Love them or hate them the Klitschko’s demand respect. With the rumours surrounding Vitali’s inevitable exit to pursue his political ambitions in the Ukraine let’s forget the critics and examine why they have ruled the Heavyweight division so consistently since Lewis’s retirement. Comparisons will inevitably be made at how these two brothers would fare in a different heavyweight era, but the fact of the matter remains these guys remain at the top of their game for a reason, or rather reasons.
Despite the obvious physical attributes the Klitschkos bring to the ring, what really sets them apart from other contenders is there in fight intelligence and to a greater degree there out of ring intelligence. First of all let’s take a brief look at their fight strategies. It’s been well documented by many commentators and observers that the Klitschkos like to stay behind that ram rod like jab. They are comfortable at range, they have control and can dictate the pace.
More importantly it nullifies there opponents work which is highly frustrating for any fighter. In the majority of Klitschkos fights they like to put their opponents either on the back-foot or in defensive mode. If a fight is going to go the distance the Klitschkos have it in the bag as soon as this happens as the judges will see the Klitschkos as the natural aggressors throwing scoring and hurtful shots at will.
The opponent tends to have all sorts of problems getting closer enough to a Klitschko to administer pressure no matter what they said they were going to do at the pre-match press conference. Pressure and fighting at close range are the perfect strategies to beat the Klitschko’s but so hard to deploy in the ring. But as a fan, not a fighter, this is easy to say, I’m not in the ring getting hit by 17 stone plus of lean, mean muscle. From a fight fans point of view the Klitschko game plan may not make for the most entertaining of viewing BUT, and it’s a big but, it demands respect from any contender who feels the weight of punch which I can only imagine is powerful!
To me it looks painfully obvious, get under the jab, or close the range by smothering the Klitschkos work. But I would be willing to bet that any previous opponent who has been in with them would concede that to get past that offensive weapon is near on impossible. Let’s look at the Hay fight a while back now. Haye a naturally aggressive fighter, with both speed and accuracy was made to look very ordinary by a near perfect game plan executed by Wladimir to take away Hayes main threats; that were speed and power. How did he do this? Rather simple, Wladimir made Haye work off his backfoot by walking him down which totally took Hayes ability to shift his body weight forward to land power shots, despite the toe claim. He was backed up most of the night, only Hayes lateral movement kept him away from been pinned against the ropes. The only chance Haye did have to land a power shot would have been to lunge forward and risk walking onto the Klitschko jab which would have been highly likely to happen and resulting in a knockout. Hayes only option was to keep on the move, which may have worked with a less skilled boxer like Valuev but with Wladimir’s ring craft and accurate punching it was always going to result in a dominant point’s victory.
An often overlooked part of the Klitschkos game plan is before the fight even takes place. It’s possibly more important than any other part of their game plan. Boxing history shows us that pre -fight build up and trying to get a mental edge over an opponent is as part of the game as the actual fight. Ali did it in an obvious fashion, outspoken, taunting opponents and being flash. But the Klitschko craft is much more subtle and discreet than that but equally as effective at gaining a competitive edge. Both Brothers are excellent P.R operators, working the camera, portraying the image and exemplifying pillars of the sport. In contrast look at how they’re opponents are made to look. Chisora and Haye looked thuggish in comparison. At the public weigh in’s for these fights they both stirred the interest in the fight without the Klitschkos moving a muscle, but for all the wrong reasons. Look how controlled and choreographed the Klitschkos are in front of the camera whilst they’re opponents do the promotional work for them. It’s an easy trap laid everytime and with characters like Haye and Chisora it’s perfect. I am sure both brothers are nice guys, but they are clever, they come as a partnership and this is what I believe makes the Klitschko formula near on unbeatable in today’s era of heavyweight boxing . This is no criticism just a subjective observation.
The Klitschkos also have the advantage of being in the other brothers corner when they fight giving them privilege’s like observing their opponents hands been wrapped. All legitimate and reasonable actions from a fans point of view but to an opponent unbelievably frustrating. Imagine as a fighter having the opponent’s brother in your changing room watching your every move, observing your pre fight preparation and disrupting it at every opportunity. Before a fight a boxer must be focused and the preparations just before the ring walk are a vital part of that boxer to follow a rehearsed routine before he sees his opponent and getting into fighting mode. With a Klitschko fight those preparations are unsettled by delaying tactics, claims of incorrect wrapping of the hands, the list goes on, basically anything to get under a fighters skin and exert control. It is all part of the game, the control and the power – it’s the Klitschko formula . It’s brilliant and a proven strategy. It frustrates opponents so much they tend to lash out, just look at Chisora in 2012. Do I agree with him spitting in Wladamir’s face, hell no. But, and this is not excusing it in anyway, shape or form, Chisora was clearly so annoyed at how powerless he felt before the fight that it was his reaction, however wrong. To support my point look at the camera that accidentally caught Vitali in the lense as Haye walked away from Chisora after there scuffle in Munich 2012. Look at his expression and action, almost praising Haye for his part in the fiasco. But on camera in the interviews a very different reaction came from the Klitschkos, denouncing the whole event as a disgrace (which it was). It is just a very clever strategy that starts pre-fight, continues with a methodical and clinical performance in the ring (9 times out of 10), and then continues after the fight, all to make sure they are portrayed in the right light and come out of the fight as the victor in the good verse bad battle that they have orchestrated.
Recent fights demonstrate the same problems opponents face, how to get inside a Klitschko jab. But whoever they face they have an array of pre – fight tactics to employ and then to seal the victory a safety first style that is highly effective. That I respect and I feel only when they both eventually bail out of the sport will we all realize how dominant and effective they were. So as fighters I respect them, but there’s much more they should be credited for which include business acumen, stealth frustration tactics deployed onto opponents and that all important loss of control that an opponent feels before the fight from all the pre-fight demands, stipulations and contractual arrangements imposed on them. Brilliant. In truth the fights half won before a shot is thrown. All hail the Klitschkos.