By Johnny Walker
They are often referred to as just “the Klitschkos,” with the implication being that heavyweight champions Wladimir and Vitali are clones of each other, that they fight the same way and have the same attitude in the ring.
In actuality, nothing could be further from the truth. The Ring magazine recognized world champ Wladimir has become a disciplined technician, enjoying the process of breaking down a foe until he either slumps over from exhaustion or is otherwise unable to defend himself. WBC champ Vitali, on the other hand, has more of a gunslinger’s mentality, fighting with his hands held low, inviting his opponent to take his best shot.
Having been sent to the floor by the likes of Corrie Sanders, Wlad is always mindful of protecting his supposedly fragile chin, while Vitali couldn’t care less – hit him hard, and he’ll hit you back harder.
Just as the brothers are, beyond superficial characteristics like their size, very different fighters, so the stakes in their upcoming title defenses—Vitali against Dereck Chisora on February 18, Wlad versus Jean Marc Mormeck on March 3—are also very different.
In Vitali’s case, he has chosen to fight a man coming off of a loss (to Robert Helenius), a very questionable decision that most thought should have gone the Briton’s way. Unlike his last opponent, the brave Polish warrior Tomasz Adamek, “Del Boy” Chisora is a true heavyweight, and a fighter who combines both power and movement in a way that Adamek and other recent Vitali foes like Chris Arreola are either unwilling or unable to do. While it must be mentioned that Helenius was fighting with an injured right shoulder and hand (which likely blunted his normally devastating power), Chisora still proved against the giant Finn that he is capable of fearlessly taking the fight to a powerful 6’7” inch opponent.
Vitali recently admitted that he carried Adamek until the latter stages of their fight because it was being held in a brand new stadium in Poland (and likely also because he likes Adamek personally and didn’t wish to humiliate him in front of his adoring fans). While Adamek had a fine resume and pedigree, it didn’t matter when he got in the ring with Vitali Klitschko. Given his performance against Helenius, however, there is reason to believe that Chisora is going to provide Vitali Klitschko with at least a challenge this time out.
This is the point it has gotten to with both Klitschko brothers: they search for an opponent who can at least put up a competitive fight. In this fight, “Del Boy” Chisora will put to the test an oft-repeated theory of American fight analysts like Teddy Atlas, which says that the way for a smaller fighter to approach a Klitschko brother is to use movement, to move in and out of range and to work the body. If Chisora, who appears to be in magnificent condition this time, can’t make an impact using that blueprint, it is unlikely that anyone else can, either.
While many think Chisora at least has a shot at causing Vitali some trouble, almost everyone outside of his immediate family figures that Jean Marc Mormeck is totally overmatched against Wladimir Klitschko.
Former cruiserweight champion Mormeck entered the heavyweight division in 2007, and in his first fight knocked down David Haye in round four, pretty much the highlight of his heavyweight career to this point. Mormeck went on to be TKO’d by Haye in that fight, and has since struggled to beat names like Fres Oquendo, Vinny Maddalone and Timur Ibragimov. Mormeck struggled at times with the bigger Ibragimov, with many observers ( including this writer) feeling that the Frenchman was the recipient of a gift decision in his Parisian backyard.
For Wladimir Klitschko, there is one mission and one mission only here: to destroy Mormeck as quickly as possible, by a highlight reel knockout. A unanimous decision scorecard shutout is not enough, given the disparities between the two men. Unlike Dereck Chisora, who has youth and enthusiasm on his side, Mormeck is a grizzled veteran who at 39 years of age is four years older than Wladimir. Additionally, Mormeck is not quite 6’ tall, while Wlad is close to 6’6”. If you thought Vitali Klitschko dwarfed Tomasz Adamek in the ring, wait until you see Wladimir and Mormeck in there.
Sure, there is pressure on Vitali Klitschko every time he steps in the ring. His knockout percentage, his winning streak since he came back from injury—even the streak of arguably not losing a round since he defeated Sam Peter to take back his title—all are on the line. A loss to Chisora would be bad for Vitali, no doubt. But he is 40 years old, after all, and the entertaining, youthful Chisora is the kind of fighter who is very good for boxing, so it would be seen as the changing of the guard, the natural order of things taking place, should Vitali fall to the Brit. A new heavyweight star would be born, a new era possibly begun.
But for the younger brother Wladimir Klitschko, who seemed to choose the easy route with Mormeck, the pressure here is immense. Mormeck is not an up and comer, not a future heavyweight star by any means. Should the unthinkable happen and Wladimir lose to Mormeck, his career and reputation would once again be in tatters.
In the wake of their most recent performances, many people (including this writer) now rank Vitali over Wladimir as the world’s top heavyweight. This is the bout where Wladimir desperately needs to make a statement, to regain the upper hand in the continual familial battle for heavyweight supremacy.
And the way he does that is by utterly annihilating Jean Marc Mormeck.
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