By Ivan G. Goldman
When Buster Douglas kayoed Mike Tyson in 1990, the odds were approximately 44 to 1 in Tyson’s favor, though it wasn’t particularly easy to find a sports book or a bookie willing to take the bet. In those days Tyson would have gone off as the favorite against Superman, and Douglas was considered just another tomato can for him to knock down. Very few people took either side of the wager.
On Saturday Vitali Klitschko goes up against Manuel Charr in Moscow, and the latest odds I found were -4,000 Klitschko, +2,000 Charr, which, as I read it, means a $40 wager on Vitali would win you $1 and a $1 bet on Charr would win $20. Another site, also updated, had it -5,000 Klitschko, +1,200 Charr.
Yes, these are tremendously steep odds against Charr, but those also have to be the widest spreads between two opposite wagers I’ve seen in a sporting event ever. When the spread looks like that, the bookmaker is telling you he’s really nervous about this one, and though he will take your action, he doesn’t really want either side of the bet. Why? Because anything can happen in boxing. Maybe a lighting fixture will fall on Vitali’s head or something. Neither does the bookie want to give away money to some Chinese industrialist who might be inclined to put a couple million on Vitali.
I’m not telling anyone what to do here, but I just want to point out that Vitali, 44-2 (40KOs), is 41 years old. So far his only two losses came against Chris Byrd and Lennox Lewis. Klitschko suffered a shoulder injury against feather-fisted but very game Byrd and was horribly cut by clean punching Lewis. Vitali stands somewhere around 6 foot 8, he hits hard, is always in phenomenal shape, and yes, he is also hard to hit. A very tough nut to crack.
Charr, a Lebanese, fights out of Germany, is 27 years old, and earned his shot by compiling a record of 21-0 (11KOs). This will be his second bout outside of Germany. The first was in Austria. He stands 6 foot 3 and a half and weighed in at slightly under 246 in his last outing.
You don’t see a lot of recognizable names on Charr’s list of former opponents, but he did stop Danny Williams. Only three fights ago he competed
In a six-rounder against a guy named Serdar Uysal. Uysal, 14-18-2 (7KOs), was disqualified in the first round. In his next four fights Uysal, a Turk who fights out of Germany, was stopped twice, decisioned once, and stopped one opponent.
Generally speaking, fighters who have been competing against guys like Uysal don’t get title shots, but Charr has somehow been moved to the head of the line by the WBC’s wily Jose Sulaiman, and will compete for Vitali’s WBC crown. Charr has expressed supreme confidence in himself. “I’m one thousand percent sure [my fight plan] will work on Saturday and I will become new WBC champion,” he told the BBC.
Klitschko may retire from the ring after this fight to focus on a political career in Ukraine, the BBC also reported.
Back in 1990 No one stopped to think that Douglas might notice that if he could win the biggest fight of his life it would set him up as a multi-millionaire, while Tyson, according to many accounts, was spending more time with Tokyo hookers than he was in the gym. He also believed press reports that he was invincible, and no one realized that his trainers would show up with no Enswell for the corner, which was like bringing a knife to a gunfight.
It turned out to be a great slugfest that could have gone either way. Douglas went down in round eight before scoring a clean kayo in round ten, shocking the world even more than Muhammad Ali did in his first fight against Sonny Liston.
I have never seen Charr fight. He would appear, from his record, to be a light hitter. And Vitali, unlike the Tyson of 1990, is a man who trains hard and shuns bad habits. Klitschko-Charr will be carried on HBO before the network shows two contests from Oakland — the much-anticipated Andre Ward against Chad Dawson for Ward’s super middleweight championship and lightweights Antonio DeMarco verus John Molina for DeMarco’s WBC title.
The fact that Vitali may hang up his gloves after this fight might signal he’s overlooking Charr, but it could also mean he’s even more focused so he can go out with a bang. You decide.
Ivan G. Goldman’s critically acclaimed novel The Barfighter is set in the world of boxing. Information HERE