.
If he were from Brooklyn, he’d already have been on the front of a cereal box and he’d probably have his own video game. But he’s of Ukrainian descent and fights primarily in Germany, a country in which boxing remains a major sport, so he’s only an afterthought to most American fans.
But nationality aside, the major problem confronting Klitschko and his older brother, Vitali, the WBC champion, is there is no natural rival for them who stirs a passion in the fans.
Manny Pacquiao’s fans were desperate to see the Pacman face Oscar De La Hoya and are now equally as enthralled by the idea of matches against Ricky Hatton and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
There is no such opponent for Klitschko. Povetkin is probably the best of the lot, but Americans know more about quantum physics than they do about him.
One-time unified cruiserweight champion David Haye, who was impressive in dispatching Monte Barrett last month in his heavyweight coming-out party, has the personality to sell a big fight, but it’s unlikely his chin would hold up for 12 rounds against a powerful and athletically gifted man such as Klitschko.
There is no heavyweight fight the public is demanding to see, save perhaps a Klitschko vs. Klitschko affair. The brothers, though, will never fight each other, killing the only potential bout in the division that would command worldwide attention.
Wladimir Klitschko deserves far better than he’s getting, both from his sport and the public. He looked to be at the end of the line when he was knocked out by Corrie Sanders in 2003, was stopped by Lamon Brewster after nearly collapsing in 2004 and then he fought exceptionally tentatively in a comeback victory against an overmatched DaVarryl Williamson in 2004.
But Klitschko regrouped and is now the formidable champion that it once seemed inevitable that he would become.
He’s only 32 and in superb physical condition, but given the dearth of legitimate challengers, he may be content to ride out the remainder of his career fighting in Germany.
He’ll make a lot of money doing that and he’s a heroic figure in Germany, but it would be sad if he were to conclude his career without finally being embraced by the American public.
One final U.S. tour, in which he fights in, say, Las Vegas, New York and Los Angeles and tries to take on what exists of the heavyweight contenders, is the last best hope.
The heavyweight division isn’t very good, but it does have a champion to rally around.
The problem is that no one seems to notice.
There are 2 studs at HW right now an they are Brothers.
I feel Wlad will clean out at HW an really have nothing left, an the sad thing is he won't get much credit for how weak the HW division is
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