Big Fight Preview : Eddie Chambers Challenges Wladimir Klitschko

Chambers vs KlitschkoBy Stuart Cornwell - Saturday night’s 12-round main event at the Esprit Arena in Dusseldorf, Germany pits Ukraine’s Wladimir Klitschko, the foremost claimant to the world heavyweight championship, against Eddie Chambers of the USA. With boxing enjoying great popularity in Germany reminiscent of the days of Max Schmeling, and with virtually everyone over there aware of the exploits of the Klitschko brothers, the fight by stark contrast is not even on the radar of sports fans in the United States, where it will apparently go untelevised. For an American heavyweight, who fights out of a city with as rich a boxing history as Philadelphia, to go abroad to attempt to reclaim what was once the most the prized possession of American sports, amid such an acute lack of coverage, indicates exactly how far the status of boxing in the USA has fallen. It is also an indication of how low a chance of success Eddie Chambers is given.

Wladimir Klitschko is sure to enter the ring an overwhelming favourite. Although 33, he is not considered to be far past his peak, if at all. Always in superb condition, and methodical and disciplined in his boxing to the point of monotony, he is soberly assessed as being just too much of an obstacle for Chambers. He also dwarfs Chambers, both in physical stature and in terms of top-flight experience. For a fighter whose career looked to have been spirally downwards into the abyss of unfulfilled potential six years ago (following knockout defeats to Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster, in 2003 and 2004 respectively), his current standing in the division represents a remarkable turnaround. There were many boxing scribes in those dark days who were hurriedly writing him off. I was one of them. It takes a certain type of courage to hastily downgrade a 28-year-old heavyweight to has-been status, or dismiss him as an overrated hype-job, while he staggers to his feet distressed and beaten. It takes a far greater courage for a boxer to rebuild his career and his confidence to the degree Wladimir Klitschko has done..

In truth, I never wrote off Wladimir’s chances of coming back to pick up one of the various ‘world’ titles that float around, but I certainly did not expect then that he would go on to have the run that he has. In the last 4 ½ years, since defeating Samuel Peter and Chris Byrd in back-to-back fights in 2005/‘06, he has carved himself out a little reign of superiority (I would hesitate in declaring it the “Wladimir Klitschko era”) over at least some of the best heavyweights around. And with his brother Vitali’s return to the ring in 2008 following a four-year absence due to injury, the two have performed consistently and dominantly enough to be accepted as the two-headed monster that sits on top of the division. As things stand at the moment anyone wishing to lay claim to being a true world champion will have to beat both of them. But in my estimation it is Wladimir who has the strongest claim of the two, as he was busy throughout Vitali’s leave and has racked up more wins against ranked fighters. This is offset somewhat by Vitali having been the busier of the two since his return, and despite him now being 38 (positively ancient in boxing terms, even for a heavyweight), there is still a strong perception of him as being almost invincible under normal circumstances.

In the years immediately following the retirement of Lennox Lewis, (the last man whose status as world heavyweight champion could not be doubted by any sane individual), it was easy to recognize the drawback of having the two brothers rise to a shared position of supremacy. Being civilized men (and there’s nothing wrong with that, even in boxing), brotherly love prevents them from settling the question in the ring and returning us with one reasonably undisputed champion of the world. But there are far worse alternatives to the current situation. In the absence of a world champion of the generally undisputed sort, it’s better to have two good, consistent, well-conditioned fighters like the Klitschkos at the top than a merry-go-round of flash-in-the-pan flops, three and four at a time. And such are their reputations and standing at the moment that if any one of the heavyweight contenders were to defeat a Klitschko he would likely want to try his luck against the other. Such a match between a Klitschko and a Klitschko-conqueror would qualify as for the undisputed world title in the minds of any reasonable follower of boxing. Or so one would hope.

Right now Eddie Chambers is the man with the opportunity to bring about a new order in the world’s heavyweight ranks. A professional for nine years, and with a record of 35-1, he has earned his shot at Wladimir with wins last year over Samuel Peter and Alexander Dimitrenko. The only loss on his record is a 10-round decision he conceded to Alexander Povetkin just over two years ago. Chambers is listed as 6’1 tall and weighs around 208 pounds in his best shape, so he will be burdened with substantial deficits in height and weight against Klitschko, who stands at least 6’6 and usually weighs 240 or more pounds. And while Klitschko’s 240 comes in the form of lean chiselled muscle devoid of excess fat, Chambers’ 208 appears to be inflated in comparison (although he came down to 208 to fight Dimitrenko from a horrendous 223 against Peter, where he looked just plain fat). He has made a point of admitting his error in getting overweight and has vowed to never go up above 215 again, even between fights, having noted improvements in his performances at the lighter weight. As his forte is his speed (he’s known as “Fast” Eddie), he would be foolish to allow himself to go back on such a promise. I expect him to weigh in at 210 or thereabouts for this fight.

At 27, Chambers will be the youngest man Wladimir has faced since September 2005 (when he out-pointed the then-25-year-old Samuel Peter over 12 rounds). And Chambers is no novice. He is a reasonably seasoned and experienced contender now, as his record shows. Not to the extent that Klitschko is seasoned and experienced, but certainly enough to represent himself as a worthy and confident challenger. In fact, I would say Chambers is the most live challenger Wladimir has faced in several fights. Ruslan Chagaev and Hasim Rahman (Klitschko’s last two opponents) were either coming in with no recent form against top-flight opposition (Chagaev) or were just plain washed-up and there to pick up a payday (Rahman). Klitschko’s opponent before that was Tony Thompson, a competent boxer but a late-comer to the professional game, and already 36 years old when he made his challenge. In many respects Chambers has better ingredients for a challenger than any of them, and perhaps a few more that came before them.

Yet in spite of all those things Chambers has going for him (and we could add to them : his fast hands, his crisp punching, his ability to pick his shots with variety, and his slickness in avoiding punches), it does not seem sensible to expect an upset. For him to produce a winning performance would seem to require him to surpass himself by such an immense degree that we would be witness to something truly special. Stylistically, he seems to have some of what it takes in certain areas but overall he falls short of the total package. He beat a big man last time out when he out-pointed the 6’7, 253 pound Dimitrenko (another German-based Ukrainian). And he beat him convincingly via a 12-round decision in Dimitrenko‘s adopted home of Hamburg. But Dimitrenko is not remotely in Klitschko’s class as a fighter, and Chambers got away with things against him that Wladimir would make him pay for. Samuel Peter and Calvin Brock are probably the best fighters Chambers has beat, but neither of them are similar in style to Klitschko in any way, and both made the mistake of coming to fight Chambers heavy and out-of-shape. That’s one thing we know Klitschko wont do.

Still, it is plausible that Eddie Chambers, improving with every fight, could do the remarkable and out-speed an aging Wladimir Klitschko to take a decision in a close fight (or even score a late stoppage over his exhausted rival). However, it is highly possible that Wladimir Klitschko will successfully defend his reputation by handing out another one of his trademark one-sided beatings in dull but methodical fashion, with Chambers unable to endure much beyond the 7th or 8th round. I am optimistically expecting a slightly more competitive and interesting fight, with Klitschko being inspired by Chambers’ tactics to use more variety in his work, and with Chambers fired up and maintaining a work-rate and a presence in the fight that he can be proud of. Chambers’ habit of leaning back from punches should even invite Wladimir to throw more left hooks and body shots than usual. But for the most part I think the fight will be won with the Klitschko left jab and the occasional right hand. When the dust settles, I expect “Fast” Eddie Chambers to be flying back to America with much the same fanfare as he flew out with, while millions of Germans will be discussing “the Klitschko fight” at work on Monday morning.

Article posted on 19.03.2010

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