by Johnny Walker
Just in time for world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko’s title defense versus unbeaten Polish challenger Mariusz Wach this Saturday night in Hamburg, Germany, another hack American sportswriter has seen fit to pen a hit piece on the champ and his brother, WBC heavyweight king Vitali Klitschko.
In a lazy piece of journalism entitled “Klitschko and the Heavyweight Mess,” Associated Press scribe Tim Dahlberg, who admits he hasn’t paid much attention to heavyweight boxing lately, engages in more tiresome bashing of the heavyweight division, which in his view has lost all “meaning,” apparently because the fighters from the United States of America no longer have a stranglehold on it.
To this end, Dahlberg follows in the rhetorical footsteps of Klitschko haters from the late Bert Sugar onwards by invoking the names of past American heavyweight champions and suggesting that the Klitschkos are inferior by comparison.
“In a sad reminder of the days when heavyweight boxing used to mean something, Joe Frazier will be moved on Saturday to a new crypt in the Philadelphia cemetery where he was buried a year ago,” writes Dahlberg, setting up the hit job to come.
Sure enough, after musing on merits of Frazier for a couple of paragraphs, Dalhberg moves on to his actual subject:
“On Saturday, we’ll also get a sad reminder of what heavyweight boxing is today. Wladimir Klitschko will enter the ring to defend his world heavyweight titles once again, and once again most of the world will barely notice.”
Wow, very clever: two sad reminders! Apparently Tim Dahlberg knows what’s on the minds, as well as the TV sets and computer screens, of people across the globe. For a guy whose scope seems constrained by the borders of the United States, that is truly amazing.
Dahlberg then engages in the usual faint praise of the Klitschkos, always making sure to remind readers that while they are successful now, the brothers are nothing compared to his American boxing heroes. He even manages to dismiss the finer aspects of Wladimir’s and Vitali’s personalities with a yawn:
“The Klitschko brothers are fairly unusual for boxing,” Dahlberg haughtily writes, “though by now their novelty has long since worn off. They both hold advanced university degrees, speak four languages, and can discuss topics far removed from the violence of the ring.”
Yes Tim, what a bore these two Ukrainians are! Where are the rapists and ear-biters of the past days of American heavyweight glory? I guess “novelty” isn’t what it used to be in the heavyweight division. Maybe if the Klitschkos got busted for drug possession or shot up a nightclub, they’d be more interesting to Mr. Dahlberg.
While Muhammad Ali is always lionized in America for his political activism, apparently Vitali Klitschko’s brave effort to bring liberal democracy to Ukraine doesn’t impress Tim Dahlberg one bit.
Perhaps Dahlberg is really upset because the Klitschkos are smarter than he is.
The article really rankles when Dahlberg tries to denigrate the brothers by using the death of iconic trainer Emanuel Steward as a set-up for more Klitschko bashing:
“Steward liked heavyweights and he trained some of the best,” Dahlberg writes, “including Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield (note the absence of the name Wladimir Klitschko here–JW). History remembers them as exciting fighters who weren’t afraid of a big scrap.
“How history will treat the Klitschkos remains to be seen.
“They’ve promised their mother never to fight each other, so the one intriguing bout of their careers will never happen. There aren’t many good up-and-coming young heavyweights, either, meaning the Klitschko reign could go on for years.”
It should be noted here that when he was still fighting, British/Canadian Lennox Lewis was often derided by writers like Dahlberg for being a boring jab artist, inferior to Americans like Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. Apparently time has healed that particular wound.
Writing about the dearth of heavyweights in boxing and the Klitschkos. Trying to remember last heavyweight title fight I did. Still trying
— Tim Dahlberg (@timdahlberg) November 8, 2012
And to state that the Klitschkos have never had one intriguing bout between them is ludicrous. Apparently Dahlberg missed Vitali’s bruising battles with Lennox Lewis and the late Corrie Sanders, and Wladimir’s seesaw battle with Samuel Peter in their first fight, when Wlad was on the verge of quitting boxing.
Another point: there aren’t many good up-and-coming young heavyweights? Really? Apparently Dahlberg has never heard of David Price, Kubrat Pulev, Tyson Fury, Robert Helenius, Seth Mitchell, and Denis Boytsov, to name a few worthy contenders. Any of these fighters–including upcoming Wladimir opponent Mariusz Wach–could end up wearing a championship belt in the near future.
Dahlberg is also quick to offer his own notion of how history will view the Klitschkos.
“So while they won’t be remembered among the heavyweight greats, like Ali and Frazier, they may be recalled for sucking all the air out of a division that used to mean something.”
The obvious question here is, “mean something to whom?” Dahlberg, like many old-school American sportswriters, is so solipsistic that he imagines because the heavyweight division no longer holds any meaning for him, it doesn’t hold any meaning for anyone. And while the Klitschkos certainly do have a fan base in America, their real sin for people like Dahlberg is to remind American boxing fans that the world doesn’t end at the borders of the USA.
The Klitschkos can pack 50,000 seat arenas in Germany and other European countries. To state that they have no popularity and/or don’t mean anything to anyone is absurd. And while Dahlberg may feel nostalgic about the days of Ali and Frazier, who inspired many young Americans to take up boxing, what about the young men and women from Eastern Europe who at this very moment are filling boxing gyms, hoping to emulate the success of Wladimir and Vitali?
For Dahlberg, all of that is meaningless. If it ain’t happening in America, it doesn’t count. If America doesn’t think you’re great, you’re not. Sorry boys!
For lazy sportswriters like Dahlberg, the Klitschko brothers thus make an easy target. Just invoke the kind of anti-Russian propaganda seen in Rocky IV and blithely assume that your American audience will nod along in agreement. Dahlberg comes across as a fossil still stuck in a cold war mindset. Someone should tell him that the Soviet Union doesn’t exist anymore.
Yes, there are many problems with boxing today. But the Klitschko brothers are not one of them. Exposing the real problems with the sport, however, would involve real work.
It’s much easier to sit back and type up a snarky, cliché-ridden hit piece on the “foreign” heavyweight champions instead.