Vassily Jirov: Not a Loss but not Great either!

21.07.05 - By Izyaslav “Slava” Koza: I think it is pretty obvious from my articles that my favorite fighter in boxing today is the Kazakhstan native, Vassily Jirov. Besides being from almost the same cultural background, I think he has just as much if not more heart then anyone around today. So it is really hard for me to write critically about my most revered fighter..

Tonight the “Tiger” fought to a majority draw against 39 year old, Orlin “Night Train” Norris. In retrospect I think Vasili did enough to win, but the mistake he made was he didn’t win it convincingly enough going down the stretch. The first thing most people would think I am talking about is knockout, but that is not what I am saying at all. I think the actual problem was that he was going for the KO in the first place.

As much as I don’t agree with this strategy (and I will explain why), I can understand why that is. After all a fighter is only as good, from a financial standpoint, as his last fight. In other words, if Jirov wins by TKO or KO, he gets more money in his next fight and is back to where he was to some degree, before the loss to Moorer, perhaps even fighting in a Saturday night fight on the big networks. Furthermore, it probably weighs in his mind a little that, if the WBC champ Vitali could KO this guy in one round, if I do that I get people talking.

The problem with this strategy is it’s all outside the ring thinking, something common fans, managers, and commentators can do. In the ring however the battle is not “on paper” as they say. Take any big upset fight like Wlad Sanders, Brewster Golota, Harris Maussa, and ask yourself if the loser did not think to himself, inside the ring, that “on paper” he beats the hapless underdog easily. Each fight and each fighter are different. Fans can write off Orlin Norris at 39, and say he is past his best, been Ko'd, and that Jirov beats him easy, but inside the ring, it is the version of Orlin Norris that is difficult to predict.

Some fighters have off nights, trouble outside the ring, problems with the law, and so on, which is why on certain nights they don’t look as good as they would have without those issues. One of the mistakes that Vassily Jirov made is thinking he would walk through Norris and look impressive, as it turned out that was the wrong strategy. Add to that the fact that the fight was only 8 rounds (i.e. not enough to go to the body and break the fighter down), Jirov admitting he was under-prepared for the fight, and you can see why it was not wise to go after Norris.

For his part Norris fought well enough, even though losing in my opinion, because he waited to counter rather then lead. IF he would have went out there looking for a quick KO or a high output fight I think he would be Koed, by both Jirov and the 108 degree heat. By looking for the quality shots that would win him rounds, Norris gave himself the best chance to win, seeing as at 39 he cannot compete with the same output of punches. I was really upset that Jirov didn’t realize that Norris wasn’t going to fold, and didn’t choose to box and move like he had done, instead of trying to overpower him. In that heat, under-prepared like that at 223 LB (anything over 210 is bad for him), choosing to box circles, which was effective most of the time, would have been better. Forget about being exciting, forget about the name of the fighter your fighting, and forget his previous record, think only of the W, and get out of there with it.

Instead Jirov who I think was leading early on with his solid and aggressive boxing, went in to get at Norris, in the final rounds, and found himself on the wrong end of some counters late. Rounds that he could have won by popping off two, or three combos, and then jabbing and moving, went to Norris because he landed maybe two or three clean shots. I personally had it 5-3 for Jirov, but if Jirov the aggressor gets hit with one or two in a slower round it becomes 4-4 in the end anyway according to a judge. If Jirov does what he does in boxing, he doesn’t give Norris a chance except but to lead and fight. As far as Jirov’s form, I think his body work was better in this fight, and he did circle very well giving Norris a lot of angles to worry about, however, the problem is this was not a consistent strategy, with instances where he went in to trade and got countered losing rounds because of it.

To me its sad because with one or two adjustments I think he would simply win and move on, but instead he just fought 8 rounds and didn’t move anywhere from square one. If Vassily Jirov wants to continue as a heavyweight, he has to become a smarter fighter. I mean he is still standing in between rounds, which is probably not a smart idea. Look at fighters like James Toney, who use every second of stool time, in between rounds. If this Hall of Fame fighter does that, maybe there is something to it after all? These may seem like small things, but if Vassily Jirov is serious about becoming a “Smart fighter” these are things he needs to do to accomplish that.

He has the heart and he always will, but now its time to use his brains more. He ballooned up in weight, inconsistently spent time trading with Norris, and went for the KO instead of the points win. I love him as a fighter, but objectively its hard not to criticize him in this fight. I sincerely hope this is the last we will see of him over 220 pounds heavyweight or no, and the last time we see him with anything other then a W on his record.

Article posted on 22.07.2005

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