The Enigma of Wladimir Klitschko

19.04.05 - By Geoff McKay: October 14th, 2000. Chris Byrd is nearing the end of his bout with up and coming Olympic gold medallist Wladimir Klitschko. Byrd has a reputation of wearing larger men down and increasing his activity rate to take advantage in the later rounds, however, things have been getting steadily worse for him as the fight goes on. He was dropped by a beautiful combination in the 9th, and then dropped again in the 11th.. One of his eyes is swollen shut and he has been unable to connect with more than 7 punches in any given round.

For a soft hitting volume puncher like Byrd this is the equivalent of not showing up at all. Byrd has an impressive record, but is completely outmatched, and the final scores of 120-106, 119-107, and 118-108 show how lopsided the fight was. This was no fluke, Byrd didn’t have a bad night, Klitschko was just better, far better.

March 8, 2003. A shocked Klitschko eats left hand after left hand from journeyman Corrie Sanders who is coming straight ahead a la Manny Pacquiao. He looks horrible, he seems to have no defense at all, and has a shocked, unbelieving expression on his face every time he gets hit. It is as though he can’t believe what is happening to him, and is too stupefied by the very concept of defeat to do anything about it.

In the second round, after being knocked down three times, referee Genaro Rodriquez stops the fight. Klitschko will never be the same after the Sanders defeat. In his adopted home of Germany newspapers have changed his nickname from “Dr. Steelhamer”, to “Dr. Wimp."

Since that night we have seen both versions of Wladimir Klitschko show up, sometimes during the same fight. He boxed for the first four rounds against Brewster, and then collapsed on the canvas at the end of the fifth. His eyes stared in two different directions as he tried to make his way into his corner, and make no mistake about it, Brewster was all but finished when Wlad suddenly stopped fighting.

There have been many who have risen up in joy at the downfall of Wladimir Klitschko, and celebrated gleefully every negative moment in his career since Sanders. There have also been many who have said that he is a great fighter, and that this is only a minor hiccup in a great career, an “Oliver McCall” moment, if you will. Almost all of us however, whether we admit it or not have wondered, “What happened."

A plethora of theories and explanations have been put forth, and we have no way of knowing whether or not they are valid. We have heard tales of druggings, excessive Vaseline, and even that Wlad was a fluke to begin with, but no one knows for sure what derailed this promising career so abruptly, so here is another theory to throw on the pile.

I believe there is one entity more powerful than drugs, than opponents punches, than training, than all else combined, and that is the mind. The mind can make you, but it can just as easily ruin you. It can convince you that you’re tired when your not, it can tell you that you’re beaten and you will believe it, your mind can cast doubt on certainty, and it can instantly erase skills that have taken years to master. Most importantly, your mind can rob you of your confidence. I recently had a conversation with well respected boxing writer Frank Gonzalez Jr., and he said something that really hit the nail on the head,

“Once a fighter loses his confidence…it’s over”. Frank is exactly right, and this is precisely what has happened to Wladimir Klitschko. He lost his confidence the second that first Corrie Sanders left hand landed on his chin, and he has yet to gain it back.

I believe Wladimir Klitschko has the tools to defeat anyone on the planet, but he must first overcome his own self doubt, his own mind. If he has been able to do this, his upcoming opponent Eliseo Castillo’s chances of beating him will fall somewhere between slim and none. If has been unable to reinstate his faith in himself, he is ripe pickings for any fighter in the division, including Castillo. We have to wait and see which Klitschko will show up.

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Article posted on 19.04.2005

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