by Ivan Goldman
Assume that if Wladimir Klitschko keeps fighting he will lose. He’s 38, shows no sign of quitting, and he definitely won’t be defeating top contenders at age 91. So if he doesn’t retire on his own, at some point between now and senior citizenship an opponent will beat him, ending his long run as world heavyweight champion (he owns three of the top four belts).
If you can guess which of his challengers walks away a winner, you can make yourself a lot of money. Stock market analysts use an analogy for a wager like that. They say it’s like trying to catch a falling knife, an aphorism usually applied to a bear market that won’t quit. Stocks can’t go to zero, so you know at some point the knife will stop plummeting and the market will reverse itself. But do you really want to bet against what seems like an unstoppable trend? Wlad, 63-3 (53 KOs), has won his last 21 fights and rarely loses a round.
His next opponent, Philadelphia’s Bryant Jennings, is +1075 on the board of the 5dimes offshore betting site. Klitschko is -1650. That means $100 on Jennings wins $1,075, and to win $100 on Klitschko you have to put up $1,650.
Jennings is 19-0 (10 KOs) against a largely undistinguished list of opponents. But these days, virtually all heavyweight resumes list an undistinguished roster of opponents because except for Klitschko, it’s tough to name distinguished heavyweights.
Wlad has already beaten Alexander Povetkin and Kubrat Pulev. They were both tough, but outclassed. That leaves Tyson Fury, 24-0 (18 KOs), Deontay Wilder, 33-0 (32 KOs), and arguably Jennings, who will try climbing the Klitschko mountain April 25 inside hallowed Madison Square Garden. HBO will cover the proceedings.
Other names will emerge. They always do, but Wlad hasn’t been in a close fight in ages. He was last defeated in 2004 by Lamon Brewster, who caught him and finished him in round five. Since then Klitschko appears to have perfected his technique, keeping opponents at the end of his long, punishing jab and setting them up for paralyzing power shots.
When he falls into a punch-and-grab mode he can make you wish you were seeing golf instead. But he’s quite watchable most of the time. Against his last opponent, Pulev, he showed a thundering hook in what was an all-action bout. Pulev was a strong puncher with no defense, and he couldn’t make it past five rounds.
Klitschko ducks nobody and has beaten some solid heavyweights in his time, but too many analysts fail to give him credit because he makes it look easy. For a while it reached the point where he couldn’t even get a U.S. network to carry his fights. That’s how far the heavyweight division has fallen.
The great American heavyweights, we’re told by some analysts, are all in the NFL or NBA. If that’s true, maybe some athletic big men will take more notice of the combined purse of welterweights Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao on May 2. It will easily top the NFL team payroll cap of approximately $150 million for 53 players.
Kobe Bryant, the top NBA earner, makes $23.5 million per season. Mayweather would consider a sum like that to be an insult.
It’s not easy, but when a fighter develops a real following, as both Klitschko brothers have in Europe (former WBC belt holder Vitali Klitschko is retired and now the mayor of Kiev, Ukraine), the sky’s the limit. And if the heavyweight division regains its place among fans, the same sky will still be there for a fighter from the USA.
Meanwhile, a bet against that falling knife and in favor of Jennings pays nearly 11-1.
New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman’s Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag was released in 2013 by Potomac Books. Watch for The Debtor Class: A Novel from Permanent Press in spring, 2015. More information here.