Vivek Wallace Presents: 'OPEN MIC FAN MAIL' - (Klitschko Bros.) - Heavyweights With Light Talent?
Every Wednesday ESB will feature this segment with a new published letter directly from hardcore fight fans just like you, and a response directly from Boxing Scribe Vivek Wallace! For those who don't like what the average boxing scribe has to say, there's only one way to change it........SOUND OFF! Send all 'Open Mic Fan Mail' letters to firstname.lastname@example.org, and remember, keep content short and concise, profanity free, and don't hold back.....the floor (and mic) is yours! Today's letter comes to us from Mark R. (Phoenix, AZ):
Article posted on 21.10.2010
I am a very big fan of Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, and have been for a very long time. I am not Ukranian. I am actually American, but I know talent when I see it, and I think many have done these two men a great injustice by criticizing them and failing to give them their due credit. Every time we speak about the heavyweight division in America, the only thing you hear about is Ali, Foreman, and Tyson. If you were to really see things from the outside looking in, you would think that there was never any other heavyweights worth talking about, and I have a very big problem with this mindset. Ali was pretty good, but lets be honest, the guy had probably 4 real big test in his career, and a couple of those came against the same guy. So how he became a measuring stick is beyond me. Marciano (RIP) was good, but comparing resumes, what did he really do to trump all others?
I can go down the line from the beginning of time, and I think any historian would be heart-pressed to show me another heavyweight who did the same level of damage as Vitali and Wladmir. Some could argue that they came along in a weakened era of the sport, but if Ali and the old school guys were really in such a great era, why is their resume so thin when it comes to the mega fights? One can only live off the "Rumble in the Jungle" and "Thrilla in Manilla" resume for so long. I think Ali was a great fighter, but I really question why so many people today can't agree that the dominance these brothers share is far more impressive than anything we've seen in the division, maybe even the sport. Vitali's KO ratio and technical ability, and Wladimir's athleticism and dominance. I don't see how anyone can question this. These are the two greatest fighters all-time in my book. I know you try to be balanced for the most part. I'd love to hear your spin on this one, Vivek.
I think you raise some very interesting points, but I think you also failed to address some, as well. Seems everyone is totally infatuated with that famous "best" sticker. We can all identify certain fighters as good, great, or in between, but it's just something about that ole "best" sticker that propels many of us to want to apply it to ONE particular guy, and truth is, I don't think it's quite that easy. For starters, we'd have to first come up with a universal theme that would identify what the "best" truly is. When YOU used the word "best", you seem to lay your hat on ring dominance. What Vitali and Wladimir have done in the ring is unprecedented, but lets dig a little deeper into the grammatical properties of this topic so I can show you what it means to me, and perhaps to most. For starters, I think Wladimir is great, but if I'm gonna use your word "best", I'd have to narrow it down to Vitali, if I just had to consider between these two men, solely. Vitali has been nothing short of amazing, and fundamentally, he is far sharper in the ring than ever given credit for. His wins/losses column proves this, as he has never ended a fight down on the score cards.
When you look at statistical domination, Vitali is behind only Floyd Mayweather jr. in the plus/minuses ratio, and that can be soundly attributed to his ability to hit and not be hit, and completely dominate a fight. When you look at what he's done AGAINST THE BEST COMPETITION AVAILABLE FOR HIM TO DO IT AGAINST, you have to give him true consideration for the "best" of all time. Now.....when we use the term "greatest", we're entering a totally different realm. "Best" is more fundamental.....in my opinion.....but "Greatest" is all-encompassing. Let me break it down like this...........Boxing is a sport...........right? And although sports are meant primarily for competition, (to see who's the best), as it relates to those of us out here who either watch or report, this sport is also entertainment. The competitive aspect lies amongst the participants competing. The entertainment lies amongst those of us who entertain ourselves by watching them compete. That's where Ali enters the equation. Ali was the first fighter who took this from sole competitive sportsmanship, to a competitive sportsmanship equipped with perennial entertainment.
It's one thing to see a fighter step in the ring and go blood-and-guts; but it was a totally different scenario hearing a man tell you what he was gonna do, how he was gonna do it, and why you should watch him as he does it! Ali literally reinvented the wheel. He took this sport, added his personality, and literally became a walking billboard of the sport itself. Not only that, but aside from his grand level of entertainment, there was a different dynamic to him, because politically, he stood for so much more. This was a man who was faced with going to an unpopular war, and rather than "going 10,000 miles away from home to kill innocent people who never caused [him] any harm", he chose to make a stand in the face of this adversity and decided to make the ultimate sacrifice by instead going to prison. Here you had a known fighter who refused to fight without a true cause. Extremely monumental! The political magnitude of this statement went much deeper, but these kind of grand acts over the course of time, paralleled with his braggadocio, put him on a level that no other man may ever reach in the history of sports.
So, in closing, I'll just say it's probably a matter of grammatics. Wladimir has time to improve and earn this slot, and Vitali may very well be in it, but lets not confuse the "best" with the "greatest". Neither of the Klitschko brothers have left us feeling overly entertained after a night in the ring, and their humble nature keep us from being entertained when they're away from it. Based on ability and merits, Vitali (my personal choice) may very well be the "best". But his overall legacy will NEVER trump Ali's personal legacy, because unlike Vitali's legacy - (which is primarily in the ring) - Ali's is two-fold. He was the fighter and the promoter. A literal ambassador and billboard of the sport that people viewed as the icon of the craft. Some will argue that the K-Bros' humble nature shouldn't be reason enough to keep them from this same legacy. My response would be that in an entertainment arena, they simply aren't as entertaining. Mike Tyson - who actually accomplished less in terms of raw merits - is still viewed as "greater" than the K-Bros. You know why? He posed the same double threat, and he learned it from Ali. This is why he's still marveled in uncharted levels today, decades beyond his dominance.
In a recent interview about the state of the heavyweight division, Tyson spoke on what should make this division so intriguing, explaining that this is the one weight class where a man has the ability to say (paraphrased) "I'm the baddest and I challenge every man in the sport on the planet.......I don't care if he's bantamweight, middleweight, heavyweight.....I'm the biggest and baddest of them all.....I'm the man"! You have to realize that level of excitement and entertainment to symbolize it. Ali did. Tyson did. The closest thing the sport has to this two-fold impression today is Mayweather. Pacquiao has shown the same level of ring entertainment as Tyson, but the non-entertaining physical demeanor halts the global recognition. It's all relative. So, let the records reflect: As good as Ali was, I don't think anyone can logically say a 6'3", 80-inch reach bearing Ali would have an easy time against a 6'8", 80 inch-reach bearing, powerful heavyweight like Vitali. We don't know who would win. Arguably, one can point to Vitali and call him the "best", but the term "greatest" is reserved for the man who currently owns it. And even in his old and frail age, that's a title I just can't see anyone decisively taking from him. But that's just my thoughts on the matter, ladies and gents......what are yours?
(Vivek Wallace can be reached at email@example.com, 954-292-7346, Youtube (VIVEK1251), Twitter (VIVEK747), Facebook, and Myspace).
previous article: Pacquiao vs. Margarito: Speed and Technique vs. Physical Size and Pressure
next article: Micky Ward interview