If Not This, Then What?

26.04.04 – by Chris Acosta: The list of complaints about the heavyweight division ranges from the lack of depth to absence of marquee names to John Ruiz. Now I can understand that last one. Ruiz, while effective, makes those noontime Department Of Motor Vehicles lines not seem so bad. Chris Byrd has mastered the art of making fighters miss but has forgot the second half of the “counterpunchers credo”, making them pay. This doesn’t make for compelling fights. Lamon Brewsters victory over Wladimir Klitschko leaves just as many questions about the new WBO belt holder as it did the vanquished. Lamon seems a nice enough guy and boy is he durable, but at no point in the bout did he appear the teeth- rattling puncher that he was promoted as. So last night. There were questions to be answered in this time of despair, questions about who would navigate us through the treacherously murky waters of the boring strait, otherwise known as the heavyweight division.

Would it be “Repeat or Revenge” as the poster had procalaimed? Would we be saved by one half of a great human interest story who was out to save the family name or a guy who had been about as active as the shower nozzle in a hippies bathroom? All the questions were valid and to a point, somewhat annoying. Yes boxing needs an ID card, someone who the general fan can see and immediately recognize as the champion. It’s not fair to the lighter weights but in all truth, the heavyweight division is like the cleavage on a woman that makes people want to see more (And I won’t be getting anywhere near my girlfriends’ cleavage for making that comment). When the big boys are doing it right, it opens up the publics imagination to take a deeper look. But through all the hoopla surrounding just where this division is and trying to decide whether to listen to professional cynics like Ron Borges and Michael Katz or making up our own minds, something terrific ha! ppened: we got a great fight.

Is Vitali Klitschko the next great champion? Who cares. Was Corrie Sanders really intent on winning or looking ahead to relaxing days on the putting green? Who cares. I read through a number of websites this morning to read the post fight reaction and all I learned was that we were finding reasons to discredit the bout rather than see it for the gutty and exciting performance that it was from both men. Klitschko and Corrie Sanders fought with respect for their sport, something we complain we don’t see enough of. The South African had Vitali visibly shaken on a few occasions and right away you could sense that there was a very real possibility that those fast hands and southpaw style would prove to be too much for the elder Ukrainian as well. But Klitschko has somehow managed to do create a method to his supposed proportionally challenged madness. He began to use his jab, a punch that orthodox fighters seem to think is illegal against left-! handers, and showed some nice angles. I didn’t say the angles were pretty mind you, but they were enough to throw Sanders off his game. Each man showed a tough chin. Sanders punches appeared to be harder while Klitschko looking more accurate. There were more than just a few fierce exchanges that brought the small audience in my apartment to their feet, a group of folks who were only over to watch an NBA playoff game and not the linear title fight they didn’t even know was scheduled.
And yet, so few of you seem satisfied.

A week ago, we saw one of the most boring title fights in history and there were less gripes. Perhaps we’ve come to expect this from Ruiz so there was really no reason to moan. This time however, we got intensity, drama, a conclusive ending – all the things we’d ever want in a major title fight- and still there seems to be this mass apathy towards the combatants.

The way I see it, boxing is going through a period of evolution with the influx of European boxers at the elite level. Evolution is a painful process. With boxing as one of its countless microcosms, one can only assume that a sport once so dominated by Americans is fighting its own, inner evolution. Like it or not, the US may not be the standard for heavyweight boxing anymore.

Whether this has to do with the continually waning interest in our amatuer program or a superior economy to that of many of the countries that make up the Eastern European Socialist Regime (and thus producing hungrier fighters with less options), who knows? All we have is what’s in front of us now but as long as it’s as pretty a scrap as last nights’, I won’t be complaining.