On Saturday, November 28, WBA WBO, IBF and IBO heavyweight champion Wladimir “Dr. Steelhammer” Klitschko (64-0-3, 53 KOs) faces challenger Tyson Fury (24-0-0, 18 knockouts) in the ESPRIT arena, Düsseldorf, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany, for the heavyweight championship title. For veteran and betting favorite Wladimir Klitschko, the 6’6”, .245 lb. thirty-nine year old Ukrainian born in Kazakhstan (currently married to American actress Hayden Panettiere), a win in this bout means his twenty-fourth successful title defense (including his initial reign as a WBO champion), second only behind Joe Louis (twenty-five successful title defenses) and ahead of Larry Holmes (twenty) and Muhammad Ali (nineteen). Dr. Steelhammer is tied with Joe Louis as for most heavyweight title fights ever (twenty-seven).
Wladimir and older (forty-four) retired brother Vitali “Dr. Ironfist” Klitschko (6’7”, 248 lb. 45-0-2, 41 KOs) have dominated the premier boxing division over the past decade. Meanwhile, the Manchester, England native Fury, twenty-seven years of age, has given the Brits hope for a resurrection of heavyweight great Lennox Lewis, the last unified British heavyweight champion who retired in 2004 (a year after defeating Wlad’s brother Vitali in one of the most epic, brutal battles the division has ever witnessed). Fury is undefeated, strong and displays a charismatic and sharp wit outside the ring. Fury recognizes that boxing is entertainment and reckons to prove it to the masses.
Fury’s style of fighting bears striking similarities to that of Wladimir Klitschko. Fury’s most recent bouts–against Christian Hammer, Dereck Chisora and Steve Cunningham–showed a powerful, quick and skilled boxer with a hard punch. Like Wlad, Fury has utilized his height (6’9”) and weight (260 lbs. in his last match) to wear down his opponents by clutching and hanging all over them. This strategy has allowed both fighters to tire and ultimately knock out their opponents in the late rounds. And like Klitschko, the Englishman’s recent bouts have alternated between thrilling and monotonous. Both fighters have shown the intestinal fortitude to rise from being knocked down to win against tough opponents (Fury kayoed Cunningham after being dropped hard by the Yank, while Klitschko defeated Samuel “The Nigerian Nightmare” after hitting the canvas three times).
Despite the similarities between the two super-heavyweight brawlers, Klitschko’s superior experience and skill portend defeat for the younger Manchester challenger. This is not the first time Klitschko has faced an über-confident challenger with skills and beaten them soundly. Most of Dr. Steelhammer’s opponents talk a big game, then quickly learn that what George Foreman stated during Klitschko’s bout against Sam Peter–“show me a tall man with a good jab, and I’ll show you a hard man to beat”–is quite true. No fighter in the past ten years has cracked the code of how to get past Klitschko’s guard and escape the best jab in the division, not to mention the searing left hook and straight right hand that usually result in knockouts for the Ukrainian star.
Klitschko’s last loss was in 2004 to Lamon Brewster, a heavyweight with a cast-iron chin and slugging power. Klitschko avenged that TKO loss three years later by forcing the tough Brewster to quit on his stool. Fury has more courage then his fellow countryman David “The Hayemaker” Haye (see, “David Haye: All Bravado, No Bottle, 2.0” ), but his perseverance isn’t strong enough to overcome Klitschko’s superior boxing skills and conditioning. If Fury doesn’t catch Klitschko early, don’t expect Fury’s strategy of wearing down his smaller opponent until the late rounds to work against the better template.