Klitschko - Rahman: So What Happens Now?

08.11.05 - By Michael Youssef: After reading contrasting reports on different websites about what is happening to both Vitali Klitschko and Hasim Rahman in the wake of last Saturday’s postponement of their bout, I was disturbed but not surprised by the media’s reactions. ‘Typical,’ I thought. With that thought, I’ve decided to accurately explain why the fight will not be taking place this upcoming Saturday November 12, what will happen to each fighter now as a result of the fight not taking place, and finally, to provide an objective view about the disappointing situation.

First let me begin by explaining that athletes, especially professional athletes, incur injuries throughout their careers. To know of anybody who has participated in just about any sport for a number of years and has not had any injuries is in fact rare. That is how common sports injuries are to athletes who participate in sports for long enough. No doubt, boxing in particular, likely the most physical sport of all, along with possibly wrestling, (or if you consider it a sport, ultimate fighting) is a sport where injuries are quite common.

Don’t let the picture fool you, not only can getting punched in the face and body hurt and cause damage, but even punching somebody in the face or body can cause damage to the puncher! So obviously, boxing is a sport where injuries are common, again, perhaps more than any other sport one can participate in.

Focusing now on Vitali Klitschko, who tore his meniscus and incurred a deep bone bruise directly under the tear, one must understand that not only does this injury require a surgical operation to fix, it requires a rehabilitation period to restore pre-trauma movement, strength, and flexibility. Any person who tears his meniscus goes through this process, but for athlete, in a sport where your legs must be reliable and not a liability, the rehabilitation process is especially critical.

During a sparring session last Thursday, November 3, Klitschko’s legs were entangled with his sparring partner and the injury occurred. Klitschko’s first reaction was to not cancel the fight, but instead find an aid (in this case a knee brace) that he could use that would allow him to put weight on his leg and regain his leg’s flexibility or range of motion. Vitali tried several different knee braces and found none of them were capable of doing this, and it was then he and his team decided that the injury would have to be addressed before the fight.

To fight for the Heavyweight Championship of the World with an injury that is as debilitating as the torn meniscus Klitschko suffered is two things. First, it’s disrespectful to the paying audience and boxing in general, which is expecting to see two athletes at their best, performing their best, in order to determine who is the best. Secondly, it is potential career suicide for most fighters. Most fighters in a world title fight, who go into the bout with an injury as debilitating as the one Klitschko received are not just gambling with their chances of winning, but of performing poorly, and losing future earnings or title opportunities.

In this case though, Vitali Klitschko, as beloved as he is by HBO, could have lost badly and still been on the cable network’s boxing program in his following comeback fight. But when one remembers just how recently Vitali shed the name “Quitali” from many harsh critics, it becomes much easier to see why he would not be willing to put himself into a situation where he would again be fighting with a debilitating injury, against a fighter who has claimed Vitali is afraid to fight him, and the heavyweight championship on the line.

Think how bad things would have looked if Vitali fought injured, lost, and then had to hear Rahman say ‘I told you so’ for months to false statements he had been making about Klitschko’s character, and manhood. Needless to say, when Vitali gets in the ring with Rahman, he’s going to make darn good and sure he has all his tools to get ‘the Rock’ out of there. Cowardly? No. Smart? Yes. Bad news for Hasim Rahman? Probably so.

As a fan who wanted to see this fight badly, I was just as disappointed if not more so, than anybody else who was interested in this upcoming fight, the last big heavyweight showdown of the year. I am not however, upset with Vitali for getting injured. I am disappointed it happened, but to fault the man who is the one suffering the injury as though he wanted to incur it, is simply anger misdirected. Has Vitali been injured all 2005? Absolutely. Does it hurt the sport? Yes it has, and does. Did Vitali himself plan this? No, absolutely not.

So what is going to happen? Well, as WBC president Jose Sulaiman has already agreed, Vitali will have 90 days, roughly the equivalent of three months to make his defense, and if he cannot do so by then, he will be stripped of his title. The WBC is being fair without a doubt. They understand injuries occur, and sometimes occur back to back, it’s no more than a crappie break, but certainly not a conspiracy to avoid Hasim Rahman, whose chin by the way, is more suspect than any fighter in the top ten of the heavyweight division (check out his last fight with light hitting Barrett).

People need to understand that these fighters owe it to themselves and their families, as well as to us and the sport they make their living in, to give their very best every fight. Does that mean sucking up a black eye from sparring, or a bruise on the arm, or even jet lag? Yes. I myself was a former wrestler, and cuts and bruises are part of the sport, just like boxing. Injuries that are serious enough to require surgery are not minor cuts and bruises, but major physical problems that simply cheat the fans who are expecting a certain type of fighter to perform at a certain type of level, (which is consistent with past performances) out of their hard earned money.

In closing, Vitali Klitschko has never ducked anybody in his life. This is the same man who said ‘yes’ in a split second, to fighting Lennox Lewis on ten days notice. Hasim Rahman’s continual derogatory comments serve only to put pressure on Rahman to back up his words, and also give a false impression of Vitali Klitschko. So, my prediction is, all of us disappointed fans go home, Vitali Klitschko has surgery, goes to rehab, picks up training again, and trains like a man knowing he cannot incur another injury because another delay will leave him without the WBC championship belt. The fight is rescheduled for early 2006, the fight goes through, Rahman gets knocked out because his chin isn’t going to get any stronger between now and then, and people calling Klitschko a coward for not ripping them off with a half-ass performance feel stupid, as they should.

Article posted on 08.11.2005

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