Klitschko-Williams: The Winner Is Not Lewis' Successor

10.12.04 - By Frank Lotierzo - - This weekend Vitali Klitschko will make the first defense of his WBC heavyweight title. This will be Klitschko's third heavyweight title fight, (not counting the WBO). In his first title bout in June of 2003 he was stopped by heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis after the sixth round due to a terrible eye cut. At the conclusion of the fight, Klitschko was leading on all three judges cards. During the six rounds Klitschko was in the ring with Lewis, he provided the boxing world a glimpse of what the future may look like in the heavyweight division..

It's been eight months since Klitschko won the vacant WBC title, the same title Lennox Lewis relinquished when he retired in February. During those eight months WBA champ John Ruiz and IBF champ Chris Byrd have each defended their title once. However, neither Byrd or Ruiz have been able to fill the void left by Lewis.

Vitali Klitschko 34-2 (33) is the fighter perceived to be the front runner to, as Lewis has said, "pick up what I put down." Simply because he has some of the things that most fight observers look for in boxing's premier big man. Klitschko has size and power, and is a little smarter and better overall fighter than he usually gets credit for. The fact that he showed against Lewis that he wasn't out of his league fighting the best heavyweight in the world also strengthens his claim. So it is Vitali Klitschko who is viewed as possibly having the credentials to one day support the right to be proclaimed the world's top heavyweight fighter.

For the Klitschko legacy to be realized, he must put together a string of successful title defenses like Lewis and other past greats have done. The kickoff to what some believe could be the beginning of a memorable heavyweight title reign starts Saturday night against Danny Williams 32-3 (27) at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Williams, after spending a majority of his career as a fringe contender at best, shocked the boxing world last summer when he knocked out former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson in the fourth round. It was just eleven month's ago that Williams lost his British heavyweight title to Michael Sprott. Now slightly more than four months removed from stopping Tyson, he's the most talked about heavyweight in the world.

Beating an eroded 38 year old Tyson who fought exactly 49 seconds in a year and a half did more than just earn him a top-ten ranking. Being ranked in the top ten is a door opener, but the sole reason Klitschko is making his first defense against him is because he knocked out Tyson in his last fight. Further illustrating that beating Tyson 14 years after Buster Douglas did can still be a career maker. Had Danny Williams signed to fight Vitali Klitschko this time last year after he stopped Kirk Johnson in two rounds, the fight wouldn't even support enough interest to justify airing on HBO's Boxing after Dark, let alone being a PPV event.

Now there is a ground swell of talk surrounding the post-Tyson Williams suggesting that he'll provide Klitschko with a very stern challenge. And some have gone as far as saying that they wouldn't consider a Williams victory over Klitschko an upset or a shock. Can't imagine that being said as a joke the night before Williams fought Tyson.

I remember the same overreaction accompanied Buster Douglas after he beat a prime Tyson before he was stretched by one counter right hand from Evander Holyfield. Douglas was so over hyped after he beat Tyson that he was a 7-5 favorite over Holyfield the day of the fight. Had Douglas fought Holyfield the night he fought Tyson, nobody would've given him a shot to win, nobody! But beating Tyson clouded the fact that he lost to the best fighters he fought prior to fighting Tyson. And it's also a fact that Buster Douglas doesn't own a single win over one upper-tier heavyweight other than Mike Tyson.

I recognize that Danny Williams is a skilled heavyweight, who absorbed some monstrous shots from Tyson in the first two rounds of their fight. Against most of the world's top heavyweight's, Tyson would've been a knockout winner if he landed on them like he did Williams. The only issue I have is that I can't say for certain which fighter is the real Danny Williams. Is the real Danny Williams the fighter who was dropped three times before being stopped by Sinan Samil Sam, and lost his British Empire title to Michael Sprott eleven months ago? Or was the Danny Williams who beat Tyson closer to his real identity as a fighter?

Even Mike Tyson trainer Freddie Roach is chiming in with over the top praise for Williams. Roach said earlier this week, "Williams has the tools to cut down giant Vitali Klitschko." Roach continued saying, "what he gained from beating Mike is a lot of confidence, which is what everybody said he lacked before he fought Mike." Although I think Roach overstates the confidence factor, Williams did hold up well against Tyson when he is the most dangerous in any fight, that being in the first two rounds. That's enough to qualify him as being tough enough and capable of staying with most heavyweight's .

Even if what's being reported on the post-Tyson Williams is true, is that enough to get by Klitschko? In Vitali Klitschko, Williams will be facing a fighter that has never trailed in any of his 36 fights. To this day Klitschko is the only fighter to stop Larry Donald and Kirk Johnson. And he was closer to upsetting Lewis than any other fighter who Lewis defeated. Sure, it wasn't a vintage Lewis, but it's not like the best Lewis walks right through him.

In his last fight against Corrie Sanders, Vitali took some big shots from a proven knockout puncher. So it's not just Williams who has had a recent infusion of confidence. Even during the patches of the fight that Sanders was having his way, Klitschko was never close to losing his confidence or composure.

Another thing in the back of Klitschko's mind is that his dream of proving himself against Mike Tyson was more than likely ruined forever by Williams. Since he probably believes he'll never fight Tyson, he'll relish destroying the fighter who will be most remembered for ending Tyson's days as a legitimate title threat. And earlier this week Klitschko said that he was surprised by Williams skills, and how he took Tyson's punches. So it's unlikely that he is playing him cheap.

Look, Vitali Klitschko still has the burden of proof resting squarely on his shoulders regarding just how good he really is, but to date he's done everything asked of him. Is he the next Lennox Lewis, I don't think so, but his career is not complete yet either. I just know based on who he's fought and how he's performed in those fights, he deserves the benefit of the doubt over any other heavyweight in the world who is qualified to challenge him.

One last thing, the Klitschko-Williams winner is NOT the successor to Lennox Lewis. Some boxing writers and fans are in such a hurry to deem a successor to Lewis, it's clouds their thinking and judgement. Regardless of the outcome or how impressive it may be, Klitschko and Williams will only decide the WBC heavyweight title and nothing else.

If Klitschko beats Williams, he'll be 2-1 in world title fights. Remember, after Lewis made the first defense of his WBC title against Tony Tucker, nobody was saying the next day that he would end up retiring 15-2-1 in heavyweight title bouts.

Article posted on 10.12.2004

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