Is the “Klitschko Dream” bad for boxing?

05.11.05 - by Geoffrey Ciani: For the first time in boxing history, two brothers are both ranked in the top ten of the sport’s most prestigious division. WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko and his younger brother, Wladimir, have a dream – to simultaneously share all the portions of the heavyweight title..

However, I’m not so sure whether or not the “Klitschko Dream” is good for boxing or bad for boxing, especially now, since it seems the fulfillment of said dream has a good chance of coming to fruition.

The heavyweight division is the most popular division in boxing. As such, fans usually like the idea of having a ‘universally recognized’ heavyweight champion. Sadly, we have no such thing at this time. In fact, all four of the major championship belts are currently splintered, and this is something that leaves fans with an unsatisfactory feeling.

Fans want a “universally recognized” champion, and it doesn’t appear that we’ll have one anytime soon. This is bad for the heavyweight division, and subsequently, bad for boxing. Part of the problem stems from the fact that three of the four “major” champions are held by Don King fighters, where it’s assumed King won’t risk giving one of “his” belts up in any would-be unification tournaments. Another problem is, two of boxing’s ten best fighters refuse to fight one another. But we’ll get back to this point in a moment.

Since the retirement of Lennox Lewis, boxing has not had a dominant heavyweight champion. Currently, Chirs Byrd holds the IBF portion of the heavyweight title, John Ruiz the WBA portion, Lamon Brewster holds the less highly regarded WBO title, and of course, Vitali holds the WBC version. Things are a mess! Furthermore, next weekend’s title bout (ironically between two former Lewis victims) might do nothing in terms of helping settle matters.

Next weekend, Vitali Klitschko will defend his portion of the heavyweight championship against former champion, Hasim Rahman. This will be the first time Vitali steps in the ring in eleven months, since he methodically beat down British contender, Danny Williams. This will also be Vitali’s toughest test since he faced Lennox Lewis back in June of 2003. Vitali lost that fight as a result of an awful cut he suffered at the hands of Lewis, in a fight he had been winning at the time of the stoppage. Rahman also fought Lewis, twice in fact, having knocked him out in a 5th round upset to become heavyweight champion before losing the title back to Lewis via 4th round KO in their immediate rematch.

This will be an interesting match-up. Vitali hasn’t fought in almost a year, and will undoubtedly suffer from ring rust. To further complicate matters, this will be his first fight since having back surgery. Rahman and Klitschko were actually supposed to fight on numerous different dates earlier in the year, but the match had been repeatedly postponed due to Klitschko injuries. Although the surgery was reportedly a “routine” and “minor” one, there is always reason for concern whenever someone requires back surgery – especially if that person is a professional athlete, and more especially if his chosen profession happens to be boxing.

On paper, Vitali is the clear favorite over Rahman, but the fact that Klitschko has been inactive and the fact that this will be his first fight since his surgery makes this one most intriguing. How will Vitali’s body hold up? Will he be able to systematically beat down Rahman as he did Corrie Sanders and Danny Williams? Will Rahman come into the ring motivated? Will he be able to outjab Klitschko in order to set up his power punches? These are many questions that will be answered in the very near future.

Now, back to the “Klitschko Dream”….

This dream held by the two brothers is an admirable one, and it makes for a great story. Two brothers wanting to simultaneously share the heavyweight championship! The problem with this is that it limits potential within the division. This prevents a potential match-up between two top contenders much in the same way that having more than one belt does or the way that many mega-matches are never made in lower weight classes due to the fact there are too many weight classes.

If Vitali beats Rahman, a logical next fight would be against his brother, Wladimir, who just recently defeated an undefeated young contender by the name of Sam Peter. Even if Wlad wasn’t the logical next fight for Vitali, surely it’s a logical next fight somewhere close on the horizon. However, we will never see this match-up. Out of respect for their mother, Wladimir and Vitali have both vowed never to fight each other due to the fact it would “break her heart”. Remember when I said fans like having a “universally recognized” champion?

Well, if the Klitschko brothers have their way, this will become an impossibility (at least according to what they say). In that sense, the “Klitschko Dream” is bad for boxing because it limits potential.

If Wlad and Vitali were just two ordinary top ten contenders who had no relation, the chances are pretty high that the two would square off sometime in the near future. But since they’re both brothers, this simply will not happen. Indeed, this is an unprecedented predicament in heavyweight boxing!

So what will be better for boxing? Is the “Klitschko Dream” bad for boxing? Could it be good for boxing?

If Vitali wins, it’s tough to say who his next opponent might be. What would probably be best is if some type of unification tournament was held amongst the champions so that we can ultimately have a “universally recognized” champion. However, it seems unlikely that this will happen any time soon, in the event that Vitali wins. However, if Rahman wins, the entire landscape takes a different turn in terms of potential match-ups. A Rahman win might very well set-up a unification tournament, for then King would have control over all of the major belts. Furthermore, if Rahman does win, a potential match with Wladimir isn’t out of the question, either.

These are strange times in the heavyweight division.

However, it seems clear to me that a Rahman win would probably be better for boxing. If Rahman wins, then we may have a chance to help settle matters soon so that we have one “universally recognized” heavyweight champion. Doesn’t mean we’d have one, but it seems to me that the chances of having one are better should Rahman win. At the very least, a Rahman win won’t limit the division’s potential in the same way that a Vitali win would.

Anyway, like most boxing fans, I’m eager to see this mess figure itself out sometime in the near future. Hopefully, 2006 will see a “universally recognized” heavyweight champion! But I’m not holding my breath, because it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if we’re stuck in a similar mess this time next year.

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Article posted on 05.11.2005

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