By: Jake Stein
This Saturday, May 4, the EPIX network will be televising a heavyweight fight card out of Mannhiem, Germany with epic proportions. Heavyweight sensation Wladimir Klitschko will go to work against undefeated prospect Francesco Pianeta. This fight is considered by many to be an interim solution paving the way for a big ticket matchup between Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin in September. Klitschko’s camp would argue otherwise. According to Klitschko’s manager Bernd Boente, “Wladimir has put in more work for his upcoming fight than he did for his 2011 bout with David Haye.” On the undercard, spectators will witness an intriguing matchup between up-and-coming Mike Perez and dangerous veteran Travis Walker. Get your popcorn ready!
Wladimir Klitschko (59-3) vs. Francesco Pianeta (28-0-1), 12 rounds, for Klitschko’s IBF/WBO/WBA heavyweight title
In this clash of the titans, 37 year old Wladimir “Dr. Steelhammer” Klitschko puts all three of his titles on the line versus former Italian sparring partner Francesco Pianeta. On paper this looks to be a serious mismatch. Klitschko has 307 rounds of boxing experience and sports a ridiculous KO percentage of 80.65%. He is an Olympic Boxing Gold Medalist (Atlanta ’96) and has faced some of the best competition in the heavyweight division such as Chris Byrd, Samuel Peter, Hasim Rahman, and David Haye. His last defeat came 9 years ago in April ’04 against Lamon Brewster. Since then, Klitschko has tallied 17 consecutive wins – one of which he avenged his previous loss against Brewster. Klitschko is a wise, talented fighter, with an excellent corner. He has held the IBF, WBO and IBO Heavyweight Championships longer than any other fighter in history, and he has defended those titles more than any other fighter. Overall, he is the fifth longest-reigning heavyweight champion of all-time, and with 13 consecutive title defenses, only Joe Louis and Larry Holmes have registered more.
It’s difficult to conjure up much hope for Pianeta. The 28 year old southpaw has 163 rounds of boxing experience and a KO percentage of 51.72%. Despite his undefeated record, he hasn’t professionally fought the very best in his division. He is the number 1 ranked heavyweight out of Italy and the number 15 ranked heavyweight in the world. Pianeta defeated former world champion 48-year-old Oliver McCall on points (May ’12) and then battled through another points victory over Francois Botha in his next outing (Sep ’12). The average age of his last three opponents is 42. One aspect in Pianeta’s favor is his firsthand sparring experience with Klitschko. Pianeta will attempt to utilize his insider’s edge to find a chink in Klistchko’s armor. Standing 6’5” and 240 lbs, Pianeta moves rather well around the ring but he seems to lacks the power to necessary to defeat Klistchko, who has never lost by decision.
Expect Klitschko to spend the first 1-2 rounds dissecting Pianeta’s southpaw style. After that he will use his ring generalship and superior conditioning to outfox and frustrate Pianeta. I anticipate a 14th consecutive title defense for Klitschko via stoppage in the mid to late rounds.
Mike Perez (18-0) vs. Travis Walker (39-9-1), 10 rounds, heavyweights
In this matchup, undefeated Cuban heavyweight Mike “The Rebel” Perez squares off against 58th ranked Travis “Freight Train” Walker in Mannheim, Germany.
The 27 year old southpaw Perez is a former Cuban amateur standout with a KO percentage of 67% in his 18 total fights. Standing 6’0” tall, he is an exciting, explosive puncher with decent hand speed and the ability to overwhelm opponents with his high-intensity attack. Although he sports a flawless record, Perez hasn’t fought in nearly 16 months. The effect this gap between fights will have remains to be seen.
At age 33, Travis Walker is an experienced, powerful fighter with a record of 39-9-1 (31 KO’s) and 179 rounds of boxing under his belt. Walker’s record has been under siege as of late; he’s lost 3 of his last 4 fights, and is 8-7 overall in his past 15 bouts. Nevertheless, he has stepped up and fought some of the best heavyweights available, including Jonathan Banks, Ruslan Chagaev, Kubret Pulev, and Tomasz Adamek. At 6’4”, Walker is a strong, 250-pounder with an 82” reach and solid skills, but he has been knocked out 6 times, and he has had some stamina issues.
Ultimately, this battle amounts to the speed, career momentum and heart of Perez versus the power, experience, and wits of Walker. This is an interesting matchup between two strong contenders. Look for Perez to calculate his timing and distance against the taller Walker and eventually settle into his own rhythm. If he plans to survive, Perez must circle away from Walker’s lethal overhand right. Walker’s game plan should be to cut the ring off against Perez and force him into exchanges. If Perez can lure Walker into the later rounds, fatigue will settle in and he can capitalize. I expect Perez to bob and weave his way to victory in this fight, provided he does not get careless.