Sharkie's Machine: Wladimir Klitschko KO's Ray Austin But So What?

wladimir klitschko10.03.07 - By Frank Gonzalez Jr. IBF Heavyweight Champion, Wladimir Klitschko (48-3, 43 KO’s) made easy work of IBF Contender Ray Austin (24-4-4 Draws, 16 KO’s) at the SAP Arena in Mannheim Germany Saturday night by scoring a second round knockout with a series of left hooks onto the face of Austin, who was leaning into the ropes before dropping to the canvas. By the time Austin got up, he was out.

Not too exciting. But this is what happens when “mandatories” take the place of legitimate match ups. It’s obvious by now that the Sanctioning bodies do NOT want to see a unified Champion. Not when there is more money to be made from multiple sanctioning fees from several champions. Again, business trumps competition. Welcome to the modern world.

It’s a shame that boxing Champions aren’t ‘mandated’ to face each other with the intent to establish one true Champion in each division. Think how important the ranking fights would be in the quest to become the top contender and EARN a chance to fight for the World Title. Boxing has reduced itself to a mere exhibition event rather than a sport with legitimate, thoughtful, merit based rankings and structure. It’s really just a series of exhibitions where certain players are positioned to be Champions in a sport flooded with so many Champions that it defies the definition of the word Champion.

The HW division is put together like patchwork. There aren’t enough big time fighters there to get a good checker game going. Ray Austin was ranked # 1 by the IBF, but that seems based on his fight with Sultan Ibragimov, which was scored a Draw, even though clips of the fight show a clean knockdown of Ibragimov, which was incorrectly ruled a slip. There is too much gray area in these decisions of rankings.

Ray Austin is a decent fighter but he is not a Champion. He’s fought a few good fighters lately but nobody of Championship caliber to justify such high standing. He did have a “punchers chance” against Wladimir Klitschko, but fell prey to the superior boxer-puncher, who wears the IBF World Title Belt. Hey, it’s not Klitschko’s fault that the HW division is so lacking in excitement.

As for Wladimir, he’s a very athletic and polished boxer with good power in both hands. He’s a tall order for any quality HW. To Austin’s credit, he boxed fairly well for two rounds before getting KO’d. Klitschko never even threw a right hand against Austin, yet was able to get a knockout early—like it was child’s play. Was it that easy? Is Austin that soft? Is Wladimir that
good? The answer depends on your point of view, of course.

Maybe Austin’s strategy was wrong, maybe he should’ve gone right after Klitschko, test that chin and see if fate was on his side. After all, he did have a punchers chance and nothing to lose. He may have been KO’d sooner, who knows? The problem with too many boxing matches is that we all know who’s going to win. The deck is that stacked. There’s not much drama outside the slim chance of an upset. But Wladimir has succumbed to defeat before at the hands of fighters very similar in stature to Ray Austin. So, there was a tiny bit of drama for the first four minutes of the fight.

Either way, Wladimir still has some unfinished business. I’m talking about redemption. I’m talking about how he never fought rematches against the three men that beat him in his pro career. (His brother Vitali consequently beating any of those guys notwithstanding.) As for Ross Puritty, it would be pointless at this time to even bother. Corey Sanders, well, he’s retired and that boat has been allowed to sail by without invitation for redemption. As for Lamon Brewster, I’m sure he’s still available for a rematch if Team Klitschko wanted to make it happen. I think Wladimir would beat any of them. But thinking so doesn’t make it so.

If Wladimir is going to take on mandatory opponents like Austin, why not make time to call out the man who most recently knocked him out; Lamon Brewster. I’m sure that would stir more interest and sell more tickets than the Austin fight. It would also give Wladimir the chance to redeem himself for a loss that left enough controversy in its wake to last the lifetime for any hardcore Klitschko fan.

A rematch with Brewster would demonstrate serious cojones and remove a major blemish from his long-term legacy. But only if he were to beat one of the men that beat him while it was still timely to do so. Brewster qualifies.

On another rematch front, there is Sam Peter, who lost a Unanimous Decision to Wladimir, but knocked Klitschko down twice in the fifth and again in the tenth round. Peter has worked his way back into contention but the sanctioning bodies have not treated him fairly. He actually deserves a rematch with Klitschko for the simple fact that Peter’s two victories over James Toney demonstrated that Peter’s boxing skills have evolved noticeably. With his newly refined skills, how would he fare against the Wladimir, who’s arguably the best HW in the division today?

All of that aside, Wladimir Klitschko looks like the man that can rule the division—if he were able to take on and beat the three other WH Title-holders. WK would be an easy favorite over WBA Champ, Nicolay Valuev, who’s way too slow and easy to hit. WBC Champ Oleg Maskaev is a good boxer but probably too slow to keep up with Wladimir and quick, powerful jab. WBO Champ Shannon Briggs deserves a shot solely because he owns a World Title after knocking out former WBO Titleist, Sergei Lyakhovich. I can’t believe I’m saying this but Briggs, for all his deficiencies and respiratory problems, probably has the best chance for making it an exciting fight than the others Title-holders. If Sam Peter manages to get a fight against any of those three, he probably wins a Title and then, we know a rematch with Wladimir would be off—since Champions don’t fight Champions in today’s version of boxing.

With the re-return of Vitali Klitschko, who’s sure to retake a major Title in his next fight, the division will remain fractured. We all know that the brothers will not fight each other and that, of course, is understandable. What would their mother say?

Interestingly, there is not a single “Unified Champion” in any division in boxing today. Boxing is the only “sport” that has no defined Champions. Lets hope that changes some day and soon.

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Article posted on 11.03.2007

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