Will Wladimir Klitschko Reclaim Heavyweight Dominance?
By: Sean Crose
I remember talking to a co-worker of mine a long time ago about a dream heavyweight superfight between the current division powerhouse, Lennox Lewis, and a European up and comer named Wladimir Klitschko. The Ukrainian, was, like Lewis, a super-sized heavyweight. What’s more, Klitschko LOOKED like a super-sized heavyweight. It seemed as if the guy was chiseled from stone. What’s more, Klitschko could hit – as in down a wall hit. Needless to say, I was quite excited for the next big heavyweight superfight/extravanganza. Sadly, the bout never came to fruition. Lewis called it quits after a close call with Klitschko’s brother, Vitali.
Fair enough, but the future still looked bright for younger brother Wladimir, right? Well, no – at least not at first. For in the same year Lewis had his last fight, Klitschko lost to the rugged Corrie Saunders. To make matters worse, Klitschko lost again three fights later to Lamont Brewster in front a live HBO audience. It was quite the beating he took that night. It looked like he was finishing his man off, then – boom – Klitschko ended up getting dusted. It seemed like the “next big” thing had gone off the rails – and indeed, he had.
Yet it wasn’t the end of the story. Nope, Klitchko made it a point to play it safe from there on out. And play it safe, he did. Never in the history of the heavyweight division has a fighter had so much success by largely firing off one-twos and holding. Indeed, Klitschko became a world class holder. So much so that many fans, particularly American fans, found it supremely aggravating. Still, there was no denying that Klitschko had achieved a huge level of success as the years went by.
Indeed, the man went on to attain the WBO, IBF and WBA world heavyweight titles. To make matters even more notable, he went on a 22-fight winning streak. Klitschko may not have had a ton of success with American audiences, but he was huge in Europe – stadium audience huge. Plus, he made himself a fortune. On top of all that – and this was a major selling point on the guy’s resume – he sat supreme atop the heavyweight division for year after year after year.
And then came Fury.
To be sure, few felt bellicose Englishman Tyson Fury would stand much of a chance against the long established Klitschko. Yet Fury got in Klitchko’s head before the bout with bullying tactics, then confused the champion with a quirky yet effective style throughout. It was a less than thrilling performance, true, but it was enough to dominate and dethrone the longstanding multi-titlist. And now, over a year after his defeat at the hands/gloves of Fury, Klitschko is coming back. Only he won’t be rematching Fury.
No, Fury’s demons got the better of him after the Klitschko win, so he had to give up his titles. Yet a new Englishman has emerged, a truly impressive one. Make no mistake about it – Anthony Joshua has more than a few things in common with his next opponent, Klitschko. Giant fame? Check. Great physique? Check. A pleasant personality? Check. Thunderous knockout power? Check. Yet there are things both Klitschko and Joshua most distinctly do NOT have in common that are worth noting, as well.
For one thing, Klitschko is far older than Joshua. To be sure, the forty year old Klitschko has a – wait for it – thirteen year age (dis)advantage walking into the ring when he meets Joshua for heavyweight supremacy this spring in London. That means Klitschko will possibly be well past his prime. Things will be even worse for the man if the Fury loss had any long term effects. Yet Klitschko has an advantage over Joshua, as well. And that advantage is his vast experience.
As powerful and impressive he is, Joshua doesn’t have nearly the ring history Klitschko has. He’s never fought a Tyson Fury. Or a Chris Byrd. Or a Kubat Puvlev. Or a David Haye. Or any of the other types of menacing names Klitschko has. What’s more, Joshua now has to face a legitimate longtime legend. Few heavyweight titlists have entire eras named for them, yet Klitschko has. Getting one’s head around something like that can’t be easy. Still, it can be done. Will Joshua be the man to do it, however? Or will Klitschko reclaim dominance after close to a year and a half away from the top of Olympus?