By Ivan Goldman
The Klitschko brothers, now age 41 and 36, keep fighting and winning, but Americans pretty much stopped paying attention. It’s an odd situation. True, they’re not Americans, but neither is Manny Pacquiao, and for the most part Americans snap up his pay-per-view outings. In fact, the two best heavyweights in the world even have trouble getting on U.S. TV.
But the elder brother, Vitali, will land on HBO September 8 in a tape-delayed showing of his WBC title defense in Moscow against undefeated Manuel Charr. It will precede a live broadcast of the intriguing match between light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson and Andre Ward, who’s proved himself the best super middleweight in the world. Dawson-Ward will be fought at 168 pounds in Ward’s hometown of Oakland, Calif.
The Klitschkos’ style has been described as boring, but as their records show, it almost always leads to a knockout. The brothers use excellent footwork to keep their opponent at the end of a quick, heavy jab that’s followed by an occasional right hand. They rarely let the other guy get close enough to use whatever ammo he stores in his arsenal. Eventually after one right hand too many, the opponent hits the canvas and stays there.
The Klitschkos make it look easy, but what they do out there isn’t easy at all. They’re dominating and beating up big men with excellent records who always seem to hit a wall when they go up against one of these two Ukranian giants. It’s as though there are two heavyweight divisions — the Klitschkos and the division for everybody else.
Theirs is a fascinating story. When they finally retire they will certainly become legends. They’re like a tag team match. When one loses, he beats up the other guy in a rematch or his brother does it for him. Although they promised their mother they would never fight each other, earlier in their career they reportedly engaged in vicious sparring contests.
Their last loss was notched more than eight years ago when Lamon Brewster scored a startling fifth-round stoppage over Wladimir (Dr. Steelhammer). Wladimir wreaked his own vengeance when three years later he stopped Brewster in round six.
Vitali’s last loss was in June 2003, when the great Lennox Lewis’s sharp punches slashed open up the side of Dr. Ironfist’s face as though he’d slid open a zipper. The ring physician had to stop it against Vitali’s very real protests. He looked ready to take over were it not for his ripped-open face. Various fools called this a bad stoppage. It was an L.A. fight. I was there and saw Vitali’s face from a distance of a few feet, and I was looking at parts of an eyeball that weren’t supposed to be exposed to the elements. Later it was announced that the cut required 60 stitches. Apparently that was true, but because of other tears in his face, he required well over 100 stitches total.
Rather than face one of the Klitschkos again, Lewis chose to retire. He remains the only fighter who has managed to beat one of the brothers and not ended up the victim of their ring revenge.
Charr, a Lebanese who fights out of Germany, is 27 and owns a record of 21-0 (11). It would appear he doesn’t have much pop. He’s six foot thre and a half and weighed in at nearly 246 in his last outing, right around Vitali’s weight. Vitali is 44-2 (40), meaning he’s kayoed 13 more opponents than Charr has faced. Perhaps more important, the Klitschkos together own a record of 102-5 (91). They duck no one and when they run out of opponents they’ve already crushed they take on younger challengers such as Charr. Or they give their more formidable opponents a second shot, as Wladimir did when he stopped American Tony Thompson last month inside of six rounds. In their previous match, Thompson lasted into the eleventh. No set of brothers has owned any sport the way these storied fighters have dominated boxing’s heavyweight division.
Charr would appear to have almost no chance at all, but if they keep fighting, the Klitschkos will start to lose eventually, maybe even next month. In the meantime, we ought to start paying attention. We’re not likely to see another pair like them anytime soon.
Ivan G. Goldman’s latest novel Isaac: A Modern Fable came out in April 2012 from Permanent Press. Information HERE