Wladimir Klitschko is back on track

25.04.05 - By Dr. Zee: After failing to secure a fight with Byrd or Lyakhovich, Castillo was selected as the opponent. Castillo credentials were thus. He was a well schooled Cuban amatuer fighter. Best described as a slick boxer who has never been floored or knocked out, Castillo brought an undefeated professional record into the contest with a recent win over former Champion Michael Morrer.

Fans and critics alike were eager to see Wladmir Klitschko. Would he remind us of the enormously talented fighter that most critics stamped as the next great heavyweight, or would he snatch defeat form the jaws of victory by fighting foolishly and punching himself out, and leaving himself wide open? The answers to these questions came into focus last Saturday night. This was Wladmir's first professional fight without Vitlay in his corner. In the ring, a man must fight alone. Wladimir displayed both confidence and poise as he entered the ring. A ring that seemed to suit his opponent. Before the first bell sounded, it was learned that conditions were favorable for Castillo. A huge 24 x 24 ring would enable Castillo use more movement, and in theory expedite any stamina problems Wladimir might have..

Credit must be given to Manny Steward. Steward has re-tooled Wladimir’s training habbits in the gym. In the past, HBO mentioned that Wladimir used to spar 4-6 rounds at a time to prepare for fights 10-12 round fights. Sparring 4-6 rounds is no way to test your stamina for 10-12 rounds fights. In preparation for this fight, Wladmir sparred 10 rounds in a row. Wladimir has finished being an excessive weight lifter ( finally ) and has focused on speed, stamina, and sparring. Excess muscles looks good in magazines, but in boxing they demand excess oxygen and energy.

As the bell run, boxing fans wondered what they will see. Will they see a somewhat unsure of himself and off balance fighter, or will they see a confident, fluid fighter, who switched gears quickly from offense to defense?

After watching the fight, I think we saw the later.

Wladimir has changed his stance a bit, and looked more fluid in the ring. His balance was much better, and he had smoother footwork laterally and back and forth. Wlad’s back foot is more East –West than North- South, this gives better balance, and circling ability.

Defensively, Wladimir’s right hand was held high to block lefts, and at the same time in position to strike. Wladmir's right hand was never low. It was in proper position. Wlamdir’s high right hand was effective in blocking the left of Castillo. As we all saw Wlad’s straight right hand is deadly as ever, striking with the speed of a cobra, and capable of delivering a knock out blow at any moment of the fight. Wladimir moved his head to avoid jabs. He took quick step backwards after scoring like his brother does. At no point in the fight was Kltischko caught in a bad position. I also noticed that Wladmir wasn't sticking his face forward as much as he used to. His style, guard, spacing and footwork have improved.

In the words of trainer Manny Steward, Wladmir fought like a big heavyweight, using his height and reach to maximum advantage. I have seen Wladmir Kltischko fight at least fifteen times. I would say this was Wlad’s best defensive fight.

Stamina wise Wladimir was more economical. He wasn’t close to being winded. His power and speed remained throughtout the fight. Gifted punchers don’t have to throw a lot of punches to win, they just need to throw the right punches. After the fight was over, Wladimir was not close to out of breath on the interview. His reserved were fully intact.

In short, I saw a totally different Wlad Klitscthko in the ring. Steward has re-worked his style and tactics. Even Manny himself had to hold back a smile as the fight was waived off. Castillo was not a top ten guy, but he was not the story going into the fight. The story going into the fight was Wladmir Klitschko. Could he re-group? Which Wladimir Kltischko will show up?

In my opinion, Wladmir looked very good on both offense and defense. While he will never have his brothers iron cast chin, I honestly believe that Wlad will easily win his title match, and if he keeps this form will prove to be a good champion for years to come. The fighter who used to punch himself out, and leave himself open did not come back. The very large heavyweights tend to iron out their styles later. At the age of 29, Wladmir's future appears to be bright.

Article posted on 25.04.2005

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