Who Should Wladimir Klitschko Fight Next?

corrie sanders(Corrie Sanders, on right, preparing to blast Wladimir Klitschko with a left hand in their bout on March 8, 2003) 11.07.07 - By Paul McCreath: Now just to set the record strait, this is not an article about who I would like to see Wladimir Klitschko (49-3, 44 KOs) fight next. We are talking here about the fights that are possible sometime in the fall, not the ones we would all like to see.

Anyone who has been paying attention lately will know that all three of the other belt holders are tied up just now. Ruslan Chagaev, the WBA champ, and Sultan Ibragimov, the WBO champ, are signed to meet on Oct.13 in a unification bout, while Oleg Maskaev will defend his WBC title on Sept.29 against Sam Peter.

Any of these four would make a good match with Wladimir, but none will be available until at least after the new year, and maybe longer. The Maskaev-Peter winner has to meet Vitali Klitschko next and, if you can believe Jose Sulaiman, that winner will meet Oliver McCall. That could put any unification bout with Wladimir back to sometime in the fall of 2009. Who knows what the other alphabet boys will dictate as to who gets the next mandatory against the Chagaev-Ibragimov winner and when?

As I see it, Wladimir has two choices right now if he wants to stay active while waiting for a unification fight: He could, of course, just sit it out and wait, but we hope he won't do that. If he wants to fight, he can either look for a soft touch or search out the best possible opponent he can find in the hope that he can gain greater recognition with the victory. Either way, is possible since no mandatory is due and Wladimir will be the betting favorite no matter who is in the other corner.

If he wants to go the easier route, he could meet almost anybody like Davarryl Williamson, Matt Skelton, Shannon Briggs, Hasim Rahman, or several others. However, to stand out as the best as far as the financial potential is concerned, Wladimir needs to take on a couple of name fighters, both of which are old former champions. I am referring to Evander Holyfield and Corrie Sanders. Neither one has earned a title shot, of course, but this is a voluntary, so that does not matter. Evander might be the best choice because he has been active and would sell the most tickets while providing only a minimal risk. Sanders, on the other hand, might be dangerous for a round or two before possibly taking a severe beating like Vitali gave him in 2004. He would also give Wlad a chance to gain revenge for that upset KO in 2003, something that may well be important to Wladimir. Negotiations have already begun with Sander's people. Oliver McCall could also be in the picture if he decides not to wait for the promised WBC title shot.

If Wladimir wants to take a more serious challenge and meet the best man available, then the choice is pretty narrow. Either Nicolay Valuev or Sergei Liakhovich, both former champions at or near their peaks are available and would draw huge crowds in either Germany or Russia. Valuev has a bout penciled in for August with no opponent named as yet but this could serve as a tune-up for an October fight against Wladimir. Nicolay is no longer tied to Don King, so this bout should be easy to arrange if the fighters both want it. Liakhovich was considered by many to be #2 in the world until he was upset by Shannon Briggs, a result that now looks more like a fluke.

Neither Valuev or Liakhovich would be expected to win, of course, but they appear to be the best of a bad lot at the moment. Let's hope that Klitschko and one of these two step up to the plate and make this fight happen. Perhaps by sometime in 2008 we might get lucky and see further unification, although I doubt it if the alphabet boys have any say in the matter.

A little further down the line, we could hope for a defense against Alex Povetkin or maybe Eddie Chambers, but neither one is ready yet or well enough known to attract a big crowd or TV audience.

Article posted on 12.07.2007

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