Can Ray Austin beat Wladimir Klitschko?

06.03.07 - By Geoffrey Ciani: Most boxing observers agree that Wladimir Klitschko is probably the best of the reigning heavyweight boxing champions, and quite possibly, the best in the division. Klitschko has been blessed with tremendous size, incredible strength, and deceptively fast hands. Combined with an extensive amateur background and good ring fundamentals, these natural abilities have enabled him to become an elite force in the heavyweight division..

Under the boxing tutorship of Emanuel Steward, Wladimir has transformed his style into an awkward hybrid. It is somewhat like a cross between a typical stand-up European style and the grab-and-jab tactics embraced by John Ruiz, with a touch of American fluidity for good measure.

No doubt, the transition Klitschko has undergone since joining forces with Steward was designed to minimize his risk of getting caught with a monster shot. This is a good strategy for any boxer. After all, who wants to get clocked square in the mug? For Klitschko, it is an especially good strategy for numerous reasons.

For starters, Klitschkoís enormous size enables him to easily engage in such tactics. After throwing the jab, which is one of the best in the division, Klitschko has learned how to tie his opponents up should they decide to try and smother him on the inside. Using his long arms to bear hug his opponents, he then leans upon them, wearing them down with his massive frame. Once the fighters break, Klitschko can go back to the jab. Working off the jab is something Klitschko has always done very well. He can double it up, hook off it, or follow it up with sledgehammer rights like few in the sport today. Tying his opponents up is just the latest addition to his repertoire and one thatís very effective when matched against a good puncher.

Itís debatable whether Klitschkoís chin is made of glass, or whether it is merely below average. Strong arguments can be made either way. His chin seems to be one thatís both overrated and underrated by fans and critics alike. Regardless, this new jab-and-grab tactic heís employed has helped Klitschko minimize the risk of getting caught with a haymaker. It also helps him tire out his opponents whilst preventing him from becoming too winded by punching himself outósomething thatís happened to him twice in his professional career in bouts with Ross Purrity and Lamon Brewster.

Saturday night, Klitschko will defend his IBF championship against the unheralded Ray Austin. Common sense dictates that Klitschko should have little trouble disposing of Austin, who was inexplicably named the IBFís top available contender. Having won just two of his last four fights, itís a rather peculiar situation, especially when one considers Austin has three losses and four draws in thirty-one contests with none of his wins coming against anyone noteworthy.

Can Ray Austin beat Wladimir Klitschko? Well, he certainly has a chance. Thatís the beauty of boxing. Just ask Buster Douglas. It may be difficult for many to envision a scenario wherein Klitschko loses to Austin, but when one considers Klitschkoís entire career, one might better understand the reasons as to why Klitschko and Manny have embraced a hybrid style which took a page from the book of Johnny Ruiz.

On paper, Klitschko has just about every imaginable advantage: heís stronger, heís bigger, heís younger, heís more experienced, heís faster, and heís also smarter in the ring. Despite these advantages, Austin is a big guy with decent pop in his punches. He specializes in the art of unorthodox sloppiness and makes for an uncomfortable opponent. His scrappy style can be frustrating, as can his tendency towards roughness. Heís also a fairly good all-around athlete, despite his unusual style.

In the end, I still think Klitschko will most likely prevail. I suspect after an awkward beginning, Klitschko will eventually figure Austin out and find his groove, much like he did against Calvin Brock. That said, I think Austin might stand a better chance in this one than most allow. Iíve always thought that when Klitschko loses his title, it would ultimately be against an opponent most expected him to beat. Well, Ray Austin might well personify that exact type of opponent.

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Article posted on 07.03.2007

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