Wladimir Klitschko: The Good, The Bad, and The Boredom

By Ted Spoon - Being cynical has its place; there are people out there who don’t argue when told that the word ‘gullible’ is not in the dictionary. With Wladimir Klitschko we have to be cynical. He continues to lead a heavyweight division so lacking in (shall we say ‘umpf’) that it’s difficult to consider it one. In reality, the ‘division’ has been between Wladimir and an extended queue of unmotivated, mediocre talent that forgot how to slip or throw a combination.

Plenty of patience, a long jab and an apparent aversion to closing the show is the old recipe, and it has worked a treat. In a recent interview with ‘Ring Magazine’ Klitschko explained that, “I will keep doing what I need to win..” …a view now so numb to opinions that maybe it was time, instead of beating on that old cynical horse, to see where we are up to in ‘Dr Steel Hammers’ legacy.

Well, since the loss to Lamon Brewster in 2004, Klitschko has contested in 12 fights and won all of them, and very easily at that. Each one is worthy of a good dose of criticism, as Kiltschko’s flicking jab seems to come through the TV to thump away any possible excitement, but just as easy as it is to criticize who can forget how ‘exposed’ our champion looked 7 years prior?

There was a time when the ‘heir-apparent’ was comfortably seated as co-pilot next to the ageing Lennox Lewis. The jigsaw was taking form nicely when he nonchalantly walked into his doom against the tricky, but surely washed-up South-African, Corrie Sanders. Funnily enough, Sanders had seen better days; carrying some added flesh, and fighting irregularly, but Wladimir had obviously never seen anything like him and crumbled in two rounds.

It all still remains so vivid; how amateurish it looked, how hopeless, that if you told someone he would later regain pole-position, and still be there in 7 years you would get a cluster of smirks wherever you made the remark. For this, he deserves much credit. And yes, it is true that it was his brother that stitched-up matters in a return bout, but defeats of that nature have been the undoing of many fighters.

Then there was his elder brother’s performance against Lennox Lewis that cemented it in everyone’s mind that Vitali was the better Klitsckho. This view later exacerbated when Wladimir seemed to gas-out against Brewster in just 5 rounds after being in charge. Again, the insults where stuck onto on him like white on rice; a ‘glass-jawed joke’ ranked in as one of the nicer tags.

Since then it has been safe-sailing for 6 whole years; his biggest professional spell without fault. The relationship between himself and renowned trainer Manny Steward has had a lasting effect on Wladimir, sharpening, if nothing else, his model of cautious combat.

In the corner of Wladimir before the 12th round of his last fight with Eddie Chambers pictured Steward coarsely pleading with his pupil to end a fight he was, yet again, easily in command of. And, quite refreshingly, Wladimir did manage to apply the finishing touches with a short left hook. It was not so much the knockout (Wladimir has compiled a healthy 48 of those in 54 fights) as it was taking the initiative in a bout that could have easily drifted to a decision, and very nearly did.
Steward’s ‘street-barking’ brought back scenes of him nearly losing his voice while scolding Lewis for not getting rid of Mike Tyson 8 years ago. Steward was not about to have his guy lose it all through getting hit with some, as one may recall, “crazy shit”. The very idea of Klitsckho losing his honours via this route though is a concept which seems so far detached that it could qualify as a sub-genre of depression.

To his defence, Klitschko has pointed the finger at Lennox Lewis’ 12 round bout with David Tua, a fight in which Lewis is often criticised for siding with his safety tendencies, but even still, Lewis opened up at times with the odd fluid combination; this becomes apparent when a fight of Wladimir’s is placed side-by-side.

The arsenal of Klitschko’s seems unnecessarily limited, so much so that you may count 1 uppercut in his fight against Chambers; a transaction that takes place in the 11th round. Between a jab, and a right hand (occasionally thrown to the body), Wladimir has an uncouth habit of pawing at his opponent and touching their gloves in the manner of a man constantly vexed despite his utter dominance.

It’s an ugly habit, never better exhibited than against Sultan Ibragimov in 2008, but again we must put on the brakes here and begin to recognise efficiency. Consequently, Wladimir does not ship much punishment. As was the case with the uppercut, we can also count Chambers to have landed just 1 clean head shot in round 5. Regardless the calibre of the men he is facing, Wladimir is undeniably good at keeping his distance in check and controlling the tempo with a discouraging right hand and improved clinch.

Calvin Brock and Ruslan Chagaev, if it may be said, represented some of the ‘better’ competition Klitschko has faced, but the result was not compromised, and to be fair to Wladimir, in a head-to-head sense, he can’t be thought of as an easy nights work. Indeed, if you stuck him in any era you would at least have to bank on him handling some of the contenders and giving the best champions something to think about.

Great talent like Jack Sharkey, Floyd Patterson and Jerry Quarry would really be up against it with Wladimir, and while the same may be true vice-versa, we may only be a couple of years away from heavily siding with the Ukrainian who happily thrives at present.

As the Renaissance master, Leonardo Da Vinci pointed out, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”, and in keeping it simple, Wladimir keeps winning. Nonetheless, as long as this scenario repeats itself the fan base is not likely to expand. Boxing is a dynamic contest that should seamlessly blend the technicalities with the bravery, but Wladimir puts a downer on this, giving a tired formula of the first, and virtually none of the second. If the heavyweight championship of the world (which in this muddled time we should count as the ‘Ring belt’) was raised on true grit and valour, then Wladimir has come close to reversing its qualifications.

Is it the opponents? Is it Wladimir’s skill? Whatever the reason, be it a combination of both, it remains quite something to see one simultaneously diffuse an opponent’s chances and a division’s wellbeing. For as nice as the guy is and how well he achieves his goals, it is surely only in Boxing that we could still vehemently brood over him.

In terms of ‘stepping it up’ Wladimir makes no qualms about his pensive method, but perhaps, comfortable as he is, that strive to ‘ignite’ our flagship division might make an appearance in his coming defences. Is this getting carried away?
Ok, well until then let’s resume our cynical outlook as Alexender Povetkin, while a better-than-norm operator, is likely to convert to the ‘path of the extended beating’. “Boring” is an adjective sure to be on stand-by come September 11th, but at the very back of the mind, it is beginning to compel how far this reluctant triumphing can go.

The word ‘great’, with all its whimsical connotations feels alien to the ‘Wladimir era’, but in reality, the man in 1st place must be breathing down its neck.

Article posted on 20.07.2010

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