By Johnny Walker
The recent fight between The Ring recognized heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye no doubt left a bitter aftertaste in the mouths of many fans of heavyweight boxing. While Wladimir pitched a near-shutout against the loud-mouthed Brit, there was a feeling among many observers that the younger of the Klitschko brothers once again showed a lack of killer instinct, that he could have pressed harder to put Haye away before the end of round 12.
One of those who was left the most dissatisfied was Wlad’s older brother, WBC champion Vitali Klitschko.
Vitali (42-2-0), who fights Poland’s Tomasz Adamek in the latter’s back yard (Wroclaw, Poland) on Saturday, has stated many times since the Wlad vs Haye tilt that while he is proud of Wlad’s victory over Haye, he was troubled by the fact that Wlad failed to “put David Haye to the floor.” Vitali has also offered Haye a chance to redeem himself by fighting the elder Klitschko brother, only to have Haye state that he “has no beef with Vitali” (odd, as that’s not what he was saying before he lost to Wlad — I guess the fact that Vitali once choked Haye in a German restaurant doesn’t count as a “beef.”)
Photo Credits – Mike Gladysz
Vitali’s attitude is what makes him, to this writer, the most compelling heavyweight in the world today. While genial sportsman Wlad enters the ring to the upbeat strains of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Vitali, nice guy outside of the ring but terror in it, does his ring walk to the ominous strains of AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells.” There is a darkness about Vitali that makes him exciting, a feeling that he enjoys inflicting the maximum amount of pain on his opponents. You never have to worry about Vitali going for the knockout: he may not get it (though his KO ratio of 89% is the highest in the division’s history), but it won’t be from lack of trying.
As Wlad himself says, “Vitali was born a fighter, I had to become one.”
Tomasz “Goral” Adamek (44-1-0), a champion at light-heavyweight and cruiserweight, has earned this shot with some tough victories over much bigger men in the heavyweight division, names like Michael Grant and Cris Arreola. Klitschko knows the caliber of his opponent this time is high, even higher than what Wladimir faced against former cruiserweight champion Haye. At the final press conference for the fight, Vitali made this point clear, saying, “Tomasz is much better than David Haye. David Haye is greatest trash talker in the world, but I am more than sure, Tomasz Adamek is strongest fighter behind my brother and me.”
The buzz around Internet boxing forums for this fight so far is mostly about Vitali’s physical condition, which at age 40 appears to be awe-inspiring, an indication of how seriously he takes the challenge from the always tough Adamek. Vitali has no intention of surrendering his cherished WBC belt: “Tomasz, good luck to take this title away,” Vitali said. “But I am ready to show my skills. This title, is my title.”
As Vitali reminded the assembled media throng in Poland, he has never truly been beaten by any opponent, only by injuries against Chris Byrd and Lennox Lewis (the latter retired rather than rematch him). Klitschko has never trailed on the scorecards at the end of any of his fights, and has never been knocked down. And he doesn’t intend to let Adamek change any of these impressive facts.
“I never lose a fight, just injuries stop me,” Vitali said at the presser.
“This fight will be not easy for me. That’s why my preparation was special. Why special? Because I have special opponent. And I have special surprises.”
If Adamek is intimidated by fighting one of most feared heavyweights in history, he isn’t showing it. Stoic as always, the Pole has talked about his “destiny” of becoming a three-time champion in different weight divisions, and has emphasized a speed advantage he feels will help him overcome Klitschko.
“We worked on my speed, speed is power,” said Adamek about his 10-week training camp with trainer Roger Bloodworth, who has previously worked with heavyweight David Tua.
“I’m looking every place I can to hit (Klitschko). My heart is good, my spirit is good. Size is not so important in the ring. Heart is important.”
The 6’1″ Adamek also hopes that fighting at home will help him even out the size advantage that the 6’7″ Klitschko has over him.
“The whole country believes in me. It’s very important to me. I know they say I am not the favorite, but in Poland I will have millions cheering for me,” says the hopeful Adamek.
Vitali Klitschko, however, has fought in other’s back yards before, and had no trouble: he handled Cris Arreola so harshly in front of his home fans in Los Angeles that the American broke down in a torrent of tears after the match .
This fight has seen a refreshing lack of trash talk in the build-up, such a change from the last fight involving a Klitschko in which David Haye utterly failed to live up to any of his fierce predictions once he got in the ring. The feeling here is that this bout, with far less hype and nastiness outside the ring, will be a barn burner inside it, with two gallant warriors duking it out for the WBC title.
Adamek himself agrees. “I hope Vitali will keep his word to make September 10 a wide open affair,” he says, “because to have an entertaining fight you need two fighters. I will do everything I can, as always, to do so.”
Given his history and his fighter’s pride, there is little worry about this Klitschko brother living up to his end of the bargain.