Williams-Klitschko: When A Comet Crashes Into A Tower

10.12.04 - By Janne Romppainen: Unlike many perhaps expected beforehand, in the year 2004 the heavyweight division has given the fans plenty of interesting fights. Even though a lot is written about the regression of big men and there are some grounds for the argument too, during the last twelve months we have had good-paced and classy bouts to follow.. Corrie Sanders – Vitaly Klitschko, Lamon Brewster – Wladimir Klitschko, Andrew Golota – Chris Byrd and Jameel McCline – Chris Byrd all were action-packed, exciting fights from the top level. In addition to these better-than-expected fights (note that I didn’t mention John Ruiz’ bouts) we have seen another upset too. In last spring there was probably nobody who would have thought that the last climax of the year would be fought between Ukrainian Vitaly Klitschko and British Danny Williams. That however is just the case as in the next Saturday these two mix it up in Las Vegas in a twelve-rounder that promises to be an interesting one.

Danny Williams, who for long was thought to be a never-was, might encourage plenty of fighters who are still looking for the big chance with his example. The 31-year-old Brit arrived the big picture in big style after travelling around the rings for nine years before that by blasting out Mike Tyson after four rounds of heated battle in last July. The big upset and terrific victory created Williams a chance to now fight for big money and the WBC title belt which is also recognized by most of boxing world.

Before knocking out Tyson Williams’ career was very ordinary. His talent has always been noted, but something has always been missing so that he hasn’t been able to make a real breakthrough. Williams has captured 32 victories against only three losses and knocked out 27 of his opponents, but all his losses have happened at worst possible points whereas most of his wins are over British domestic level fighters. The first time Williams failed to win was in 1999 when he faced his countryman, veteran Julius Francis in a British title bout which Williams was favoured to win. Later on he got a revenge over Francis and also the title, but in 2003 when he battled for the European championship he, again as the clear favourite, suffered a heavy beating at the hands of Turkish Sinan Samil Sam. When he early this year lost also to Michael Sprott whom he had defeated twice before, very few thought he actually still had a chance to rise to the world class. The win over Tyson was for him like a fat chuck of gold for a miner who had worked for years: the conqueror of the ex-champion is now a hot product in the market of promoters.

Williams doesn’t lack any physical talent. He is about 6’1 ½ tall and is heavily muscled at around 260lbs of weight. His hands are quick for a big man, he has tremendous strength in his body and also power behind his punches and his stamina seems to be good enough for long bouts too. Also Williams’ technique is good and orthodox: his jab is a heavy one and especially his combination punching is exemplary. In the Tyson fight his inside fighting techniques were impressive, he demonstrated that he can both give punches and guard himself from the incoming, earlier his defence has sometimes appeared leaky. Also Williams’ chin is still bit of a suspect, Samil Sam knocked him over rather easily, but trading shots with Tyson proves that Williams is not a glass chin although he was badly wobbled in the first round of that bout too.

One man who might have encouraged Williams’ new rise to the doorstep of stardom might be his opponent of Saturday, Vitaly Klitschko. Also the Ukrainian was just a couple of years ago seen as incapable of competing at the highest level, but with his determined work the sympathetic giant has cleared his road to the top. Staying as the king of the hill is a big task too however, and not all boxing fans are still convinced that Klitschko could defend his status for long.

Klitschko launched his pro career at the footsteps of his Olympic gold medallist little brother Wladimir in year 1996. He captured the European title in 1998 but gave the belt up quickly to move to bigger circles. In the following year he demolished the talented but paper-chinned British Herbie Hide, winning the WBO title from him. Hide is a familiar man for Williams too, Williams worked as his sparring partner for long, also before Hide’s loss against Klitschko. Klitschko then lost his belt to Chris Byrd because of an injury, and after that he again returned to Europe to hold the local championship for a moment before launching his new try to world level. His last and final breakthrough to the top begun in 2002 with a knockout over Larry Donald, who weeks ago defeated Evander Holyfield. In the year following Klitschko got to fight for the WBC championship against the universally recognized champion, ring legend Lennox Lewis after the first challenger Kirk Johnson was injured. Klitschko lost the bout after a good start because of a bad cut, but his brave performance won over the crowd. Still in the same year he easily took out Kirk Johnson and in last April he won the vacant WBC title by beating up Corrie Sanders, the KO conqueror of his brother.

The skills and capabilities of the 6’7 ½, 245lbs Klitschko are still very much debated. He has size and physical strength for sure but everything else seems to be debatable. Klitschko’s ring record is, according to numbers, highly impressive: 34 wins with 33 knockouts against only two losses. Even so, all don’t even consider him as a very big puncher. Klitschko usually doesn’t take his opponents out with single bombs but breaks them down by landing often and heavily. He is fairly quick from his hands, but that is also because he doesn’t put his whole body behind his punches but instead throws arm-punches. Klitschko has proven however that his chin is, if not granite, at least a very reliable one. In the ring he has taken the best punches of both Lewis and Sanders, two knockout-artists.

The big bone of contention with Klitschko’s fighting is his boxing technique which has split the opinions of experts wide apart. Some see him as a clever child of nature who employs his strengths the best way with his unique but effective style, whereas the critiques demonstrate him simply as a technically poor fighter who is little else than an accident waiting to happen. Klitschko fights from an erect stance, hanging his left hand below his waist line. When his opponent attacks, he pulls straight back, breaking against all the technique books of boxing, taking clumsy-looking leaps and pulling his chin back in dangerous-looking manner. With his reach and slick reflexes Klitschko however has been able to avoid all the attacks without going down once in his career. Also with his long jab and the sharp right that follows after it he is able to control his opponents from outside and like that prevent them from attacking before they actually do come forwards. Klitschko is naturally a defensive-minded, thinking fighter who usually doesn’t go in all-out attacks but who is able to jump hard on his opponent if he gets a good chance. He rarely throws hooks or uppercuts, but so far his simple one-twos have brought the results wanted. Thus it seems that Vitaly does only few things in the ring, but he does them well and it is difficult to argue with the results. The longer his path of victories goes on, the better his style naturally will be accepted by everyone.

What makes this fight so interesting is the unpredictability of the challenger Williams when the big moment is there on Saturday night. Now the whole Great Britain and probably large parts of America too have their eyes and hopes on him. Earlier Williams has failed under pressure and he has never been in an event like this, whereas against Tyson, where nobody expected lot from him, he was able to perform very well. On the other hand after knocking out Mike Tyson himself Williams’ confidence must be blooming, which often can be a deciding factor in boxing too. There is no certainty about what Williams ultimately is capable of, however. Against Tyson he looked like real world-class beater, but the strong but otherwise very mediocre Samil Sam walked right through him without breaking sweat. Thus too much can’t be counted solely on the Tyson-performance.

On the other hand, even though Klitschko has proven himself on numerous occasions and captured fine victories, I just can’t be sure about his success yet. Even though he is the favourite, I can’t quiet down the suspicions in my head that someday somebody, maybe Williams, will find his open chin with a big punch and take the Ukrainian monster out.

Klitschko will likely look to control the bout in his usual manner, staying away behind his jab and looking to land his right. It is up to Williams to get close and let his heavy hooks go from the distance where Klitschko can’t use his long arms effectively. In this situation Klitschko might also face a new kind of problem: usually he has been able to clinch his opponent when necessary and push them back with his mighty strength, but the muscled Williams might be a heavy rock to move for him too. If Williams can force Klitschko to the ropes and starts landing his hammers, then the challenger has a real chance of pulling out another upset in a row. However if he can’t find his range, Klitschko will probably wear him down somewhere after the halfway point. Few expect to see a quick solution in either way, but between two big and powerful men that is not out of question either. Hopefully the fight continues the reel of fast-paced and exciting heavyweight contests of the year 2004.


Article posted on 10.12.2004

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