Wlad Klitschko Re-earns Respect, Big-time

26.09.05 - By Scoop Malinowski / You have to admire a man who can come all the way back from the lowest of lows, don't you? You have to respect any person that had everything he worked for in his life taken away - yet still somehow managed to rise up again from ground zero, don't you?

Wladimir Klitschko lost everything in those fights with Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster. He lost his intimdating aura, the towering reputation, as well as all of his professional value. The man's career was finished before it really began, according to most respected boxing observers. Just about everyone was sure it was all over. He didn't have what it takes. He couldn't handle adversity. He can't take a punch and he can't fight from the bottom, is what noted boxing authority Roy Jones even told us. But on Saturday night in Atlantic City Wladimir Klitschko proved them all wrong.

And now he's just one step away from the mountaintop, barring, of course, anything weird happening, such as Owen Beck or Ray Austin or another Don King fighter mysteriously and suddenly rising above Klitschko in the IBF or WBO rankings.

Klitschko showed us so much against the awesomely dangerous Samuel Peter. All week long he had a great confidence in his demeanor. Interestingly, the man with so much at stake was clearly cheerful, happy and comfortable about being involved in such a stressful and tense task. You have to admire that kind of poise.

On the morning of the fight as he warmed up his body, the friends watching wondered aloud if their presence might disturb his concentration. "Nothing can disturb me," answered Klitschko, with a smile.

And that positive state of mind would transfer into the ring. As he walked to the ring to a Red Hot Chili Peppers song, Klitschko looked perfectly confident and eager for the battle. And that long eye to eye staredown with the fierce looking Peter through the long introductions could not upset Klitschko's steely focus.

From the beginning to the end, the former Olympic gold medalist showed his class by boxing smartly and patiently. Just like you would imagine the great Lennox Lewis would have handled such a difficult and mighty adversary. Klitschko showed he can take a punch, handle the pressure, go the distance, get up from the bottom and still come away the victor. It was a fantastic victory.

"I'm impressed because he showed his heart tonight," said brother Vitali, the WBC champion. "And show for everybody he's a real heavyweight, top heavyweight. And have a great future. It was critical sometimes, but anyway, he finds a way to be the winner."

The 5th round was the most dramatic. Twice he went down from illegal, back-of-the-head blows. Peter had over a minute left to get the job done but Wladimir showed his resolve and determination are extraordinary. He did not complain about the illegal tactics - Terry Norris once lost his WBC Super Welterweight title for doing the same thing to Luis Santana - he just battled on. How can you not respect that?

It's kind of strange, I found myself wondering if it's almost like Klitschko wanted to be knocked down again. So he could prove once and for all that what all those fools said about him and his chin and heart just wasn't true.

"Unfortunately the knockdowns on my side were from tactics - some blows behind the head," Wladimir said. "However I was determined to fight and continue the fight."

It's clearly evident now that Klitschko was not destroyed or ruined by adversity, in fact he might have become stronger, smarter and a more complete man from the experience. When you think about it, isn't that incredible? If you go back and watch the videos of the Brewster and Sanders fights, you will see one of the most extreme images of heavyweight humiliation there ever was.

To witness someone come all the way back from that kind of lowpoint is remarkably inspiring. Maybe Roy Jones will be inspired by Wladimir this weekend for his important legacy showdown with Antonio Tarver. Maybe Roy Jones can learn something from Wladimir.

"I have the goal in my life to be a sports champion," said Wladimir at the post-fight press conference. "It was very important to win because, right now, that's the fight to become number one in the IBF and WBO. It is my goal and now I'm in the position to fight for the championship."

Former victim and current IBF champ Chris Byrd, who takes on DaVarryl Williamson this weekend for around $400,000 rejected approximately $3.5 million (and a rematch clause) to fight Wladimir in a rematch earlier this year. Nothing more needs to be said about that and what Chris Byrd thinks of his chances are.

WBO king Brewster has his hands full with Luan Krasniqui in Germany on Wednesday night and will most likely be the more difficult challenge for Klitschko.

Most pundits expect Klitschko to hunt Byrd first rather than Brewster, who handed the Ukrainian his last defeat two years ago. But the experts rarely get it right when it comes to Wladimir Klitschko.

Klitschko sounds like he would prefer Brewster next. "We'll see who's available next," said Wladimir. "I think Brewster is a great opportunity. Hopefully he's gonna win."

Who or what comes next on this journey of redemption for Wladimir Klitschko is going to be memorable and exciting, without question. Finally, heavyweight boxing has been rejuvenated and revitalized.

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Article posted on 26.09.2005

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