Wladimir Klitschko: If He Does It Right It's A Win-Win Scenario

04.10.04 - By Frank Lotierzo - - This past weekend the boxing world saw two high profile fighters return to the ring. The first one I reported exclusively on Eastsideboxing this past December 14th. It was first reported on Eastsideboxing that three time champ Felix Trinidad was returning to the ring before any other web-site or newspaper. It was at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City New Jersey where I was seated next to Tito for the Bernard Hopkins-William Joppy title triple header promoted by Don King. While watching the fights Tito and I discussed Boxing and how he wanted to fight again. During the conversation he told me that he was definitely going to fight again. Here it is the first weekend in October almost 10 months later, and Tito finally made his ring return at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

In his first fight back after thirty months of inactivity, Trinidad fought the crude and hard hitting Ricardo Mayorga. Trinidad showed just how serious he is about resuming his career by fighting one of the toughest guys in boxing weighing between 147-160. The last time Trinidad was in the ring at Madison Square Garden, he was stopped by undisputed Middleweight Champion Bernard Hopkins in the 12th round, his only career defeat. In just his second fight since Hopkins, Trinidad took Mayorga to school and gave him a one sided beating before stopping him in the eighth round. Look for the names De La Hoya and Hopkins to be mentioned often as future Trinidad opponents.

On the other side of the country in Las Vegas Nevada, former WBO heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko fought for the first time in six months. Remember him? He's the heavyweight who many thought just eighteen months ago would succeed Lennox Lewis as the world's top heavyweight fighter. The last time Wladimir was in the ring, he was giving Lamon Brewster a brutal beating, dropping him in the fourth round. In the fifth round, Wladimir was caught by a few of Brewster's desperate punches and never recovered, leading the referee to stop the fight after the fifth round. The stoppage by Brewster marked the second time Klitschko was stopped in his last four fights in a devastating fashion by an opponent he was heavily favored to beat.

At one time Wladimir Klitschko was mentioned with almost the same awe as a 20 year old Mike Tyson in the mid-eighties. In the eyes of many boxing observers, Wladimir had it all physically. At slightly over 6'5" and weighing in the 240-245 range, he was very imposing. To go along with his size he had the ability to put punches together in combination with fluidity and speed. Wladimir also had the one thing that makes a heavyweight contender a fan favorite. He could punch with either hand. The only question hovering over Wladimir Klitschko was the unanswered question about the sturdiness of his chin.

The first questions about his chin arose when he was stopped by journeyman Ross Puritty in 11 rounds in his second year as a pro. However, he kept winning and looking good. So the stoppage by Puritty eventually was dismissed as Klitschko not pacing himself and simply tiring in a the longest fight of his professional career to date. After losing to Puritty, Wladimir went on to beat the once beaten Chris Byrd, and stopping the never been stopped before Ray Mercer, and Jameel McCline.

On March 8th 2003, Wladimir was heavily favored to beat hard punching southpaw Corrie Sanders in defense of his WBO heavyweight title. In the first round Sanders dropped Klitschko with a straight left to the chin. Klitschko beat the count but was dropped again. Klitschko made it out of the first round, but the minute in between rounds wasn't enough time for him to recover. Sanders pounced on a hurt Klitschko and stopped him in the second round. The questions about Wladimir's chin started all over.

Thirteen months after being stopped by Sanders, Wladimir fought Lamon Brewster for the vacant WBO title. After dominating Brewster for the first four rounds and putting him down, Klitschko was hurt by a desperate Brewster in the fifth round and never recovered. By the end of the fifth round he was finished, leading the referee to stop the fight. Since being stopped by Brewster, Wladimir Klitschko has been written off as a serious contender for the heavyweight title. The main reason being he just doesn't take a good enough punch to survive against the world's upper tier heavyweight fighters.

In his first fight since Brewster, he fought fringe contender DaVarryl Williamson. The last time Williamson was seen by a National audience, he was stopped by Joe Mesi in the first round. In Klitschko-Williamson we had two fighters who were trying to overcome the worst thing that can happen to any fighter, getting knocked out in a brutal fashion in a big fight.

When the fight began, both fighters were tentative. Only Wladimir's size and presumed strength advantage helped him to hide it better. For three rounds Williamson was intent on surviving and trying to extend the fight. Forty seconds into the fourth round Williamson caught an off balance Klitschko with a right hand scoring a flash knockdown. Klitschko jumped up and took the fight to Williamson and only lost it 10-9 on two cards. In the fifth round, an unintentional head clash opened a gash on Klitschko leading the fight to be stopped after five rounds. Two of the three judges had Klitschko ahead. The bout would be recorded as a fifth round technical split decision in favor of Wladimir Klitschko.

The truth is Wladimir hasn't recovered from his two devastating knockout loses and isn't close to the fighter he once was. The pre-Sanders version of him would've jumped right on Williamson and probably stopped him. If Klitschko continues to fight not to lose or in a safety first mode, he my as well not fight. Because by him fighting tentative, he's negating his biggest weapons. Which are his ability to put punches together and hit hard at the same time.

The burden weighing on his mind is, he knows if he's stopped again, his dream of ever becoming heavyweight champion is over forever. Couple that with the belief that he knows inside he can be knocked out, he's in a bind. Fight to his ability and give himself the best chance to win, while being exposed to being caught again and being stopped. Or, fight at a measured pace hoping to do just enough to get by and win without getting caught. Which is exactly what he is doing now.

What Wladimir Klitschko needs is for Emanuel Steward or someone close to him to be honest with him. To let him know that as long as he is fighting other top heavyweight's, there are no guarantees. He could easily be knocked out fighting a safety first style. Someone has to try and open his eyes so he can see he's cheating himself. By continuing to be an active heavyweight, he can con himself that the dream still lives and one day maybe his chin won't be an issue. However, that's not living in the real world.

In the back of his mind, Wladimir questions his chin and fears what is thought and expressed by many astute fight observers, that it won't hold up in a big spot. But he's still putting himself out there in the hopes of one day realizing his dream. Since he's made the commitment to fight on, he has to commit to it totally. He needs someone strong to convince him that if he's stopped again, it's not the end of the world. Not every heavyweight fighter is destine to win the heavyweight title. However, if he doesn't take a chance he doesn't have a chance.

Sometime in the near future before his next fight, someone he trust and believes in has to sit him down and tell him that he either has to announce his retirement, or he must resort to his pre-Sanders/Brewster style of fighting and let chips fall where they may. The only shot he has to win the title is fighting to his strength, pushing the fight behind his versatile offensive weapons and skills. The worst thing that can happen is he'll either go all the way or he'll be stopped along the way. Think how rotten he would feel if he were to get stopped while fighting tentative and cautiously. That too me would be the worst ending imaginable.

If for some reason the worst happens and he is not able to achieve his goal, at least he'll be able to look himself in the mirror everyday knowing he gave it his best shot and it wasn't meant to be. The fact is he'll be able to live the rest of his life knowing there wasn't anything else he could do and he left no stones unturned. It was out of his hands. There is a sense of peace in knowing that nobody ever tried or put more effort into reaching their goal than you did.

Wladimir Klitschko only has two choices, fight to his ability and just maybe he'll accomplish the goal he's fighting for, or he'll be stopped again trying, at least then he'll know. Or announce his retirement. Either way he wins.

Article posted on 04.10.2004

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