Dear Corrie Sanders

14.07.08 - By Chris Acosta: I think I am going to write a letter to Corrie Sanders.

"Dear Corrie," I'll begin, "you don't know me but I know you. No, I am not a neighbor or old acquaintance but rather, a boxing fan that has a beef to pick with you. Let me first ask you a few questions though.. You love life down in South Africa don't you? I hear Pretoria is a fine place to live and maybe one day, I can visit. And I assume that you're still enjoying your golf game as much as you ever did right? That's great. I mean, I'm not a golfer myself but from what friends of mine tell me, it's a heck of a way to get out and enjoy the weather and get the boys together for a few hours. Oh, and I wanted to ask: how's the big game hunting? Man, that seems pretty risky in your neck of the woods. I haven't hunted since I was a kid and back then it was mostly for dove and pheasant which probably pales in comparable excitement to a rhino or Cape buffalo.

Now that we've caught up and gotten through the pleasantries; let me tell you why I'm writing you this letter.

Corrie, you seem like a good guy; good sportsmanship, your stance against Apartheid and your honest efforts you always gave in the ring. I have nothing against you as a human being but with all of your interests outside of boxing, why on earth did you have to come out of one of your many semi-retirements and knock out Wladimir Klitschko in 2003? You never really wanted to give boxing your absolute best anyway so why did you just decide out of the blue to get in your best shape and take advantage of a guy who couldn't handle your southpaw stance and might have been looking forward to bigger and better things? Why did you feel that you needed to ruin an heir apparent- a guy who could probably beat guys who'd beat you- just because you felt like it? If you can answer some of these questions, I might be able to forgive you because right now, you've left Mr. Klitschko with a permanent rash of side affects: Degenerative Chin Syndrome, Mano-nucleosis or repeated kissing of the canvas, Spontaneous Constitution Combustion and a bunch of other ones I can't pronounce.

Thanks to you, the guy we call the best heavyweight in the world is as shy as a four year-old in front of new company. If you had just stayed on your continent and enjoyed the wonderful life you have, young Wladimir would have gone into his proposed fight with then-champion Lennox Lewis feeling like he was an unstoppable machine. With all due respect, Lennox was a more accomplished and all-around better fighter than you Corrie, but without that backwards stance and hands that weren't quite as quick, he may not have posed anywhere near the problem you posed stylistically.

But what's done is done. You have to live with it and so do we. I wish you well…I think."

Sincerely, Chris Acosta, East Side Boxing.

I can't help but think what might have been had that fateful night not occurred five years ago in Germany. And it does no good to go into any detail about what might have been because we still haven't invented the time machine. All I know now is that after last night's heavyweight title fight between Wladimir Klitschko and challenger Tony Thompson, it is apparent that that night had a more profound affect on Klitschko than anyone could have imagined.

If you want to talk bottom lines, then fine: Wladimir did win and with a kayo that was undeniably conclusive. He overcame a difficult and awkward challenger and continued his claim as the best heavyweight right now. But doesn't it seem like Klitschko's post- Sanders victories contain more bore than gore? The Ukrainian has got to be the biggest enigma in the sport: how on earth does a guy with such a jittery psyche knock out 90% of his opponents?!! Well for one, because he punches with the force of a medieval mace, he moves unusually fast for such a big guy, he's a big guy, he's super-strong even among other big guys and Wlad knows how to box. But watching Wladimir is like imagining Cory Spinks with a punch. The mind is defensive but the body and mechanics scream for more offensive.

During his fight with Thompson, the real Klitschko was difficult to determine from the imposter. There were moments of grace and sharpness interspersed with awkward interruptions of outstretched arms and two left feet. That description sounds kind of like big brother Vitali Klitschko but Vitali's ungainliness is by design and effective. Wlad's clumsy moments are mental and deeply rooted in uncertainty and stress. As is his habit, Klitschko wore that same expression on his face that always seems to arrive after the third round; an expression that seems to say a few things: "Am I doing everything right? Should I pace myself more? Why didn't he fall down when I landed that right hand? What's going to happen if I get hit hard?"

Before all of you Klitschko fans start sending me hate responses, let me just say that I am also a fan of the man. I have always stood up for him when other shot him down. I respect the fact that he had the dangly things to get back up on the horse after surviving as rough a patch as any fighter could endure. He stays humble and often talks abut his desire to improve and unify the titles and judging by his actions, I have no choice but to believe him. However, I have this nagging feeling that we may already be seeing the very best of the champion that we're going to get. Klitschko may have improved in his knowledge of what he needs to do in the ring but his ability or maybe more pertinently, his desire to carry that knowledge proactively, has regressed.

Big Wlad is good enough to control a fight with his jab alone and when he follows up with that right hand, most heavyweights are going to go. His left hook is a gem of a punch as well; short, accurate and devastating but underused. But what's going to happen when his recently adopted, most basic of approaches, fails to do the job? It's not going to take a ring genius to figure out how to adapt to repeated one-two's.

For those of you who aren't worried about any of his potential challengers, this might be a good time to start. David Haye is still a ways out as he develops his body into a heavyweight frame but the Englishman is faster and hits notably harder than any opponent Klitschko has faced since- hey!- Corrie Sanders. Haye is not as strong physically but his right hand is straight and unlike the champ, he won't hesitate to let his hands go when he sees an opening. If anything, "The Hayemaker's" best asset in this potential contest may be his recklessness. Should Haye come out blazing he could rattle the champ's sense of pace and force him into clutching and leaving himself vulnerable to David's potent uppercut. If Californian Chris Arreola can take a punch (and for some reason, I suspect he can) Wladmir might be forced to box his favorite type of foe: one who keep coming and coming and coming. And yes, I meant that sarcastically. Arreola's pressure isn't the breakneck type but one of accumulation so if there's a stamina issue at hand, he seems like the kind of guy who will find out. Sam Peter is always one swing from creating a panic attack and if he can get through his bout with Vitali, he'll surely want to avenge his points loss to Wladimir in '05.

But both of those challenges are at least a year away and so for the time being, Wlad can decide whether he wants to explore that enormous potential of his or continue to win with a formula that he should have evolved from years ago. And while he may win he won't claim a place in a history he so desperately wants to be a part of. The greatest champions didn't just knock out their opponents; they either punished them on the way to the end or set up traps before springing them upon their hapless adversaries. And those who suddenly found lightning in a bottle did so while in the midst of crisis and not after floundering confusedly beforehand. I really wish Wladimir the best and hope that he can find whatever it is that was taken from him by Corrie Sanders. He would be a great representative for the sport. But for now, I must remain skeptical.

Thanks again Corrie.

Article posted on 14.07.2008

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