Re-examining Vitali Klitschko's Place Among The Heavyweight Elite

14.07.05 - By Lee Hayes: Vitali Klitschko's perceived dominance of the heavyweight division appears to be more distant and imagined the longer his reign continues. He appears far more focused on his original, and apparently only goal in boxing, which is to hold a heavyweight belt at the same time as his brother Wladimir Klitschko. This sort of thing is what regulates boxing to the freak show circus that Butterbean did in the past. Can you imagine if Michael Spinks has stated that his only single boxing goal was to be the first sibling to win both a gold medal and a world title? Could you imagine Spinks then retiring immediately after winning the WBA light heavyweight championship from Eddie Mustafa Muhammad? Unfortunately, boxing only seems to be a hobby to the Klitschko's, and one can see this happening if they ever do win simultaneous title belts. Not really the thing great champions are made of.

It was recently suggested to me that Klitschko's true intentions may even be more diabolical than even I had once perceived. Maybe he truly believes that he can continue to get away with his "revenge of the brother" angle, by fighting all of the men that have defeated his brother.

If this is the case, judging by the way Wladimir Klitschko's career is going, Vitali could have years and years of tomato can defenses against just about anyone with two arms that weighs more than 200 lbs. They've gotten away with this soft excuse for revenge in the past, as it sells well in Europe, however it's not going to cut it on this side of the ocean. Sanders was probably his last freebie.

In fact, in lieu of Vitali's recent actions - by pulling out of dates with his mandatory WBC challenger Hasim Rahman, and then immediately challenging every heavyweight not named Hasim- Vitali is starting to give the impression that he knows his time is numbered as a belt holder, and that he is merely stalling until Wladimir can stay off the canvas long enough to actually win a belt.

Most recently it was announced that Vitali Klitschko would not be facing his number one mandatory challenger Hasim Rahman, nor the winner of the alleged WBC Heavyweight Eliminator match between Rahman and Monte Barrett. Instead, he will be fighting untested youngster Calvin "The boxing banker" Brock. This seems to reinforce the stalling theory that I have. As Klitschko tried adamantly to pass off, once useful, Oleg Maskaev as a realistic title defense. And I thought it couldn't get any worse than Danny Williams debacle. Fans will recall that Klitschko has fought Corrie Sanders for the vacant WBC belt, despite the fact that Sanders had been semi-retired and unranked by the WBC before knocking out Wladimir Klitschko violently in two rounds back in March of 2003. He then got away with passing off Danny Williams as a legitimate title defense, based on Williams bludgeoning of already faded, and seriously wounded Mike Tyson. Williams was not highly ranked by the WBC previously either. He won the title that night against Sanders, and has yet to face a mandatory defense. It's been just under a year and 3 months since he's held his belt and he appears to have pulled off another fast one. I can remember how disappointed I was when Riddick Bowe wasted away his first two title defenses against Jesse "The Boogie Man" Ferguson and Michael Dokes. Compared to Klitshcko, it seems that I was far too harsh on Riddick.

Brock for his part seems a talented enough fighter, in fact, those who have known me for some time know that I have been touting this guys potential for awhile. He has solid skills and can punch some. He also has heart. The problem, however he is far too inexperienced to fight Vitali Klitschko at this point in his career. Something that the Klitschko camp is very well aware of. Calvin has been brought along rather slowly, allowing himself time to develop, but his only real tests have been against Jameel McCline. The same McCline that lost embarrassingly to Wladimir Klitschko for his then WBO belt, and who was out boxed and at times out slugged by light hitting IBF heavyweight champion Chris Byrd. Nobody mistakes McCline for a future heavy contender, however he is a very legitimate gate keeper to the top 10, and Brock showed heart by getting up off the canvas to out box and out point Jameel. This was a good test of a young undefeated fighter. The kind of fight you can build experience off of. It is not however, the kind of fight you give a guy a title shot off of.

Most boxing experts agree that it is far past time for the current belt holders, John Ruiz (or James Toney depending on how you view Ruiz's legitimacy after getting stomped by steroid filled Toney), Chris Byrd, Lamon Brewster and Vitali Klitschko to hold a tournament. By the time the tournament was completed, in about a years time, youngsters and up and comers like Audley Harrison, Brock and Samuel Peter will have developed the experience and following to have a go at the winner of the tourney. The division would be alive and kicking again at the top of the heap. Klitschko has maintained that he will not fight in a King promoted tournament because King would demand options on his future fights. King is known for doing this in the past. He has publicly stated that he wants no options on Vitali Klitschko in such a tournament on more than one occasion. Toney's promoter, Dan Goosen has also stated that he wants no options on Klitschko should he agree to fight James. It appears that the life long get out of jail free card that Vitali has been toting is no longer valid. He has no reason not to fight in the tournament. No reason other than the fact that it does not play in to his master plan for his career. As previously stated, that is to hold a belt at the same time as his brother. He has no intentions on unifying or clarifying the division. It's a disgrace to the entire sport and those that love it, myself included.

People have asked me why Klitschko continues to talk about Lennox Lewis long after his retirement, and I answer that Vitali has been reliving that fight over and over in his nightmares every night since June 21st, 2003 because he had the fight in his hands for 3 rounds and he let it slip. I bet Billy Conn had a similar problem after he lost to Joe Louis in the 13th round of their fight as well. The one that got away can cause an unhealthy obsession in a man, much like Captain Ahab's obsession with Moby Dick in the Herman Melville classic of the same name.

Personally, I think Klitschko should have already been stripped of the belt he picked up after Lennox Lewis retired. Unfortunately, just as Klitschko was unable to unseat Lewis, so that Lennox could pass the proverbial torch - he also could not force Lewis to pass on the heart of a champion, or a true sense of the history of the heavyweight championship of the world.

As I re-watch classic heavyweight battles like Jack Johnson versus Jim J Jefferies, Joe Louis versus Billy Conn, Rocky Marciano versus Ezzard Charles in their first bout, or Muhammad Ali versus Joe Fraizer, I cringe when I think about where the division is today. Oh our generation had the chance to see classics when Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield thankfully showed what it meant to be a champion, or when Mike Tyson annihilated the entire division as a youngster. It seems that we are just as likely to see a classic heavyweight bout involving a Klitschko as we are of seeing Oscar DeLaHoya take purse parity in a fight with Zab Judah. Not too bloody likely.

For what it's worth, my rankings have been adjusted accordingly. I have stripped Klitschko of his position and placed him where he belongs. My top 10 heavyweights are as follows:

1. Chris Byrd

2. James Toney

3. Hasim Rahman

4. Lamon Brewster

5. John Ruiz

6. Monte Barrett

7. Samuel Peter

8. Calvin Brock

9. Nicolay Valuev

10. Audley Harrison

You'll find no trace of a Klitschko in my top 10, as heart and activity are required to cut it in my books. You can't find short cuts, or duck fighters. You can't get KO'd by every second journeyman you face, and you can't get by with Hugo Boss endorsements. In my rankings, you have to show that you want it, and prove it by fighting. You'll notice that I've thrown in a few younger, less experienced fighters in my top 10. That's because I'd rather go on faith, based on what I've seen in a young fighter. Rather than blind faith based on propaganda and false promises from spoiled 'fighters' that spend more time reporting false allegations to the FBI, to justify embarrassing losses, and fighting for unwarranted title shots in courts.

This writer welcomes your comments/suggestions here or can be reached by email at

Article posted on 14.07.2005

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