By Tom Vosicky
06.08 - The Road to Mandalay led to the stoppage of Charles Shufford in 2:52 of the 6th round after 2 explosive knockdowns and then the final stoppage on the Summer Storm Card that co-featured Bones Adams vs. Paulie Ayala.
Everyone in the crowd dismissed this fight as a yawner, but there were 3 good knockdowns within only 6 rounds
.that to me was better than most Lennox Lewis fights. Shufford's survival style of boxing made it difficult for Klitschko to do more than he did without exposing himself to the kind of opportunity that we have recently seen Hassim Rahman take advantage of.
Sitting ringside with the many other sports writers and analysts there was a buzz going around about how long it would take the Steel Hammer Vladimir Klitschko to stretch the relatively unknown Las Vegan Charles Shufford. I had predicted 4 rounds on the show just hours earlier, and then changed my mind professing Wlad's power and speed would overcome Shufford in two.
As Shufford entered the ring to "Get Your Freak On" with rapper/actor Will Smith at his side I thought
.this seems to be his 15 minutes of fame, his whole family was with him and sat ringside to view the spectacle. I thought to myself, "Either he will seize the opportunity now and shock us all, or be forgotten and banished to an even harder road to the top."
Shufford may be a dead ringer for a young George Forman as he just finished playing him in a feature film, but that the physical resemblance is where the likeness ends. I along with a few other people commented that Shufford vs. Will Smith might have made for a more competitive bout.
Klitschko came out to an ominous piece of music that sounded like a cold-war Russian march eerily reminiscent to the Rocky IV entrance of Ivan Drago in the final fight scene. His face as solid as stone and his eyes never leaving Shufford's it was obvious that Klitschko had the worst intentions for the evening.
As both men met in the center of the ring I was awed by Klitschko's immediate dominance over his opponent. If Shufford had a tail it would have been between his legs. I have only seen an effect like this in Tyson's early days. It seemed to me like we just dropped the mouse into the snake pit.
After a yawner of a first round where both men were trying to gauge each other, the second round began. This was my moment
I knew in my heart of hearts that Shufford would feel the power and speed and go down. And he did. Klitschko caught him with a right hand that looked more like a striking cobra and the force blasted Shufford off his feet and into the ropes like crash test dummy. Shufford's eyes were as big as saucers as he sat on the canvas. He gathered himself up and showed signs of courage and heart as he got up after a few seconds and stood for his eight count. He was able to shake off the "fistquake" and continue finishing round two. His confidence was shaken though and this would set the tone for his very careful demeanor during the rest of the conflict.
Shufford went down again in the third round to just about the same type of attack that dropped him in the second (not learning his lesson obviously). At this point it was clear the only thoughts in his head were those of surviving this confrontation without suffering too many more shots like that.
The unforgiving crowd thirsty for blood and risky tactics by Klitschko seemed bored and tired with the fight until about 2:30 into the 6th round when Shufford tried to get inside Klitschko's guard. Klitschko proved that his left was just as lethal and quick as his right as he delivered a left hook that finished off Shufford. Shufford wobbled to his feet barely beating the count and as he stomped post-holes into a neutral corner the Referee stopped the fight.
During the Adams vs. Ayala fight the Top Rank people passed us quote sheets from both fighters, the first sheet was a quote from Shufford and it simply stated, "I screwed up. He just caught me. I'll be back." After a good laugh at the clarity and brevity of the statement Top Rank delivered an addendum to the first quote from Shufford that added, "I screwed up. He just caught me. I'll be back. He's strong and he hits hard. He dropped me, but I kept getting back up. I didn't see the shots that dropped me."
Had Shufford been able to SEE the shots that dropped him, maybe he would have been able to dodge them and been a more effective opponent. I had a chance to talk to Wlad right after the fight and he said that while he would have liked to provide the crowd with a more boisterous performance, he has to take each opponent for their strengths and weakness' and adjust his strategy accordingly. He went on to say that Shufford was a very careful and cautious fighter not wanting to make any mistakes and this caused him to limit his attacks to jabs, hooks and outside angles.
Overall I give the big Ukrainian a B+ in his performance. I would have liked to see him be more aggressive against a clearly outclassed boxer. I can only hope that had this opponent been Mike Tyson or Lennox Lewis that the strategy would have changed accordingly. Klitschko at 25 has an extremely bright future with his rare mixture of size, speed and power and should be taken seriously. Bob Arum and Top Rank Promotions are planning to pit the mighty Wlad against more stalwart opponents in the near future, rest assured. I asked Bob Arum after the fight who his next opponent would be and he mentioned Lance Whitaker. I added that I'd like to see him take on Jameel McCline as well and he said that Jameel's name was on the wish list as well. "Wlad isn't ducking anybody", said Arum. "He is currently the only heavyweight in the division that will fight anybody without any reservations or hesitation."
To all you fans out there that hate
Wlad for one reason or another I have this to say
to you. "Get used to him, because he is going
to make a HUGE noise in the heavyweight division
HATING and start appreciating the fresh new talent
that is being injected into the heavyweight division"
Webmaster of Disaster
Klitschko-Shufford Press Conference Quotes
03.08 - Vladimir Klitschko: "It's a great and important event for me when I defend my title in Las Vegas because it's the Mecca of boxing. I understand that many people here look critical on European boxers. But I will convince them all once again with my performance. This time the preparations were extremely torturous, I prepared for one month at the gym of Top Rank in Las Vegas. They had no air condition there and the temperatures were extremely high. That's why for the first time by order of my trainers I made no sparring over full 12 rounds."
Bob Arum: "Wladimir Klitschko is an outstanding personality and a great boxer. Unlike other 6 foot 7 giants Wladimir also has great skills and looks back on an outstanding amateur career that saw him win an Olympic gold medal. The Klitschkos are going to change the face of boxing in this country forever. I remember last year when I was looking for an opponent of Lamon Brewster, who was one of my promising up and coming heavyweights. We accepted Charles Shufford as opponent and it happened that my man was beaten by him. For some reason when we Americans talk about world title fights we mostly mean WBC, WBA and IBF, but it is very possible that the currently best heavyweight in the world has the title of the WBO"
Charles Shufford: "I'm glad the fight is here in Las Vegas, I'm excited and I'm ready to win. I will bring back the title to the United States. Everything will be good after the fight on Saturday."