By Johnny Walker
It’s a phrase that has been repeated like a zen mantra by many boxing “experts” ever since WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko easily dominated top challenger Tomasz Adamek a few weeks back:
“The Klitschko brothers are just too big for the competition.”
Ideas repeated so often in the media tend to become truisms, but a closer look at this assumption tells a different, more complex story. As Adamek himself tells Fightnews.com in a recent interview, “This night in Wroclaw, Vitali could have been five inches shorter and he would still defeat me, his physical qualities were just part of the equation.
“Simply he was great that night and I was just average. The story ends there,” says Adamek.
And indeed, Adamek had defeated Michael Grant, at 6’7” and 260 pounds as large a man as Vitali Klitschko, on the way to his heavyweight world title bout, and had also triumphed over 6’6”, 285 pound Kevin McBride. If height were the only determining factor for being a successful heavyweight, you’d think that fighters like Grant and McBride, as well as Julius Long (7’1”), Ray Austin (6’6”), Tye Fields (6’8”), Lance Whitaker (6’8”), Jameel McCline (6’6”) and others would have done a lot better than they have to this point in time. So there must be another reason besides mere height for the success of Vitali and his shorter (6’6”) world heavyweight champion brother, Wladimir.
Likewise, for those who complain that the Klitschkos routinely outweigh their opponents and say that this is why, along with their height, they are able to dominate: again, the facts don’t necessarily bear this line of thinking out. George Foreman was outweighed by his opponents only 11% of the time, while Sonny Liston’s average was 18%. The Klitschkos stats are approximately 27% for Vitali, and 46% for Wladimir, meaning Wlad has been outweighed in almost half of his fights, while champions like Foreman and Liston more often had a so-called “weight advantage” in their fights than has either Klitschko brother.
So a mere change to a “super heavyweight division,” touted by some boxing types as necessary because of the Klitschkos’ continuing success (where were these people when 6’5”, 250 pound Lennox Lewis was dominating?), is not necessarily going to achieve the result these critics are looking for: the end of Klitschko supremacy. The brothers have beaten all comers, fighters both bigger, smaller, and the same approximate size as them, with stunning regularity for most of the last decade. And their size, while a factor, is not the only reason for this.
Great size, without the requisite fine skills to take advantage of that attribute, obviously just makes a heavyweight fighter the next Julius Long or Tye Fields, not the next Wlad or Vitali. Adamek sums it up when he admits that against the elder Klitschko brother, he was simply beaten by the far better man on the night.
“There’s no reason to panic because I’ve lost one fight against best heavyweight in the world, Vitali Klitschko,” Adamek says to Fightnews.
“To all who are saying that I should go back to the cruiserweight division, I have one message – it will not happen. I will end my career as a heavyweight. You’ll still see me fighting the best, no matter how tall and big they are.”
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