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22 JULY 2014

 

The State of the Heavyweights: Witnessing All-Time Greatness




By Mikko Salo: Watching Vitali Klitschko (43-2, 40KO) completely dismantle Tomasz Adamek (44-2, 28KO) in every phase of the noble art was another amazing display showcasing the greatness of The Undisputed Heavyweight Champion Brothers from Ukraine. The difference in size, power, skill and eventually even speed between The Ring Magazine #1 and #3 heavyweight contenders was staggering. The merciful end for the Polish folk hero could easily have come earlier than the 10th round.

In the absence of a serious American contender it is very fashionable to be of the opinion that the heavyweight division is very thin in talent and The Klitschko Brothers are good but desperately boring champions. And Wladimir has a chin made of glass. And Vitali is too robotic.

Besides dishing out the extremely weak argument of the supposedly weak division or dwelling again and again on Wladimir`s KO losses 13, 8 and 7 years ago or whining about Vitali`s ”robotic” style of boxing, maybe we should just sit back and marvel at what we are witnessing: Pure All-Time Greatness. The 40-year-old big brother just gave us the latest piece of evidence delivering maybe his career-best performance looking faster, fitter and more invincible than ever in the process.

Just how dominating are The Undisputed Champions? Of the current Ring-rated heavyweight contenders, The Champs have disposed of #3 Adamek, #4 Haye, #5 Chambers, #9 Chagaev and #10 Arreola during the last two years with only Haye being able to go full 12 rounds.

Of the aforementioned contenders Chagaev and Arreola were undefeated coming into their Klitschko challenges and combined these five fighters walked into the fists of a Klitschko with an overall record of 156-3-1 and 14-1 in previous light heavyweight, cruiserweight and heavyweight title fights. All in all Adamek, Haye, Chambers, Chagaev and Arreola are perfectly capable heavyweights even though they might not have looked that way against the Klitschko Brothers. The difference is that they are not all-time greats and The Klitschkos are.

The rest of the year 2011 in the heavyweight division is shaping up. The Ring Magazine Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko (56-3, 49KO) has said that he wants to have his next fight in December and the bout should be announced fairly soon. There have been reports about Wlad possibly facing 39-year-old former two-time Ring Cruiserweight Champion Jean-Marc Mormeck (36-4, 22KO) of France, the bout being staged in Düsseldorf, Germany.

While not underestimating Mormeck`s remarkable achievements in the cruiserweight division, Wladimir Klitschko defending the brothers` Undisputed Heavyweight Championship against the undersized aging Frenchman is a ridiculous proposition, and the most ridiculous aspect of it is that it might actually happen. Maybe it would be possible to market the fight as a Germany vs France rivalry but seriously, this fight serves no other purpose to Wladimir than a tune-up for a 2012 megafight with undefeated #2 contender and fellow former Olympic champion Alexander Povetkin (22-0, 15KO). That is if the Russian former two-time Klitschko-Chicken is up for the challenge this time.
Klitschko vs Povetkin is the only credible true Championship match-up right now and would create huge interest especially in Russia and Ukraine but also in rest of Europe, which clearly is the main continent of quality heavyweight fights nowadays.


Povetkin on the other hand has reportedly entertained an appalling idea of his own, possibly facing the soon-to-be-49-year-old former Undisputed Heavyweight Champion (1990-92) and two-time Lineal Champion (1990-92, 1993-94) Evander Holyfield (44-10-2), who has a pathetic record of 8-7-2 for the last 12 years of his storied career. Povetkin vs Holyfield would fall into the category of Klitschko vs Mormeck, a totally unnecessary tune-up mismatch with no real fan interest.

The current bottom line for the Defense of The Undisputed Heavyweight Championship is simply this: Wladimir Klitschko vs Alexander Povetkin has to be made, the sooner the better.

Besides Povetkin, who are the other current Ring-rated heavyweight contenders The Klitschko Brothers have not faced? At #6 and #8 we have two interesting young prospects. The fast-rising Finn #6 Robert Helenius (16-0, 11KO) has the size and power to potentially trouble The Undisputed Champions in the future if he continues his development at the current dizzying pace. Having said that, the time for the 27-year-old Helenius to make his move is not this year and probably not next year either. He is still a work in progress and Ulli Wegner is not letting his protegé get in the ring to get manhandled by one of the Champs.

At #8 we have Denis Boytsov (28-0, 23KO). The 25-year-old Russian has been having severe injury problems with his hand and is stepping in the ring for the first time in 2011 on 24th September in Hamburg, Germany, fighting on the undercard of the European heavyweight title fight between the titlist, The Ring #7 Alexander Dimitrenko (31-1, 21KO) and Michael Sprott (36-16, 17KO). Boytsov`s opponent is journeyman Matthew Greer (14-6, 13KO). The young Russian`s future chances of rising up the heavyweight ranks seem to depend on how his hands hold up in the near future.

The European title could be the next logical target for the aforementioned Helenius. It is likely, though, that the Ukrainian-born titlist Dimitrenko probably has no interest in endangering his own chances at a big payday in a possible Championship Fight against one of The Klitschko Brothers. In line with this chain of thought, Dimitrenko stated before V. Klitschko vs Adamek that after his fight with Sprott, he would want to make a run at having a shot at the WBC titlist.

The problem for Dimitrenko is that Vitali made clear after the Adamek fight that before anything else he wants to finish the job his brother started on #4 David Haye (25-2, 23KO). Smelling the cash from another megafight possibly held in Britain Haye has begun to switch his retirement-talk back to trash-talk and we might just see him one more time in the ring, this time with the big brother.

V. Klitschko vs Haye would actually be a pretty interesting affair to watch, because Haye has now put himself into a position where in order to save face he is forced to show more aggression against Vitali than he did against Wladimir. Otherwise he will be remembered for nothing more than being the guy who first talked championship-level trash to the brothers, then ran from them in the ring and afterwards whined about pinky toes, referees and you-name-it.

For a fitting end to this State of the Heavyweights, let us go back one more time to what we witnessed on Saturday night in Wroclaw, Poland. For the first time since Holyfield vs Bowe I in November 1992, we have seen a defense of The Undisputed Heavyweight Championship, and Vitali Klitschko`s flawless display of power and skill was nothing short of legendary. Father Time seems to have no effect on him at all and one has to ask: at age 40 and over, has there ever in the history of the sport been a better heavyweight fighter than Vitali Klitschko was on Saturday? In my mind the answer is simple: No (and yes, I am counting George Foreman).

September 12, 2011


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