Sharkie’s Machine: Wladimir Klitschko Shines in KO Win Over Tony Thompson

By Frank Gonzalez Jr. July 13th, 2008 - On Saturday at the Color Line Arena in Hamburg Germany, WBO #1 contender Tony Thompson (31-2, 19 KO’s) of the USA, fought IBF/IBO/WBO Heavyweight Champion, Wladimir Klitschko (51-3, 45 KO’s) for eleven tough rounds, scoring more punches against Klitschko than anyone I’ve seen and yet lost by knockout in the eleventh round, compliments of a Klitschko right hand that put him down, seeing him barely make it up at ten and waved out by the referee, Joe Cortez.

This was a good win for Klitschko, especially after his boring, no action, ugly win over Sultan Ibragimov last February. The Ibragimov fight left questions about Wladimir’s ability to make entertaining fights anymore. In that fight, Klitschko pawed his way through a lack luster, 12 round decision win that hurt his marketability. Wladimir redeemed himself a bit with the KO win over Thompson and reinforced the notion that he is the most effective boxer in his class. He has the tools, the size and the skills. He knows how to fight tall and wears his opponents down with the consistent nickel and dime attacks. It isn’t always pretty but it gets the job done.

This was less predictable fare than I expected, as Thompson came out strong early and out-punched Klitschko to win the first round. But from the second round on, Klitschko won almost every round. I gave Thompson the sixth and scored the fourth as a draw. The story of this fight was Klitschko’s use of his jab and big right hand that frequently found a home on Thompson’s face.

Thompson’s consistent attack to the body was his best weapon and Klitschko did well to counter those shots with some bodywork of his own and in time, was able to break Thompson down as evident in the tenth round, when after Wladimir stepped on Thompson’s foot, (as often happens when conventional fights southpaw) tackling him to the floor during a clinch, Thompson got up gingerly, looking like he hurt his leg or something but also looking ripe for a knockout, which Wladimir delivered early in the very next round.

Expectations were probably not too high for this fight but Thompson showed some quality and gave a respectable account of himself. At times, Thompson resembled a ‘good sparring partner’ more than a guy there to win the title, as he never really sat on his punches or went all out to try and hurt Klitschko.

Thompson vs. Klitschko turned out to be a pretty decent match up, even if it was a blowout on the score cards and resulted in a KO victory for Wladimir. This was the hardest I’ve seen Klitschko work since the Sam Peter fight in 2005, where Klitschko was downed three times but still won a Unanimous Decision. Against Thompson, Klitschko took a lot of shots to the body but never ran out of gas, showing good stamina and finishing power in the late rounds.

Thompson has the tools to come back from this loss and stay in the top ten if he can win his next fight or two against respectable opponents. Thompson did well attacking the body and had a lot of good moments during the fight but was ultimately overshadowed by the workmanlike approach of Klitschko, who landed at a lower percentage but landed the more telling shots throughout the fight. I had Klitschko winning nine of the eleven rounds. Though it was competitive, Klitschko’s offense was stronger and cleaner.

Klitschko won this fight with hard work but there’s something missing in his arsenal and that something is the killer instinct. Maybe he’s just too nice a guy? Wladimir is a technical fighter, a ‘boxer’ primarily, who avoids slugfests as much as possible. After his loss to southpaw Corey Sanders a few years ago, where Klitschko was battered for two rounds before being KO’d by the South African, Klitschko seems afraid of being hit by the big punch. Hey, who isn’t? But his cautious demeanor in the ring does not translate into very exciting fights. He is effective but I’m sure we’d all like to see him show some killer instinct and just go into his next fight with a more purposeful attitude. After fighting professionally for 12 years, Wladimir may be passing his peak as we speak.

The Heavyweight division sorely needs new talent. There are a handful of fighters at the upper echelon, but none that really stand out. There’s WBC champ Sam Peter (30-1, 23 KO’s), a brawling style fighter who is strong, wild and always exciting to watch since you know there’s a good chance he’s going to knock someone out. His boxing skills are often suspect but his heart is definitely in the right place.

There’s also IBF # 1 contender, Alexander Povetkin (15-0, 11 KO’s), a young fighter, really still a prospect but with the division in such a sorry state, he’s in a good position to become the next unbeaten champion, depending on how cautiously he is managed. I doubt he has enough to beat Wladimir Klitschko at this point in time but from what I understand, he is next in line for WK. All I know of Povetkin so far is that he looked real good beating “Fast” Eddie Chambers, who is a very skillful boxer.

There’s also WBA champ, Ruslan Chagaev (24-0, 17 KO’s) and Nicolay Valuev (48-1. 34 KO’s), the WBA’s top contender. Sultan Ibragimov (22-1, 17 KO’s) is still a viable top contender. Alexander Dimetrenko is 28-0, with 18 KO’s but is still something of a mystery on this side of the globe. Luckily for us Americans, we have a potential new star on the rise in Chris Arreola (24-0, 21 KO’s) who’s record is slightly more impressive than Chagaev’s.

The HW division is, as usual, one of the dullest divisions in the sport. I don’t know why the powers that be can’t come to the realization that what fans want to see is a Unified Champion. Why Thompson instead of Chagaev, who’s last fight was in January and hasn’t even been scheduled to fight anyone since? Peter is slated to fight the returning Vitali Klitschko, who’s been out of the ring for two years, go figure? If Wladimir were to fight Peter and Chagaev and win both those fights, he’d be the true Undisputed Champion of the World. I don’t understand why these fights were not scheduled after the Ibragimov fight unless ‘the powers that be’ have an interest in NOT allowing a unified Champion to emerge.

Wladimir’s next opponent is likely to be Alexander Povetkin, who is not a champion. Povetkin is a good fighter but I’m sure we’d rather see WK consolidate the titles with his career clock ticking, than fight another non title holder. How can you be the best when you don’t fight the best? When you have more than one champion, you have no champions, just top contenders.

Since the HW division is the most celebrated division in a world that values size over quality, it should at least have a single, undisputed champion instead of the ridiculous system in place today that rewards the Sanctioning bodies with more “champions” paying sanctioning fees instead of ONE Champion paying one sanctioning fee.

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Article posted on 13.07.2008

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