Will Wladimir Klitschko Fulfill His Potential?

20.04.05 - By Paul Ruby - - Wladimir Klitsckho is quite possibly the most physically gifted heavyweight on the planet today. Unfortunately for him, physical gifts alone do not get a fighter very far at the highest level of this sport. After a blazing start to his professional career, the 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist has sailed into some rough waters lately, losing 2 of his last five fights by knockout.. Klitschko will the only attraction on HBO’s telecast this Saturday evening when he takes on Eliseo Castillo in a non-title bout.

Simply put, Klitschko needs to handily dispose of Castillo, and do it quickly. We’ll discuss Castillo before moving on Wladimir and his future plans. Eliseo Castillo is, for all I know, a perfectly nice guy. However, he is neither an elite boxer nor a top-50 contender. Since 1999, he has had a lay-off of two years and another lay-off of 15 months. He has cultivated a record of 18-0-1 (14), but the only name on it is the aging Michael Moorer. And, please, let’s not make too much of Moorer’s recent win over Vassily Jirov. Yes, he stopped Jirov, but Moorer won only a single round leading up to the stoppage. In addition, he won maybe one or two out of ten against Castillo.

Michael Moorer is no longer the kid who knocked out 26 straight opponents to open his career; he is slow plodder who was out-boxed for 16 of 19 rounds by Castillo and Jirov. Still, I give Castillo credit for making a fight of it and putting himself in position to earn this pay-day in Dortmund, Germany.

Ah, Germany – the country where Wladimir Klitschko made a name for himself. The Ukranian-born Klitschko fought nearly all of his early fights in a variety of venues across Germany. Klitschko’s career started with great promise – so much promise that people quickly forgot about his corner throwing in the towel late in his fight against Ross Purrity. It was in Germany, of course, where Klitschko beat current IBF champ Chris Byrd from pillar to post for 12 rounds – by far his greatest accomplishment. Around that time, Klitschko also managed to earn wins over Monte Barrett, Francois Botha, and Jameel McCline. After the McCline fight, Klitschko then suffered the defeat that really began the downward spiral on which we now find him.

A possessed Corrie Sanders came out and put Wladimir Klitsckho down three times in three and a half minutes before the referee halted the bout. In an instant, Klitschko’s confidence was shattered. It has yet to recover. After that bout, Klitsckho stopped Danell Nicholson and Fabio Moli in a total of five rounds and he looked to believe in himself.

Then, for some strange reason, his management decided to put him in the ring with Lamon Brewster – a marginally skilled boxer with a record of 29-2 against pretty pedestrian competition, but a reputation for throwing big bombs and holding a cast-iron jaw. Frankly, I blame Klitschko’s management team for this tactical error. They saw the vacant WBO title and let their client fight for it before he was truly ready to get back to that level. They chose the worst type of opponent for Wladimir at that point – a no-name with a great chin and a huge heart – and the predictable result ensued. Klitschko dominated Brewster for four rounds, but fought an ill-advised fight. He danced like a welterweight and apparently ran out of gas. Referee Robert Byrd halted the fight after the fifth as Wladimir careened into the canvas.

Klitschko did little rebuild his stock in his last fight against DaVarryl Williamson. Though Klitsckho won most of the rounds preceding a cut-related stoppage, Williamson scored the only knockdown of the fight sending Klitschko to the floor in the fourth.

So, today, the once-bright future of Wladimir Klitschko is murkier. What will become of him? Well, there are plenty of potential outcomes, so let’s talk about some potential scenarios.

First and foremost, Klitschko needs to stop Castillo this Saturday evening; he must look impressive doing it. That’s a given.

Next, he needs to get his confidence back. If he can’t, then he should just retire because it is simply too easy for a young man to get hurt at this level. Personally, I feel there are a number of things he should do in order to ascertain whether his confidence is gone for good. First, he needs to sit down with a psychologist and determine if he truly wants to keep boxing – not what other people want him to do, but whether HE wants to. Second, he needs to stop living in older brother (and WBC heavyweight champion) Vitali’s shadow. That means no working in one another’s corner at fights any more. I cannot fathom how re-enforcing the older brother/younger brother dichotomy is doing to help Wladimir. I think the brothers need to separate themselves professionally for the sake of Wladimir’s career. Third, I believe Wladimir needs to get back to basics and fight in a more conservative manner. The questions about his chin and his heart aren’t going to go away overnight; they’re not going to go away because he blasts out a guy in 3 rounds instead of 7. Personally, I think this is why he lost the fight against Brewster. Wladimir tried to be a hero and wound up throwing too many punches and simply ran out of gas.

Wladimir Klitschko can regain a heavyweight championship, but I am not sure if he is going to. It is not going to be easy for him stylistically. Wladimir likes to move a lot for a heavyweight and throw a high volume of punches. Frankly, I don’t think either helps him because that results in two things that cause his chin to be tested more than it needs to be – moving makes him tired and throwing many punches leaves him open to flush counter-shots. I believe he needs to move slightly less (though more than most heavyweights) and throw fewer punches per round (he should stress efficiency like Vargas against Joval weeks back).

Additionally, Klitschko needs to work on his right hand. Too often, he becomes too left-hand dominant while circling behind his jab. It looked like a thing of beauty against Brewster for four rounds – moving to his left and hooking off a crisp jab – but Wladimir paid the price because a powerful left-hooker like Brewster did not fear the straight- or overhand-right necessary to make Brewster pay for ill-timed left hooks of his own.

Every single time I think about Wladimir Klitschko, I get frustrated. He looked so calm and patient against McCline, Byrd, and Barrett. He looked like a true champion in the making. Since his fight with Sanders, though, he’s looked unsure of himself. His problem is mental; not physical. If I were Wladimir, I would think long and hard about my career in this sport and come up with a game-plan for my future fights and my style in the ring. Personally, I believe Klitschko simply needs to work hard on regaining his confidence in the ring. I think the first step is re-tooling his style so he throws fewer punches and fights more effectively with both hands. Consequently, he should be prone to getting hit a bit less.

Still, I feel the confidence issue is the real key. Recently, Wladimir has seemed to be unwilling to accept that knockouts may not come as quickly as they did early in his career; consequently, he’s been made to pay for trying to force them – either by getting stopped by Brewster or put on the ground by Williamson.

Wladimir Klitschko needs to realize that boxing fans are not going anywhere and that we are very forgiving. We’ve given countless second chances to fighters who seemed to be well past their primes, and sometimes we’re pleasantly surprised – look at Andrew Golota’s recent renaissance. Most boxing fans want to see Klitschko succeed. When his confidence is in place, he’s one of the most exciting heavyweights to watch because he possesses power, movement, a wide arsenal of punches, and can dominate some very good fighters. When his confidence is gone, though, Klitschko is not the same fighter. I very much hope that Klitschko can revise his style in the ring so that he can exude slightly more confidence. A confident Wladimir Klitschko is a tremendously fan-friendly fighter, and one that viewers will pay to see. In the mean-time, though, let’s continue paying to see if he can find that confident fighter within himself.

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Article posted on 20.04.2005

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