By: William Holmes
One of the most intriguing and overlooked divisions for the past ten years has been the heavyweight division, but the emergence of some American heavyweight contenders has brought a renewed interest in boxing’s glamour division amongst boxing fans in the United States that has been absent before.
The undisputed champion of the heavyweight division is Wladimir Klitschko and he has easily dispatched every opponent he has faced since October of 2004. He has had difficulty getting his fights broadcast on the major American boxing networks recently, but the rise in popularity of Bryant Jennings, Bermane Stiverne, Deontay Wilder, and Tyson Fury has led to HBO to make the last-minute decision to purchase the rights to Klitschko’s next fight in Hamburg, Germany and broadcast it on Saturday afternoon.
He faces a very tough and talented challenger in Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev on Saturday and the following is a preview of that bout.
Wladimir Klitschko (62-3) vs. Kubrat Pulev (20-0); IBF/WBO/WBA Heavyweight Titles
To say Wladimir Klitschko is under-appreciated amongst the boxing media would be an understatement. He has an 80% knockout ratio and has been the heavyweight champion for over a decade. He’s never been accused of ducking an opponent and he hasn’t been in a close fight since his bout with Samuel Peter in 2005, an opponent he thoroughly dominated in a rematch in 2010.
He achieved the highest level of success possible as an amateur by winning the Super-Heavyweight gold medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics. He has fifty two knockouts on his record and has stopped seven of his past ten opponents. He has an incredibly long eighty one inch reach and towers over most of his opponents at 6’6”.
However, his opponent Kubrat Pulev will be one of the toughest opponents Klitschko has faced in quite a while. Pulev will only be giving up an inch and half to Klitschko and is five years younger than the champion. He only has a fifty-five percent knockout percentage with eleven knockouts, but he has stopped four of his past five opponents.
Pulev did qualify for the 2008 Olympics but failed to medal. He did experience a great deal of success as an amateur, including a gold medal in the 2008 European Amateur Championships. He holds victories as an amateur over Odlanier Solis, Vyacheslav Glazkov, and Magomed Abdusalamov.
Klitschko clearly has faced the tougher competition as the reigning champion for the past ten years. His notable victories include Alexander Povetkin, Mariusz Wach, Tony Thompson, David Haye, Samuel Peter, Eddie Chambers, Hasim Rahman, Sultan Ibragimov, Lamon Brewster, Calvin Brock, and Chris Byrd.
However, Klitschko’s chin was the subject of concern early on in his career. All three of his losses were KO/TKO losses and they were to Ross Puritty, the late Corrie Sanders, and Lamon Brewster. However, he has been flawless for the past ten years.
Pulev however has been fighting as a professional for five years and has built up a worthy resume in that time. His first big victory was a fourth round knockout in his fifth professional fight against Matt Skelton. His other notable victories include Dominick Guinn, Derric Rossy, Travis Walker, Alexander Dimitrenko, Alexander Ustinov, and Tony Thompson.
This should be a tough test for Klitschko but it should be a test he passes. Fighting in front of his passionate German fans will help him but Klitschko probably has his eyes on an American challenger to open up the lucrative American market for himself: possibly with a fight against his current stalker, the excitable American heavyweight Shannon Briggs, who lost badly to the elder Klitschko brother, Vitali, in 2010, and was hospitalized for two weeks following the brutally one-sided fight.