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Part III – Where Do The Brothers Stand in Heavyweight History?
By Mikko Salo: The Klitschko Brothers are now The Undisputed Heavyweight Champions with Wladimir holding the Ring Magazine Championship and the IBF, WBA and WBO titles, while Vitali is the WBC titlist. Where does their accomplishment rank in the recent history of the heavyweight division? Various topics of debate exist concerning why the brothers can or can`t be considered among the very best Heavyweight Champions in the historic context. I want to take a look at some of these topics and try to analyze them on as neutral terms as possible.
To me it is fair to compare The Klitschko Brothers to the Champions and titlists of approximately the last 30 years of heavyweight boxing. The reason for this is that The Disarray of 1980s (as described in Part I of this feature) started the era of different sanctioning bodies presenting the boxing public with a load of alphabet titlists with very unequal credentials for the various titles. The circumstances of achieving The Undisputed Championship are thus comparable with each other from The Disarray of 1980s onwards.
The Level of Competition – The Larry Holmes Syndrome
One of the topics surrounding the debate over The Klitschko Brothers` place among the greatest heavyweights of all time is the question about their opposition: are the brothers dominant simply because the level of competition has been so weak. Are they just good champions at a time when heavyweight boxing is experiencing maybe its lowest point ever when it comes to overall talent of the contenders?
One fairly neutral way to analyze this topic is to take a look at those Undisputed Champions from the last 30 years who had to unify several alphabet titles to achieve the Undisputed Championship and restore order in the heavyweight division. We will look at who they fought to win their Undisputed Championship and consider the level of competition.
The Undisputed Champions who fill this set of criteria are Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis and The Klitschko Brothers. I will now list
1)the opponent in every Championship/title fight, the opponent`s record, age and The Ring Magazine Rating for the year before and the year of facing Tyson, Lewis or one of the Klitschko Brothers,
2)The Championships, world titles or title challenges achieved by the opponent during his career,
3)who did the opponent beat to win the Championship/title that was at stake against Tyson, Lewis or one of The Klitschko Brothers and what was the amount of successful defenses before facing Tyson, Lewis or one of The Klitschko Brothers.
4)the opponent’s record after facing Tyson, Lewis or one of The Klitschko Brothers,
5)when was the opponent’s last fight.
Mike Tyson plowed through three different titlists and the Ring Magazine Lineal Champion in years 1986-88 to reach The Undisputed Championship. Here are the opponents in order of the fights:
November 1986, Mike Tyson won WBC title by TKO 2.
Opponent: Trevor Berbick, 31-4-1, 23 KO, 32yrs. #7 in 1985, #6 in 1986.
· WBC titlist 1986.
· Defeated titlist Pinklon Thomas for WBC title by UD 12, 1st defense against Tyson.
· Record after Tyson fight 18-6.
· Last fought in 2000.
March 1987, Mike Tyson won WBA title by UD 12.
Opponent: James Smith, 19-5, 14 KO, 33yrs. #2 in 1986, not rated in 1987.
· WBA titlist 1986-87.
· Defeated titlist Tim Witherspoon for WBA title by KO 1, 1st defense against Tyson.
· Record after Tyson fight 25-11-1.
· Last fought in 1999.
August 1987, Mike Tyson won IBF title by UD 12.
Opponent: Tony Tucker, 34-0, 29 KO, 28yrs. #8 in 1986, #3 in 1987.
· IBF titlist 1987, challenged for WBC title in 1993, fought for vacant WBA title in 1995, fought for vacant WBO title in 1997.
· Defeated James Douglas for vacant IBF title by TKO 10, 1st defense against Tyson.
· Record after Tyson fight 23-6.
· Last fought in 1998.
June 1988, Mike Tyson won The Ring Magazine Lineal Championship by KO 1, became The Undisputed Heavyweight Champion.
Opponent: Michael Spinks, 31-0, 21 KO, 31yrs. Champion in 1987, not rated in 1988.
· WBA light heavyweight titlist 1981-85, WBC light heavyweight titlist 1983-85, The Ring Magazine Light Heavyweight Lineal Champion 1983-85, IBF light heavyweight titlist 1984-85, The Undisputed Light Heavyweight Champion 1984-85, IBF heavyweight titlist 1985-87, The Ring Magazine Lineal Heavyweight Champion 1985-88.
· Defeated Champion Larry Holmes for The Ring Magazine Lineal Championship by UD 15, 4th defense against Tyson.
· Record after Tyson fight 0-0.
· Last fought in 1988.
Lennox Lewis needed three fights in years 1997-99 to capture the Undisputed Championship.
February 1997, Lennox Lewis won vacant WBC title by TKO 5.
Opponent: Oliver McCall, 28-6, 20 KO, 31yrs. Not rated in 1996, not rated in 1997.
· WBC titlist 1994-95, fought for vacant WBC title in 1997.
· Record after Lewis (II) fight 27-4.
· Last fought in 2011, next fight scheduled for 2011.
March 1998, Lennox Lewis won The Lineal Championship by TKO 5.
Opponent: Shannon Briggs, 30-1, 24 KO, 26yrs. #7 in 1997, #5 in 1998.
· The Lineal Champion 1997-98, challenged for WBC title in 1998, WBO titlist 2006-07, challenged for WBC title in 2010.
· Defeated Champion George Foreman for The Lineal Championship by MD 12, 1st defense against Lewis.
· Record after Lewis fight 21-4-1.
· Last fought in 2010.
November 1999, Lennox Lewis won IBF & WBA titles by UD 12, became The Undisputed Heavyweight Champion.
Opponent: Evander Holyfield, 36-3-1, 25 KO, 37yrs. #1 in 1998, #2 in 1999.
· WBA cruiserweight titlist 1986-88, IBF cruiserweight titlist 1987-88, WBC cruiserweight titlist 1988, The Undisputed Cruiserweight Champion 1988, The Undisputed Heavyweight Champion 1990-92, IBF & WBA heavyweight titlist 1993-94, The Lineal Heavyweight Champion 1993-94, WBA heavyweight titlist 1996-99, IBF heavyweight titlist 1997-99, WBA heavyweight titlist 2000-01, challenged for WBA heavyweight title in 2001, fought for vacant IBF heavyweight title in 2002, challenged for WBO heavyweight title in 2007, challenged for WBA heavyweight title in 2008.
· Defeated titlist Mike Tyson for WBA title by TKO 11, 5th defense against Lewis. Defeated titlist Michael Moorer for IBF title by RTD 8, 3rd defense against Lewis.
· Record after Lewis (II) fight 8-7-1 (1 NC).
· Last fought in 2011.
The Klitschko Brothers needed five years and five fights to rise to The Undisputed Heavyweight Championship during years 2006-11, beating four different alphabet titlists (if you count the WBO title) and winning the fight for The Ring Magazine Championship.
April 2006, Wladimir Klitschko won IBF title by TKO 7.
Opponent: Chris Byrd, 39-2-1, 19 KO, 35yrs. #1 in 2005, not rated in 2006.
· WBO titlist 2000, IBF titlist 2002-06.
· Defeated Evander Holyfield for vacant IBF title by UD 12, 5th defense against W. Klitschko.
· Record after W. Klitschko (II) fight 2-2.
· Last fought in 2009.
February 2008, Wladimir Klitschko won WBO title by UD 12.
Opponent: Sultan Ibragimov, 22-0-1, 17 KO, 32yrs. #6 in 2007, #6 in 2008.
· WBO titlist 2007-08.
· Defeated titlist Shannon Briggs for WBO title by UD 12, 2nd defense against W. Klitschko.
· Record after W. Klitschko fight 0-0.
· Last fought in 2008.
October 2008, Vitali Klitschko won WBC title by RTD 8.
Opponent: Samuel Peter, 30-1, 22 KO, 28yrs. #2 in 2007, #7 in 2008.
· WBC “interim” titlist 2007-08, WBC titlist 2008, challenged for IBF & WBO titles in 2010.
· Defeated titlist Oleg Maskaev for WBC title by TKO 6, 1st defense against V. Klitschko.
· Record after V. Klitschko fight 4-3.
· Last fought in 2011.
June 2009, Wladimir Klitschko won The Ring Magazine Championship by RTD 9.
Opponent: Ruslan Chagaev, 25-0-1, 17 KO, 30yrs. #3 in 2008, #4 in Dec 2009.
· WBA titlist/”champion in recess” 2007-09, scheduled to fight for vacant WBA “title” in 2011.
· Was the #3 rated heavyweight in The Ring Magazine Ratings at the time of the W. Klitschko fight.
· Record after W. Klitschko fight 2-0.
· Last fought in 2010, scheduled to fight in 2011.
July 2011, Wladimir Klitschko won WBA title by UD 12, The Klitschko Brothers became The Undisputed Heavyweight Champions.
Opponent: David Haye, 25-1, 23 KO, 30yrs. #2 in Dec 2010, #4 in Jul 2011.
· WBA & WBC cruiserweight titlist 2007-08, The Ring Magazine Cruiserweight Champion 2007-08, WBO cruiserweight titlist 2008, WBA heavyweight titlist 2009-11.
· Defeated titlist Nikolai Valuev for WBA title by MD 12, 3rd defense against W. Klitschko.
· Record after W. Klitschko fight 0-0.
· Last fought in 2011.
When comparing the opposition in the Championship/title fights, one can see that the opposition consists mostly of capable fighters who were not in the same class with Tyson, Lewis or The Klitschkos. Berbick and Smith never even fought for a title after holding theirs for a very brief period of time and Tucker never won a title again despite challenging three times. Oliver McCall or Shannon Briggs don`t strike much fear into anyone although at the time of the Lewis fight Briggs was a very promising young heavyweight who had happened to win The Lineal Championship from the 48-year-old George Foreman. While Byrd, Ibragimov, Peter, Chagaev or Haye can`t be considered anything extraordinary either, they certainly don`t pale in comparison to the aforementioned group of titlists Tyson and Lewis beat. I would even go so far as to say that The Klitschko Brothers overall had to beat slightly more accomplished fighters if you count out the decisive two, Spinks for Tyson and Holyfield for Lewis.
The fact that hurts The Klitschko Brothers most when it comes to the debate over the quality of their opposition is the absence of a definitive marquee fight and a marquee opponent. A fight where the soon-to-be Undisputed Champion achieved dominance in the ring against a foe who was generally thought of as a great champion and the one fighter the new champion had to conquer to gain the undisputed status.
Both Tyson and Lewis had these marquee opponents and on top of this the fights where they faced their marquee opponents were the actual bouts that made them Undisputed Champions. This despite the fact that Michael Spinks never fought again after Tyson and Holyfield has limped on with an 8-7-1 record in the last 12 years, the most notable victories coming over John Ruiz (2000) and Hasim Rahman (2002). Still, Mike Tyson had Michael Spinks, Lennox Lewis had Evander Holyfield. The Klitschko Brothers had…David Haye.
A bit ironic is the fact that the fight where Wladimir Klitschko won The Ring Magazine Championship with a spectacularly dominant showing against a very tough opponent in Ruslan Chagaev was one where the The Ring #3 rated Chagaev came in as a last-minute replacement for injured David Haye. There was no time to market the fight as the bout that determines the new Ring Magazine Champion. Wladimir`s great achievement kind of flew under the radar.
What ails The Klitschko Brothers in the opposition debate is not a new thing in heavyweight history. It has surfaced from time to time, the most recent concerning The Disarray of 1980s and the great champion of that era. That is why I call it here The Larry Holmes Syndrome.
Holmes won his alphabet title by defeating Ken Norton in a classic heavyweight war. Norton himself was a worthy opponent, but he had been awarded the WBC belt without a title fight and Muhammad Ali still held The Ring Magazine Championship and wasn`t retired at the time. Then, when Holmes pummeled comeback-making Ali for 10 one-sided rounds in October 1980 winning The Ring Magazine Championship, Ali was 38 years old and only a shadow of his former self. Holmes lacked a marquee fight and a marquee opponent.
The closest Holmes came to a marquee fight was against Gerry Cooney in 1982 and that was because Cooney was undefeated and white, not because of his true accomplishments in the ring up to that point. The absence of a marquee fight and marquee opponent lead to the unfair perception that Larry Holmes didn`t belong with the greatest of the heavyweight champions even though he reigned for over five years as The Ring Magazine Champion and defended The Championship successfully 12 times. Holmes has received recognition as a great champion only years after his retirement.
The Klitschko Brothers` overall level of opposition when it comes to title fights not having The Undisputed Championship at stake (Tyson: Berbick, Smith, Tucker – Lewis: McCall, Briggs – Klitschkos: Byrd, Ibragimov, Peter, Chagaev) was definitely not weaker than what Tyson and Lewis faced. What hurts The Klitschko Brothers is the absence of a marquee opponent and a marquee fight because they are so much better than their contemporary fighters. They have The Larry Holmes Syndrome and, like the great Holmes, probably will receive full recognition only years after they have retired.
The Klitschko Boxing Style
The last time an opponent gave any real trouble to either of the brothers was Samuel Peter in Klitschko vs Peter I in 2005, when he knocked Wladimir down three times before losing by a unanimous decision. It is worth remembering that coming into the fight Peter was a 25-year-old 243-pound KO machine with an unbeaten record (24-0, 21 KO) and 29-year-old Wladimir Klitschko (44-3, 40 KO) was deemed damaged goods having been knocked out by Lamon Brewster just 17 months earlier. The bout was a toss-up back then, which seems pretty long time ago now.
The first Peter fight was the career turning point for Wladimir and after the 10th round knockdown in that fight the Klitschko dominance has been thrilling or numbing depending on from what angle you look at it. Since Klitschko vs Peter I the brothers have fought only in title fights and have compiled a combined record of 18-0, 14 KO during the last five plus years. The four points victories in this span have all been unanimous and the closest scores by any judge in these bouts have been 117-111 (one judge in Wladimir vs Ibragimov) and 116-110 (one judge in Wladimir vs Haye). This gives me enough ground to call the period in heavyweight boxing starting from 2006 The Klitschko Era.
The Klitschko Era is not seen as a great triumph for heavyweight boxing by every one of us. During the brothers dominance, one of the debated topics has been their boxing style, which is not seen as very entertaining by some critics. It has even been deemed boring in some commentary.
The claim about the boring nature of The Klitschko Brothers` boxing style is interesting. Usually fighters who knock out a large portion of their opponents are not considered boring, on the contrary. If you look at the numbers, The Klitschko Brothers belong among the most prolific knockout artists in heavyweight history. Their combined record is 98-5, 88 KO, nothing short of spectacular in the KO department.
KOing almost every opponent doesn`t seem to be enough, though. For some critics, the manner in which The Klitschko Brothers KO their opponents is not satisfactory. The Klitschko strategy is to wear the other guy down with the dizzying left jab and put him out of his misery in the later rounds with a bunch of sickening left jab-right hand combinations. The brothers don`t throw punches in bunches but they use their energy and power very, very effectively. During The Klitschko Era the average KO victory for the brothers has come after 7,8 rounds. In four of the KOs (Wladimir vs Brewster II, Vitali vs Peter, Wladimir vs Chagaev, Vitali vs Arreola) the opponent has retired in his corner, unable or unwilling to continue as a Klitschko punching bag.
The debate about the brothers´ boxing style seems pretty comical when they knock out or wear out nearly every opponent they face. Their style is simple but extremely effective. The left jab is both their best offensive and defensive weapon. It starts and ends with the jab and every once in a while the right cross explodes in the face of the opponent with the jab continuing to thud mercilessly. Their punch selection is note the most diverse in the history of the heavyweight division, but they use it to amazing efficiency. The brothers, especially Wladimir, have been accused of being overly cautious and not being able to adapt to different styles of the opponents, but why should he adapt? It is the opponents who have had all the trouble with his style during the last seven years, not vice versa.
One amusing argument that is thrown out every once in a while is that The Klitschko Brothers are just unfairly big and there should be a super heavyweight division for fighters their size. Well, athletes in general have grown over the decades, when you look at any sport that combines explosive power and speed, we can just look at NFL linemen`s development during the last decades.
And it is not like we didn`t have large heavyweight fighters before. Remember Primo Carnera, who was Klitschko size in the 1930s when the average heavyweights were significantly smaller than today? And Riddick Bowe or Lennox Lewis weren`t exactly small guys either.
The significant factor that has made the brothers` success possible is that besides being 6`6 and 6`7, about 240-250 pounds each, they can box and use their size as an advantage arguably better than any fighter that ever lived. Their secret is that they box and move like they were 20 pounds lighter then they actually are. David Haye is the last one to find that out when Wladimir consistently cut off the ring and forced Haye into a hopelessly one-dimensional fight where the Briton reverted to defensive moves and lunging into an occasional desperate hayemaker.
The Klitschko Brothers and the USA
There is a genuine worry about the American public ignoring the heavyweight division these days. There is a perception that because the Americans don`t follow the division anymore, the Heavyweight Championship isn`t as valuable as it was back in the day when Tyson, Holyfield and others ruled the sport. The problem here is that in fact heavyweight boxing used to be a national sport for the Americans. The US fighters held The Lineal Heavyweight Championship for 38 consecutive years from 1960 to 1998 before Lennox Lewis conquered the division. Soon after that the East European invasion began for real and the Americans have been left to scrap leftovers from the alphabet garbage can. It all happened very fast for the American boxing public.
After Riddick Bowe in 1992 there hasn`t been an American Undisputed Heavyweight Champion and after Shannon Briggs in 1997-98 there hasn`t been a Lineal or a Ring Magazine Heavyweight Champion from the US. Little by little the American public has abandoned heavyweight boxing because of one reason only: they are tired of losing. It is the same phenomenon that takes place when for example an NFL or an NBA team has losing seasons over ten years in a row. The public abandons them. Nobody wants to watch perennial losers and that is what the American heavyweight fighters have become during The Klitschko Era.
The list of American Klitschko victims during The Klitschko Era is long: Byrd, Brock, Austin, Brewster, Thompson, Rahman, Chambers for Wladimir and Arreola, Johnson, Briggs for Vitali. Two of these fights were held in the US with Wladimir KOing Brock in Madison Square Garden and Vitali pummeling Chris Arreola in Staples Center, Los Angeles. The unification fight with Ibragimov also took place in MSG and it didn`t enhance Wladimir`s reputation in the American public`s eye, when he was satisfied with a comfortable points win against an overmatched opponent and didn`t go for the kill.
All in all, you have to look at it from the US public`s perspective. If your guys were 0-10 in title fights with 8 KO losses for the last five years against two brothers from the former Soviet Union, you would probably turn the channel, too. Why would Americans want to see another one of their fighters get manhandled by a big Ukrainian coming to town?
The American disinterest for the heavyweight division is unfortunate, but I still have one question about this topic: who cares? The brothers are filling 60 000 seat arenas in Europe where the real heavyweight action is nowadays. Of course The Klitschkos would probably want to have an entertaining fight in Madison Square Garden or Las Vegas, but with full stadiums in Europe that is not a necessity for them. Central Europe is now the capital of heavyweight boxing and everybody has to deal with it as long as The Klitschko Era continues.
The Klitschko Brothers` dominance has probably been one reason why the American public has lost interest in heavyweight boxing. Nobody wants to watch losing and that is what Americans have been witnessing from their heavyweights during the last several years. But the Klitschko Brothers don`t necessarily need the USA to embrace them. Europe is where the heavyweight buzz is these days.
The Stigma of Wladimir`s Losses
It is interesting how it won`t go away. You can`t watch a Wladimir Klitschko fight without hearing about his weak chin, stamina problems in the past and his KO losses. Maybe that is only fair. It is good for the suspense when we all know that Wladimir might just fall flat on his back the moment he gets hit cleanly. The funny thing is, almost every one of the Heavyweight Champions from the last thirty years were knocked out during their careers, the only exceptions from the last thirty years being Riddick Bowe and Vitali Klitschko, the two having never even been knocked down.
Despite KO losses usually happening to even the best fighters at some point, I don`t recall the stigma of the weak chin ever following such a dominant heavyweight champion quite the way it has followed Wladimir Klitschko. If Wladimir keeps on winning the way he has done for seven years now, we might never find out again if he can take a punch. David Haye was supposed to rough him up but was too scared of being crushed by one of Wladimir`s straight rights to really lay it on the line. Haye is known as a murderous puncher and he actually got a few good ones in but in 2011 they didn`t rattle the much-improved version of Wladimir Klitschko. Back in 2004 they might have put Wladimir down, who knows.
Vitali on the other hand is a fighter whose chin or toughness no one questions anymore. That wasn`t the case after his first loss against Chris Byrd when he was comfortably ahead but retired after nine rounds because of a torn rotator cuff. His desire and toughness were questioned and he was deemed soft. His tough-guy-reputation was made a couple of years later when he wanted to continue fighting against Undisputed Champion Lennox Lewis despite his face being a bloody mess, requiring some 60 stitches after the fight.
Every fighter has weaknesses and Wladimir`s chin and stamina have been under suspicion ever since the Sanders and Brewster losses. Vitali`s toughness was questioned earlier but the Lewis fight changed the perception on him. What Wladimir has done masterfully since the Brewster loss is protect his supposedly weak chin. He has honed his craft so that he very rarely gets hit cleanly, being arguably the best defensive fighter of all time in the heavyweight division. That is an attribute in itself and can`t be ignored when contemplating The Klitschko Brothers` place in heavyweight history.
The State of The Heavyweight Division
We are witnessing very interesting times in the heavyweight division. The brothers begin defending their Undisputed Championship on 10th September in Wroclaw, Poland when Vitali faces The Ring #2 rated Polish hopeful Tomasz Adamek who entered the heavyweight division in 2009 after winning titles at light heavyweight and cruiserweight.
After Wladimir took the WBA belt from David Haye and The Klitschko Brothers became Undisputed Heavyweight Champions, their every defense is full of intrigue. If Adamek is able to feed off the home crowd and pull off a huge upset against Vitali, both brothers will be standing in line wanting to avenge the loss and regain The Undisputed Championship. Adamek`s chances might just be stronger than normal, because politically active Vitali has had to move his training camp to Kiev due to the unrest in his homeland. This will potentially play into the hands of Adamek, who is a fearless slugger who is not expected to be afraid of laying it on the line in front of his countrymen and roughing it up against the 5,5 inches taller older Klitschko.
There are also other interesting possibilities. There have been talks about Wladimir facing #10 rated Chris Arreola in the USA. Undefeated former Olympic champion, #3 rated Alexander Povetkin will face former WBA titlist and Wladimir victim, #5 rated Ruslan Chagaev in a WBA “title” fight (WBA declared Wladimir “super champion” and now they are staging a WBA “title fight” between Povetkin and Chagaev. One of the more ridiculous moves in recent years by the money-hungry sanctioning body). The winner of this fight might be an interesting proposition for Wladimir later on. The Cuban former Olympic champion Odlanier Solis, who fought capably for almost a round against Vitali before tearing up his knee, will be starting his return campaign in the fall. Then there is the 23-year-old 6`9 Briton Tyson Fury who is waiting to develop into a force in the division or the fast-developing Finnish prospect Robert Helenius, who has already KOd two former titlists in Lamon Brewster and Samuel Peter. This is getting ever more interesting.
One question naturally is, how long will the brothers continue fighting? Vitali is 40 and Wladimir 35 years old. Even though they both are extremely well conditioned, they are not getting any younger. They are very intelligent men, who have managed their finances well and are in no need to fight for money. They both say that they are in no hurry to retire and who is to blame them. By perfecting their boxing style the brothers have been able to spare themselves from excessive punishment in the ring and prolong their fantastic careers. If this dominance continues for years to come, they will rewrite the heavyweight record books.
After The Klitschko Brothers became The Undisputed Heavyweight Champions, the complete unification has been achieved at least in one division, and that happens to be the premier one. This is a great thing for professional boxing. In a few years the division has risen from the bottom to the top of the weight classes in terms of intrigue with the brothers ruling and defending and the most capable challengers having chances of a lifetime to score one huge upset victory against the aging Champions. And if an upset should occur, we would be in for a treat with a certain rematch between the new Klitschko conqueror and either one of the brothers.
The Final Conclusion: Where Do the Brothers Stand?
If we compare the Undisputed Heavyweight Champions of the last 30 years we can see that their reigns as Champions haven`t lasted very long. After his fabulous unification campaign Mike Tyson reigned for two years before his chaotic personal life caught up with him in the form of a peaking James Douglas. Buster ate his way out of The Championship and got KOd in his first defense by Evander Holyfield. Holyfield held The Championship for a little over two years before losing it to Riddick Bowe, whose Undisputed Championship went to the trash can with the WBC belt shortly thereafter. Lennox Lewis`s reign as an Undisputed Champion was also lost in the alphabet politics, lasting only five months. Douglas, Holyfield and Bowe didn`t have to go through a unification process since Tyson had already taken care of that so one might argue that they got to the plateau a little easier than Tyson, Lewis or The Klitschko Brothers.
One has to remember that in today`s professional boxing, a process of unification is not an easy task. A fighter has to beat several different titlists and he has to beat the alphabet politics. He also has to achieve The Ring Magazine Championship to be considered Undisputed Champion. In good times gone by, you had to be able to secure a match with only one man and beat him for The Undisputed Heavyweight Championship.
Already a very strong case can be made for both brothers` hall of fame credentials. They have beaten all the opposition which, if one bothers to take a closer look as was done previously in this article, has not been as weak as has sometimes been perceived. If they can defend their Undisputed Championship for a few years, a substantial case can be made that they belong in the absolute elite of all time in the heavyweight division. We are talking about the company of Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali and other truly great champions.
If you look at the year 2011 in sports, the heavyweight unification is definitely one of the most monumental achievements considering all sports. If the brothers manage to defend their Championship successfully until year`s end, there should be some serious consideration for them for some prestigious prizes other than the belts and purses.
For example, Sports Illustrated`s Sportsman of the Year award is given every year to ”the athlete or team whose performance that year most embodies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement." There have been three fighters who have been named Sportsmen of the Year: Ingemar Johansson (1959), Muhammad Ali (1974) and Sugar Ray Leonard (1981). If they keep their dominance going, wouldn`t it be time to hand out this recognition to a team of brothers who dominate their magnificent sport with skill and style unifying the glorified heavyweight division, but also conduct themselves gracefully outside the ring taking initiatives in several humanitarian endeavors?
The Klitschko Brothers have traveled a long and rocky road to where they are today, and they have done it as a team in one of the most individual of all sports. Let`s give them some credit for that. They should be hailed as what they are, as The Undisputed Heavyweight Champions. And we should just sit back and enjoy watching them put their Championship on the line and defend it against the best in the heavyweight division. The Klitschko Brothers deserve our admiration and recognition as the true kings of the professional boxing world.
August 22, 2011
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