Vitali Klitschko: A Flawed Champion

16.12.04 - By Chris Ireland - - A word of advice to fight fans: Don't believe the writers. If you're a fan of the sport who can put together a sentence or two, suddenly you're a boxing expert. This is not to say all boxing writers are liars or don't know what they're talking about. In fact, they very much do know what they're talking about. What they have his a real knowledge for the history of the sport and a love for what they do, but this doesn't mean they're always right.

Every boxing writer on the planet had Vitali Klitschko figured out a few years ago. He was a quitter with no heart. He was the other brother. He didn't have what it takes to be the champion. Then came June 21, 2003, the date that Vitali Klitschko, with basically one eye after the second round, nearly defeated an under-trained and arrogant Lennox Lewis. Then Klitschko become the one with heart, the desire, and the determination to become the heavyweight champion.

So after winning the title in 2004 and defending it once, the jury is still out on Vitali Klitschko. This fight fan who is able to put together a sentence or two, depending on what you think as you read this, took the opportunity to examine Klitschko's future title reign, to help answer burning questions on the champ. The goal here was to find out some of the things Vitali Klitschko does have to be a great champion, and some of the things he doesn't, and how is career will end.....

As of this moment, Vitali Klitschko has the highest KO percentage of any heavyweight champion in history. However, many complain about the way Klitschko dispatches his opponents over a long period of time instead of going for the early KO. What they have yet to realize is that Vitali Klitschko really doesn't possess the one punch KO power that past greats like Louis, Tyson, and Dempsey had. Those men could change a fight with one punch. Vitali's punches have a different affect. "Dr. Iron Fist" possess a punch that breaks his opponents down, and have a wearing, lasting affect on his foes, causing late KO's after the damage has accumulated. This does not mean Vitali doesn't posses punching power, it just means his punches take a different kind of toll.

Another complaint about Klitschko is his stamina. Those who believe the big man does have this problem are simply wrong. Heavyweights fight at a very different pace than the other divisions. In fact, Klitschko may fight at a higher pace than most in his class. He's around 6'8, 250 lbs. That's a lot of luggage to carry in the ring. When looking at Klitschko's recent bouts, he has shown outstanding stamina against the likes of Lewis, Sanders, and Williams. In those fights Vitali proved his gas tank was far from empty by out-throwing his opponent in virtually every round combined, all while showing nice speed for a man his size.

Yes, Vitali Klitschko has one heck of a beard too. Against Lennox Lewis in 2003, Klitschko took several punishing jabs and right hands. If that wasn't enough, Lewis was landing his uppercut at will, causing Vitali's head to snap back violently. Through it all, however, Klitschko dished out plenty of pain himself, and staggered Lewis badly throughout the fight, showing no fear of being hit. Vitali also took some major shots from Corrie Sanders. Sanders' power was proven against the younger brother, Wladimir, taking out the promising youngster in the early rounds.

If there was a complaint about Klitschko following his destruction of Danny Williams, it was his fighting technique. Vitali tends to leave his chin exposed by letting his left arm dangle at his side, instead of using it to guard his jaw. It appears to leave him extremely vulnerable for a straight right hand. Also, Klitschko doesn't appear to be that good at throwing a hook. Granted, he has improved in this department as time has gone by. However, it's hard to ignore the pattern Klitschko falls into of one-two's to the head, with the occasional uppercut or body shot. There's hardly ever a hook. Vitali also appears to be unable to move backwards. If an opponent were to slip the one-two's to the head, or dodge an occasional uppercut, they would be able to find Klitschko rather easy to hit. His large frame could make him clumsy during an all-out attack. This was proven against Corrie Sanders, when Klitschko fell down, while trying to move backwards, during a Sanders rush in the second round.

Perhaps the most important thing during a great championship reigns great competition. Just ask Muhammad Ali. During Ali's era, rankings were filled with names like Frazier, Foreman, Lyle, Norton, and Quarry. Klitschko's main opposition consists of Rahman, Byrd, Ruiz, Golota, and Brewster. Forget about comparing one era to the other, because it's an insult to the 70's. Now, this certainly isn't Klitschko's fault. He has no control over his competition. In fact, the only man who does is Don King, and he's the real problem. King has several heavyweight champions, none of which deserve to be in the same sentence of the champions of old. Instead of letting them fight each other and clarifying things in the division, he lets his champs fight boring, uneventful defenses against weak competition, adding to the problem instead of solving it. Never mind the fact that a championship strap is about as meaningful to him as a tool belt. Certainly, however, this will hurt the legacy of Vitali's title reign, if it lasts very long. Mike Tyson was twenty when he won the heavyweight crown. Vitali Klitschko, in his first year of being champion, is thirty-three. In today's division that's fairly young, however, it does mean that Vitali's stay at the top may be relatively short compared to the all-time greats. Clearly, fans' complaints about this issue are valid.

My conclusion as an "expert" is that Vitali Klitschko is a flawed champion. However, given the status of today's division, he will probably remain atop the big men until his relatively fragile body will give out on him. In fact, it is this writer's belief that that will be the Klitschko downfall. Against Byrd, he injured his shoulder. Against Lewis, his eye was badly cut. Now we learn that against Sanders and Williams, Klitschko hurt both of his hands. The thought here is that Klitschko, as he ages will suffer injuries more and more frequently. He will retire in around three or four years as champion, unless some heavyweight out there finds the courage to attack Vitali's weaknesses. His legacy won't be that of a great champion, largely because of things he couldn't change.

Article posted on 16.12.2004

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