By James Slater: With both Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali, currently receiving all manner of deserved praise – with top writers such as Dan Rafael saying that the two giants, Vitali in particular, would have given “any heavyweight who ever lived trouble” – some experts have resorted to mythical match-making to see to it that Drs. “Steel Hammer and Iron Fist” have a real fight.
Having wiped out practically every single notable contender in today’s heavyweight division, we have to ask ourselves, how great are the Klitschkos, and how would they have done against the best in history that came before them? Most experts, when asked who is the finest heavyweight champion of all-time, answer Muhammad Ali; and not just because the man born Cassius Clay told anyone who would listen that he was “The Greatest.”
The praise is more than justified considering Ali’s amazing achievements, his incredible quality of opposition and his longevity – to say nothing of Ali’s sublime physical gifts. But would Ali have been able to deal with the Klitschko giants?
One writer, Gordon Marino of The Huffington Post, asked the man who trained Ali and served as his corner-man for over twenty years, Angelo Dundee (shortly before “Angie“ passed away). In search of an answer to whether or not Ali would have beaten the two brothers, Marino could of course have asked someone more impartial. Still, I asked Dundee the same thing a while back (also shortly before the incomparable boxing brain left us) and, as is the case with what he told Marino, what Angelo had to say proved mighty interesting.
Would Ali, all 6’3” and approx 212-pounds (in his peak years) been able to out-speed, out-smart and ultimately outclass the 6’7” and approx 244-pound Vitali? Dundee was asked this shortly before he died.
“Vitali is great – the best out there today, but Muhammad would have beaten him by just fighting the way he normally did,” Dundee told Marino. “Muhammad would have moved in and out, side to side, popped him with the jab and fast combinations. Vitali relies on the jab but Muhammad would have smothered his jab and hit him with his own – time and again.
“Vitali would never hit him with that right. He was too fast and would have easily seen the right coming. Muhammad’s opponents could never believe how quick his reflexes were. No disrespect, but Vitali would have been shocked. It would have been an ugly fight. Muhammad would have won an easy decision or maybe the ref would have stopped it as Vitali got banged up. Not to take anything away from Vitali. He is special. But it is just a matter of styles and Muhammad has the style to deal with Vitali.”
In terms of Ali’s incredible, untouchable hand speed, I totally agree with what Angelo says. But what about the sheer size of Vitali and also Wladimir? Would the 80” reach Ali have been able to succeed where so many have failed, and get inside the jab of the two giants? Interestingly, Vitali’s wingspan is measured at the same as Ali’s while Wladimir’s is recorded at 81.” I asked Dundee how Ali would have faired against the two modern day masters:
“Muhammad would’ve stopped both of them,” Dundee told me. “See, Ali looked great against big guys – Cleveland Williams I’ll give you as an example, a huge guy. Another guy, most people haven’t seen the fight, a guy named Duke Sabedong from early in Muhammad’s career (June of 1961, a points win for Ali). He was like 6’6.” Ali’s speed would have overcome both Klitschko brothers. They’re the best around today, but certain people beat certain people in boxing. You’ve seen it”
Vitali’s trainer, Fritz Zdunek, recently gave his take on a Vitali-Ali “dream fight,” and he said he felt his guy would win a close, tough decision. Dundee told Marino much the same thing, but with his guy winning the decision (or perhaps scoring a late TKO), whereas Angelo told me Ali would stop both brothers.
The debate will continue and a lot of how you feel will depend on nothing more than which fighter you admire the most. I’m a self -confessed Ali fan, and I do feel the dancing master would have had too much lightning for the thunder possessed by Wladimir and Vitali. But that’s just my opinion: I’m sure you have yours!