Wlad gets back up (pic Hogan Photos)
By Sean Waisglass
IS WLAD KLITSCHKO THE NEW LENNOX LEWIS?
Here's a little something for boxing prophets and stat-vultures to mull over...
The parallels between former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko are eerie. The two men, similar in size, style and stature, each won Super Heavyweight Gold medals as amateurs, and came up in the pro ranks as quietly confident multi-homed foreigners trying to make a name for themselves in a division that favours Americans.
Both lost to a journeyman in a mid-20's bout (Lewis to Oliver McCall in his 26th and Klitschko to Ross Purity in his 25th) and to a dangerous under-rated puncher in the beginning of their 40's (Lewis to Hasim Rahman in his 40th bout and Klitschko to Corrie Sanders in his 41st - opponents who notably fought each other in a brutal bout previous to their title shots that should have forewarned their title-holding future opponents.)
Both hooked up with future Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward after suffering a loss via crushing second round KO (Lewis to McCall, Klitschko to Sanders), and now it looks like both boxers may end up having Steward to thank for being able to live up to their pugilistic potential.
Steward, who seems to have a knack for convincing tall and seemingly soft-chinned and easily-winded heavyweights to neutralize their weaknesses and capitalize on their strengths, had the long-armed Wladimir smartly using his range and height last Saturday to evade the charging Samuel Peter en route to his HBO-broadcast decision win, and integrated a much-needed and much-used clinch into Klitschko's game plan, a tactic that most definitely helped win him the match.
Sticking to Steward's advice, Wlad was looking curiously familiar... It looks like Kronk King is finally on his way to making the younger Klitschko his new Lewis.
The downside to this development is that like Lewis, Klitschko's defensive-minded, 'just do enough to win' approach was reminiscent of Lewis' successful yet often boring chess-inspired style, which was only livened up by KO's.
It'll be interesting to see if Steward can rebuild and refine Wlad the same way he did Lennox. And keeping in mind that the in-demand trainer stuck with Klitschko even after his disastrous loss to Lamon Brewster last year, it seems Steward believes he can.
PETER'S NO IBEABUCHI
Starry-eyed pundits of one of the world's most nostalgia-prone and multi-cultural sports may have fallen victim to stereotyping and wistful thinking in comparing Sam Peter to fellow Nigerian heavyweight Ike "The President" Ibeabuchi.
Peter has been unfairly saddled with the burden of 'heavyweight hope' as a result of comparisons to his countryman, who's comet-like career started in late '94 and was cut short in early '99.
Ibeabuchi, who finished his career with a 20-0 (15 KO) record after very impressively stopping Chris Byrd inside five rounds, burst onto the scene in mid-1997 when he upset David Tua via a close twelve round decision in a Modern Classic slugfest that broke punchstat records.
Built like a comic book superhero and possessing well-rounded skills, the exciting Ibeabuchi resembled a full-sized Evander Holyfield, and looked like he had the stuff to succeed Tyson as our era's dominant heavyweight. But the mercurial and often volatile "President" was impeached when he was arrested after the Byrd win for assaulting a call girl in Vegas, diagnosed as mentally ill, and convicted in 2002. The result is a long-term prison stay that looks to have ended the career of one of history's most promising heavyweights.
When folks got word that another hard-hitting heavily-muscled 6'2 big man from Nigeria was on the scene, they perked up. When they heard about what a well-grounded and good-natured guy he was, they started drooling.
But in-ring reality seems to have KO'd that comparison. Although the Nigerian heavyweights have power and ferocity in common, Peter has never displayed the well-honed skills or physical gifts that Ibeabuchi had.
But that's not to say he doesn't have a bright future in the division.
Peter provided some genuinely thrilling knockouts on his way up, and admirably gave a good account of himself against the much more experienced and physically gifted Klitschko in his first big test. He wields eye-popping power in both gloves, has decent hand speed, showed he has a solid chin after withstanding a monster Klitschko hook in the twelfth round, and although only 6'2, wears his modern heavyweight 240-ish pounds well.
If his handlers can tighten up his punches, improve his conditioning to allow him to increase his punch output (it was only his third time in double digit rounds after all), and teach him to cut off the ring more effectively, the 25-year old's going to be able to make some serious noise in the heaviest division.