By Ivan G. Goldman
No, Wladimir Klitschko wasn’t overrated. This is a heavyweight who’d owned one or more major belts for more than 10 years, and he ducked no one. He just got old. It happens.
However, there was no excuse for his amazing lack of ability when it came to fighting on the inside. It hadn’t been terribly noticeable before last Saturday because he was so good at keeping opponents on the end of his jab.
But new champ Tyson Fury got close time after time and knew what to do in there – punish the body. It’s legal if you have one hand free. But all Wladimir wanted to do was hang on with both hands and wait for the referee to rescue him.
As for Fury, he didn’t register well on the excitement meter, but he showed remarkable footwork and head movement for a man his size. Plus, he’s got fast hands and excellent timing. Although at 6 foot 9 he’s supposedly three inches taller than Wladimir, he didn’t look it.
Klitschko, 39, will exercise the rematch clause and take on Fury again next year, the BBC reported. A mistake, I suspect. Fighting in his own back yard of Duesseldorf, Germany, Klitschko showed all the signs of a shot fighter. He watched and waited and when he saw openings they were gone before he could act on them. Meanwhile Fury, 12 years younger and lots fresher, pounded him just enough to win round after round, showing hand speed that had the champion flummoxed.
Fury, 25-0, 18 KOs, now holds Klitschko’s three major belts. Deontay Wilder of Alabama owns the fourth. A Wilder-Fury unification match looks more than interesting, the Klitschko-Fury rematch not so much. Klitschko, who dropped to 64-4, 53 KOs, won’t get any younger between now and next year. Besides, it wasn’t a good enough contest to bear repeating.
Sure, Wladimir is dejected, but he stayed too long at the fair. Most fighters lose their last bout. They need convincing. Wladimir’s brother Vitali was an exception. He had more left when he stepped away three years ago at age 41 after stopping horribly overmatched Manuel Charr in five.
The Ukrainian brothers, often fighting out of Germany, forged remarkable careers, sometimes avenging each other’s rare defeats. They’ve left a cumulative record of 109-6, 84 KOs. Although Wladimir was stopped three times, Vitali was never off his feet in 47 matches. It’s a brother act that’s not likely to be repeated in any weight division.
As for Fury, the Brit of Irish descent might just hang on to those titles awhile. Although he’s undefeated, he’s also been a hot and cold fighter, sometimes impressive, sometimes not. To his credit, he stepped up and did what he needed to do, winning by decision without controversy.
Wladimir didn’t catch on well with the American public and even as a heavyweight champion he had trouble getting his bouts on U.S. TV. Both he and Vitali are intelligent, well-educated, and genteel outside the ring.
Fury, named for Iron Mike Tyson, is boastful, but stops short of being obnoxious. He’s a fun-loving sort of guy who with a boisterous personality. He might just catch on in the States. He’s already a hero around the British Isles, whose pro fighters have achieved conspicuous success in the last several years.
Wladimir’s loyal big brother was quoted by the UK’s Sky Sports as saying “Let me just note that we are yet to see the huge potential of Wladimir.” You’d think Vitali never heard of the science of aging, except he holds a Ph.D. in physical science and sport.
Ivan G. Goldman’s 5th novel The Debtor Class is a ‘gripping …triumphant read,’ says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with ‘howlingly funny dialogue,’ says Booklist. Available now from Permanent Press wherever fine books are sold. Goldman is a New York Times best-selling author.