FINALLY! KLITSCHKO IS MAD!
LEARN FROM LENNOX!
BY PHILIP H. ANSELMO
Wladimir Klitschko has always been a great ambassador for boxing. He (and big brother Vitali) have given healthy donations to the underprivileged. When he’s interviewed, Wlad comes across as confident but humble. He’s even quick to give a smile. There’s been no classless trash talk out of him before fights. His fighting style as of late has been one of cautious, effective dominance over today’s class of supposed “awful” contenders. His last batch of defenses; Lamon Brewster II; Sultan Ibragimov; Tony Thompson, and finally a shot, old Hasim Rahman don’t exactly help to argue the opinion. Wladimir seems to be in a tough situation. His “nice guy” image outside of the ring is real, and being a classy guy is an always-welcome thing for the sport, but inside of the ring, well, dammit, I’d like to see some passion for conclusive destruction! Even when he stops an opponent, he takes such a tactical approach to the game, it seems as if he’s content to joust his foes into submission with his telephone pole jab. The big right hand follows, but as of late, it takes forever to hit the sweet spot, if at all.
Has his jab replaced the rest of his arsenal?
For my buck, Wlad could learn a lot from former champ, Lennox Lewis. Lewis fought with a chip on his shoulder. He seemed genuinely outraged when an opponent pushed his buttons. Recalling some of Lewis’ most dominant performances, I realized that Lennox not only fought with great control, but there was an intimidating coldness about him. With his size and strength, an in-shape Lewis was frightening. Not only did he possess his own telephone poll jab and a right hand behind it, he threw a mean left hook, and a devastating uppercut. He understood the game of in-fighting extremely well. When an opponent was ready to go, Lennox would make sure they’d be gone. If he found himself in a toe-to-toe battle, Lewis would dig down and fight back twice as hard—just watch his battles vs. Frank Bruno, Ray Mercer, Shannon Briggs, or Vitali Klitschko.
The fight that stands out in my mind the most was the rematch vs. Hasim Rahman. After coming in overconfident, overweight, and under-prepared, Rahman not only KO’d Lewis brutally in five rounds to dethrone Lennox, Hasim goaded the former champ every chance he had leading up to the rematch. Hasim trash-talked Lennox to frustrating proportions, even provoking an on-television wrestling match; one in which Rahman looked to get the better of Lennox.
None of Hasim’s pre-fight mind-games, tasteless remarks, or previous victory over Lennox could help him once they met in the ring again. Lennox fought angry. He put complete focus behind that anger and never allowed Rahman into the fight. In round four, Lennox exacted his revenge with a lighting-fast combo consisting of a sweeping left hook that moved Rahman’s head directly into the path of a huge right hand that nearly decapitated Hasim, who could not beat the count.
Re-enter the present. The heavyweights have been ridiculed not only by the press, but especially by former undisputed cruiserweight king, and relative newcomer to the heavyweight sweepstakes, David Haye. Haye’s impressive record, ripped-build, and gift of gab have apparently propelled him into a fight with #1 rated Wladimir straight away, and on the Brit’s home turf. Haye’s antics early on seemed to amuse Klitschko, who stated that, “Haye’s hyperactive and crazy” and “he must get in line, and prove himself before fighting me.”
But when Haye did a photo shoot for a men’s fitness magazine; posing for camera clicks whilst tearing the head off a poster of Wlad in the process, I have it on good word that Wladimir’s reaction was anything but composed.
Apparently, after viewing Haye’s demonstration, Wladimir took in a deep breath, clenched both fists, and said aloud,
“I’m going to rip that mother fucker’s head off!” and walked out of the room. Not one person in “Camp Klitschko” had ever heard him speak in such a way about an opponent.
When asked about the incident, trainer Emanuel Steward couldn’t deny his fighters different approach to this fight in particular. “I’ve never seen Wladimir this angry before a fight. He wants this guy bad, and he wants him now.” “He has a different edge (while) training” Steward continued, “instead of sparring to keep sharp, he’s actually hurting guys bad. He’s angry, he’s super-fast, and he really wants to knock this guy Haye out for disrespecting him, as well as his brother.”
With the fight scheduled for June 20th, the build up, and trash talking will no doubt intensify. Apparently Haye has already gotten into the head of Wlad, but Steward sees this as a good thing. “I’m extremely glad Wladimir is so motivated. This is what he’s needed for a long time, someone to actually make him mad. It’s been very frustrating for him (lately). The (Sultan) Ibragimov fight was a tactical disaster. Wladimir couldn’t make the guy fight. And I know, that he knows, it’s hard to “get up” for the last few opponents he’s faced. In those cases he’s sort of fought to the level of his competition. But for the Haye fight, Wladimir wants a clear-cut, spectacular performance. He wants to knock this guy out cold, and shut his mouth.”
Perhaps the type of antagonism David Haye brings with him to press conference tours, and face-to-face stand-offs will ignite something in Wladimir Klitschko the public has yet to see.
If Wlad were to take a chapter or two from Lennox Lewis’ documented HOF (!) history of fighting with angry purpose, then his lofty spot as the #1 heavyweight in the world would be a more definitive reality. The next wave of young, up-and-coming challengers are here. For the sake of the heavyweight division, if Wlad plans to one day wear the single crown of heavyweight champ of the world, let’s hope he fights defiantly, with controlled anger, and goes for the kill in each outing.
Just like Lennox Lewis did when he was world champ, to anybody who dared to test him.
CONGRADULATIONS LENNOX! WELCOME TO THE BOXING HALL OF FAME. YOU DESERVE IT BIG BROTHER!
Thanks for the incredible memories—P. Anselmo
PS—Big Ups to The Kronk! (As always)