by Johnny Walker
Perusing a number of boxing sites and their comment sections as a boxing freak like myself is known to do. I have noticed in the last couple of weeks an increasing number of boxing fans, and even some “experts,” willing to publicly back Cuban heavyweight challenger Odlanier Solis against one of the two most dominant heavyweights of the current era, WBC champion Vitali Klitschko, when they fight on March 19 in Germany.
Now, Bob Arum, the famed fight promoter, has become the latest boxing expert to give Solis the nod over Klitschko.
“I give him a real good chance,” Arum told Boxinginsider.com. “I like Solis in the fight. It’s going to be very tough to defeat Vitali. But if anybody can do it, it’s Solis.”
There is nothing wrong with this line of thinking, of course.
One of the things that makes a title fight so exciting is the anticipation that the challenger has some kind of chance to emerge victorious.
While Shannon Briggs, who Vitali pounded in his last fight until Briggs wound up in intensive care, had some pre-fight backers, not many gave Albert Sosnowski, in the fight previous, much of a chance (although ironically, Sosnowski probably fared better than any of Vitali’s opponents since his comeback began, because I had him winning at least one round in the fight before he was knocked out).
Probably not since Vitali fought another Cuban, Juan Carlos Gomez, who trash-talked the elder Klitschko mercilessly in the lead-up to their 2009 bout, only to get brutally pummelled into submission, has a Vitali opponent had as much backing as Solis does currently.
But aside from wondering if the backers of Solis actually saw the Cuban’s last outing against a seemingly shot Ray Austin (Solis gassed after an early flurry and staggered around the ring with the American in a mutual punchy daze), I also wonder if, when the inevitable happens, Klitschko will get credit from the same people who now rate Solis so highly.
If history is anything to go by, the answer there will be a resounding “no.”
Many of the same “experts” who rate fighters like Gomez and Solis (and Calvin Brock, and Sam Peter …) so highly before they are destroyed by a Klitschko brother, too often seem to be the same people who later call these fighters “tomato cans” and who claim the Klitschkos “haven’t fought anybody.”
Talk about having it both ways.
It’s intellectually dishonest to say that a fighter like Solis is going to defeat Vitali, and then to turn around and call him a fat bum after he loses, while giving Klitschko no credit for beating him.
Yet this happens to both Vitali and his brother, The Ring magazine-recognized heavyweight champion Wladimir, all the time.
You might even call it their “curse.”
Many of the fighters who the Klitschkos have beaten have come into the fights highly rated and undefeated (Brock, Peter, Ruslan Chagaev, Sultan Ibragimov, Cris Arreola, etc.).
These are names who, in the absence of the Ukrainian champs, would be trading belts back and forth and vying for control of the heavyweight division, with the “experts” being none the wiser.
Yet the minute they lose to a Klitschko, they are dimissed forever by many as “bums.”
And the fact that, after taking a beating from a Klitschko, many of these fighters have never been the same again, often vanishing entirely from the scene, hasn’t helped the brothers’ cause either.
I fully expect Vitali to deliver a brutal beating to Odlanier Solis on March 19. Not every fighter is as brave as was Shannon Briggs, and whether Solis will be able to withstand the pounding that is coming his way for more than a few rounds is the only real question I have about the fight.
And I just as fully expect many of the people who are touting Solis to beat the near 40-year-old champ (who is in better shape than many 20-year-olds) to turn around and dismiss him in the aftermath, and then to trumpet that old refrain, “the Klitschkos haven’t fought anybody.”
The “Klitschko Curse” sadly, will likely continue.