Klitschko place in history
After watching the Klitschko whitewash of Eddie Chambers, I am going to write what will be consider blasphemy, Wladimir Klitschko has be to consider a very good heavyweight, a possible one of the top tens over the past half century. In many ways, his career resembled Lennox Lewis, who in the early 90’s was viewed as an afterthought after Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe but when he retired, he proved to be the best heavyweight of his generation. He beat Holyfield once and was robbed of another victory when Holyfield was rewarded a draw in one of Boxing all time worst decisions. He pounded Mike Tyson when they finally met and Riddick Bowe never got into the ring with Lewis.
Lewis had two very bad losses that caused consternation among boxing pundits and I have to admit I was one of those. His lost to Oliver McCall in a second round TKO defined Lewis for nearly a decade and his victory over Mike Tyson and Vitali Klitschko at the tail end of his career finally forced boxing pundits to recognize Lewis own greatness.
When he lost to Hasim Rahman in 2001 by knockout, question that were appeared answered after his two fights with Holyfield started to be raised again. Just how good was Lewis and how could he lose to Rahman? Lewis answered those questions by knocking out Rahman and then his two victories over Tyson and Klitschko finally cemented his career among boxing writers.
At the beginning of the 90’s, many of Lewis critics had their point since Lewis was not the smooth fighter that Holyfield or Bowe was nor did he appeared to have Mike Tyson knockout punch but his union with Emmanuel Steward changed his career as Lewis became a complete fighting machine combining ring knowledge with his long reach and knock out punching power. He learned to fight tall by using his jab and then unleashing his formidable right hand that often ended fight.
Klitschko have many similar parallels as he suffered two severe losses that have stuck with Wladimir even today. His lost to Corrie Sanders followed by his loss to Lamon Brewster produced a reputation of glass jaw Klitschko. In his fight with Brewster, he was pounding Brewster, even knocked him down the previous round but a left hook with 30 seconds left in the fifth round sent Klitschko down. Brewster followed up with a series of punches and as Klitschko barely wobbled back to his corner, the referee stopped the fight.
After surviving three knock downs against Samuel Peter, then considered the next best thing in the heavyweight division, to win a unanimous decision gave Klitschko the boost he needed. In the twelfth round of his bout with Peter, Klitschko put it all together. He was ahead on all cards despite the three knockdowns and he came out with a sledgehammer jab followed by a right hand nearly ended the fight in that round and while Peter survived the round; Klitschko won the fight. From that point, Klitschko dominated the heavyweight and overshadowed his older brother Vitali, who suffered from series of injuries that forced him out of boxing for four years.
Klitschko problem stems from there areas. The first is the past and those awful losses that still haunt Klitschko among boxing pundits. Many great boxers suffer severe losses that leave one shaking their hands. Ali lost to Leon Spinks still have me scratching my head as subsequent Spinks career will attest. Ali showed how far he had declined when he lost his first fight to Spinks and then was forced to go 15 rounds to win their second bout. No one ever questioned Muhammad Ali greatness because of his lost to Spinks but Klitschko is still being questioned after losses that occurred years ago.
The second problem is that there is perception of the general weakness of the heavyweight division. This division does not compare to the Heavyweight division in the 1970’s or even the 1990’s but with the infusion of European heavyweights has produced a heavyweight division better than many of the critics presume. This brings us to problem area three, the reality that the best heavyweights reside in Europe and not in America. American heavyweights as a group do not compete with the best of Europe and there are no American heavyweights capable of beating either of the Klitschko brothers.
Klitschko has fought some of the best heavyweights and beaten them. Since his victory over Peter, he hasn’t even been challenged seriously in a fight. The only fighter in the world who could beat him is his brother but that is one fight that won’t happen. Wladimir Klitschko has fought most of his biggest fights in Europe and away from the prying eyes of the American media. The Klitschko’s sell out in Europe whether they fight in arenas or football stadium. They can attract 50,000 for a big event and there are not too many Americans who can do that. The closet is Floyd Mayweather and that will happen only if Manny Pacquaio is in the ring with him.
It is not Klitschko fault that he fought in a weaker era than Ali or Lewis fought but as a group, this heavyweight division could be comparable to other divisions in history. Joe Louis is recognized as one of the two heavyweights in boxing history but there was a reason that at his peak, he fought the “bum of the month” and Jack Johnson most recognized fighter he defeated was a out of shape Jim Jefferies who came out of a six year retirement. Jack Dempsey toughest opponent was Gene Tunney, who easily beat him twice. Dempsey spent as much of his time as Heavyweight champion not fighting as he did fighting. In his seven year reign, he did not even fight in three of those years!
Based on his career thus far, Wladimir have produced a Hall of Fame career and will get my vote when he comes up for a vote. As a fighter, Wladimir Klitschko have shown improvement and taken his fight game to the next level. When you contrast Klitschko to other heavyweights like Peter, who have taken steps backwards, you see a fighter who is superior from the fighter a decade ago. Great fighters find a way to beat the top fighters of their era and show the ability to adapt as their skills start to erode to stay on top. Ali used the rope a dope to adjust to the stronger fighters that appeared after he came back after his banishment from boxing was lifted.
Klitschko widen his arsenal of punches and his style smoother as he learned under the tutelage of Emmanuel Steward. Like Lewis before him, Klitschko learned to fight tall and used his sledgehammer jab to set up his right hand plus added a left hook that ended the fight against Chambers. Klitschko will go down or should go down as a very good heavyweight that deserves to mention at least in the second tier of the near great.