An Open Letter to American Klitschko Haters

21.07.05 - By Peter Cameron: What is it with you Americans, eh? Honestly, why can't you admit that Vitali Klitschko is the best heavyweight in the world? And for that matter, why can't you accept that the number one heavyweight in boxing's blue ribband division is a European? In the not too distant past, many, if not most, of you refused to recognise Lennox Lewis as the top man, and now you refuse to accept the talented Vitali Klitschko.. What does a heavyweight have to do to gain the recognition he deserves, other than be an American? I am not a devoted Klitschko fan, and I acknowledge that he clearly has many faults. For starters, his stilted style is awkward, as well as unpleasant on the eye, and his recent inactivity, is a huge frustration to boxing fans.

I would never dream of mentioning Klitschko's name alongside those legendary champions of the past, such as Jack Johnson, Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali. Yet, Vitali Klitschko would still beat, probably comfortably, any of the other contenders at this point in time. His power and size, combined with decent hand-speed and a granite chin, (remember him absorbing those murderous Lewis upper-cuts, as if they were being thrown by a kid) make him the most formidable fighter in the division.

As for those of you who say he has no heart, apparently highlighted by his quitting during the Byrd fight, I challenge any of you to complete a round of boxing with a torn rotator cuff. Klitschko proved his courage with his barn-storming, high octane performance against Lewis. Despite a shredded face and eyes blinded with blood, Vitali fought on and on and on, and was distraught when the contest was finally stopped. He showed against Lewis that he has the heart of a champion, in my opinion.

I personally think that Vitali is certainly the most exciting heavyweight belt holder at present, which is why his inactivity is very frustrating. Actually, I still don't understand how journeyman Danny Williams was given a shot at Klitschko on the back of beating a washed-up shell of a fighter in Mike Tyson. And, I have also heard rumours that Klitschko may take on Kevin McBride next, which really would rile me. I hope I will not hear from Klitschko's camp that McBride is a credible opponent, rather than a glass-jawed, technically inept fighter in an even lower league than the likes of Ruiz and Williams.

However, with last week's ruling that Vitali Klitschko must fight the winner of Hasim Rahman vs. Monte Barrett or face being stripped of his belt, I suspect McBride's opportunity has passed. A fight with Rahman would particularly interest me, because "The Rock" and his fans still think he is a genuine contender. My prediction would be a Klitschko win by knock-out, and I'd expect a similar outcome against Ruiz, Byrd and probably Brewster. For all his faults, Klitschko is the best of the current crop and also probably the most exciting to watch.

Vitali's record is pretty faultless, in all honesty. Ignoring the loss to Byrd (he was way ahead on points when it was stopped), his only defeat has come to the great Lennox Lewis, Vitali was unable to continue because of that awful cut. Vitali's record, 35-2, 34 KO's, which is a much more impressive knockout ratio than any of the other contenders. On the other hand, Hasim Rahman has already lost 5 times, including a vicious knockout loss at the hands of Oleg Maskaev in 1999. Monte Barrett's record isn't great, either, and contains a one-sided beating by Wladimir Klitscho, that ended with Barrett getting floored five times! And has a heavyweight champion ever had a poorer record than John Ruiz, who's been beaten by two middleweights and KO'd in 19 seconds by David Tua! Meanwhile, Chris Byrd's knockout ratio is the worst of the bunch, with only 20 of his 38 wins coming by way of knock-out. None of these men have credible records to be considered major forces in the heavyweight division. You may not like this, but there's no denying that only Vitali Klitschko passes this test, while the others fall far short of the mark.

It is no wonder America fails to produce decent heavyweights anymore, when so much money is to be made in the much safer careers of basketball and football. It may be the case that we have seen the last of the great American heavyweights (whether you believe that man to have been Tyson, Holyfield or even Riddick Bowe) and we have to turn to other areas of the world to continue the legacy of the most famous title in world sport. Already the next wave of rising stars is appearing from the
poverty-stricken townships of Africa and tough neighbourhoods of down-trodden Eastern Europe.

Perhaps this is justice, given the way America has treated its heavyweight heroes of the past. Jack Johnson was vilely abused purely for the colour of his skin; Joe Louis was rewarded for his efforts by being mercilessly thrown to the tax man; and it took the rest of the world to point out how great a man Ali was before America finally came to accept him. These were three of the greatest fighters of any generation. Perhaps America doesn't deserve another great heavyweight, considering its treatment of these great men.

Vitali Kitschko is not a great heavyweight and the division is probably as poor as at any time in history. Heavyweights are simply too large these days to be mobile, fast and exciting to watch. A 19 stone man can't dance around the ring for 12 rounds, throwing lightening punches at a frenetic pace. Perhaps future heavyweight champions will never be able to recapture the aura of those legends of the past who held the title. Therefore, I say let's enjoy the best there is, and that is Vitali
Klitschko. Viva Vitali!

Article posted on 22.07.2005

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