Can Williams Derail the Klitschko Express?

10.12.04 - By Paul Ruby - -Although I do not agree with The Ring Magazine’s decision to anoint Vitali Klitschko as Heavyweight Champion of the World, I must admit I believe he is superior to every other heavyweight on the planet. Klitschko’s dream of earning millions to fight Mike Tyson was shattered by Danny Williams when the latter shockingly stopped an injured Tyson in Round Four their July 30th clash. So, in place of Tyson, Klitschko is forced to fight Williams. A lesser man might lose focus or show up out of shape and thereby add intrigue to a seemingly pedestrian fight, but I cannot see Vitali Klitschko doing such a thing. On the other hand, I can see Danny Williams taking a defeatist attitude and getting blown out in a few rounds this Saturday night. The bottom line is that I believe Vitali Klitschko is the top heavyweight in the world today, and Danny Williams does not know how lucky he is to be getting a title shot.

It was quite an odyssey that led Danny Williams to this Saturday’s showdown. Shortly before Tyson was set to face unheralded Kevin McBride, the fight fell through due to allegedly excessive demands by the McBride camp. Danny Williams was entered as a late replacement because of his modest financial requirements. Williams stopped Tyson in the 4th round of their fight, and I credit him for seizing the opportunity. That said, we all know Tyson blew out his knee part way through the first round. We also knew that Tyson wobbled Williams in the first round and, I believe, a healthy Tyson would have stopped the overmatched Williams in the second or third even at this late stage in his career.

There are three noteworthy losses on Williams’ ledger. A decision loss to domestic British journeyman Julius Francis in 1999 (that he later avenged), a close decision loss to another British fighter who he’d already stopped twice in Michael Sprott, and most notably a devastating TKO 6 loss to Sinan Samil Sam in 2003. Sam is not the fighter most Americans believe he is; he’s much better than the tentative plodder we saw that could not quite figure out Juan Carlos Gomez. That said, Sam is nowhere near a championship-caliber fighter; I put him around the 25-28 range after his recent victory over Bakhtov and losses by Davarryl Williamson and Jeramy Williams. Anyway, let’s not forget that Danny Williams got beaten from pillar to post by Sam in a fight that saw Williams on the canvas three times.

Again, I credit Williams for beating an injured Tyson, but the guy simply does not deserve to be where he is today. I was also turned off by the fact that Williams showed up to the Tyson fight at the heaviest weight of career. Furthermore, I’m confused by the fact that Williams has openly contemplated retirement leading up to this fight because he feels it conflicts with his religious beliefs. I respect his faith, but I cannot fathom how he believes such an announcement would work to his favor leading up to this fight. Williams has had a tremendous amount of luck to get him from losses to Sprott and Sam in the last two years to a shot at a world title. I have to believe that luck is going to run out.

Many fans have noted that Manny Steward said he believes this will be a close fight. That does not surprise me because you’ve got to assume that, as Lennox Lewis’ trainer, Steward’s got some sort of agenda with any Klitschko fight. This is particularly true, I believe, when the fight was supposed to be against Tyson – the man on the losing end of Lewis’ signature fight. I do not know what Steward’s agenda is, but the cynic in me says there is one. I respect Steward tremendously as a trainer and a commentator, but I respectfully disagree with him on this one. I do not believe this will be a close fight because I have no idea how Williams is going to deal with Vitali Klitschko. I have seen half a dozen of Williams’ fights and, in going over them in my head, I haven’t seen him do one thing where I thought to myself “You know what? That could work against Klitschko.”

Vitali Klitschko, as many know, has never trailed on a scorecard or been put on the canvas on a punch. Just as impressive to me is his work ethic and discipline. Klitschko has shown up for his last 13 fights over 5 years between 244 and 250 pounds. The man knows his body and knows how to prepare himself to win. Contrast that to Williams who fought Keith Long at 234 two years ago, but showed up at 265 for the Tyson fight. Additionally, Klitschko is a master tactician in the ring. He game-plans around his opponent and uses this to his advantage. Against Lennox Lewis, he was aggressive because he wanted to show Lewis he was not intimidated and fought valiantly until the doctors (rightfully) stopped the fight. Against Kirk Johnson, he knew the Canadian could not hurt him and so he fought with a reckless abandon that we have never seen. Against Corrie Sanders, he knew the South African packed a punch, but also that he was not in great shape. He fought cautiously but aggressively and managed to stop his opponent in the later rounds after dropping just a single round en route to the stoppage. Personally, I believe the Williams fight will be most similar to the Johnson fight. Both Williams and Johnson are notably shorter than Vitali and this invites him to use his best punches - the overhand and counter right - over the top of their jabs and hooks.

I believe that Vitali’s skills are under-rated because he lacks fluidity or style; 'robotic' is the word used to describe him by many. Still, he’s got a solid jab and is a good combination puncher following his jab; his height affords him great position for throwing a right over a jab and he’s an under-rated ability to time his opponents’ jabs. He’s got a mediocre left hook, but throws a sneaky feint after which he comes over the top with a solid lead right. Watch round two of the Johnson fight when he uses this to set up the flurry that resulted in the first knockdown.

Now, I do not think Klitsckho is perfect. I believe his low left hand may eventually hurt him and that he occasionally gets overconfident. Watch round 3 of the Lewis fight if you’d like to see either of those. Klitschko has an abysmal body attack and may rely too heavily on natural strength. I know a jabber with size and power could beat Klitsckho by a decision. I also know that Lennox Lewis and Larry Holmes have retired. I wouldn’t be surprised if a slugger with a chin, bob-and-weave defense, and a relentless body attack could do a number on Vitali Klitschko. That said, I know Mike Tyson’s nearly a decade removed from a competitive fight and Joe Frazier’s long since retired. My point is that Vitali is a special fighter, but he’s not perfect. He can be beaten. I just do not feel there is anyone today capable of defeating him by points or stoppage and I am certain Danny Williams will not be the one to prove me wrong on Saturday evening.

Vitali Klitsckho TKO 3 Danny Williams

(P.S. - The Vegas Over/Under line of 7.5 Rounds looks more appetizing every time I see it)

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Article posted on 10.12.2004

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