By Vivek Wallace: In yesterday’s ‘Left-Hook Lounge’, there was considerable attention given to the Arreola/Klitschko fight. Of the many questions addressed in the mailbag, the one that seemed to yield the most attention was the initial one where the topic of size in today’s heavyweight division was addressed. Never one to ignore the thoughts or critiques of my readers, I clearly heard them out, and based on many strong arguments posted, I felt a need to re-address this topic in a more dissected fashion. Before I address those critical elements forwarded to me, I would like to drop a quick disclosure:
It’s my opinion now, and has been for quite some time that Vitali Klitschko is by far the best (and arguably most talented) heavyweight in the division today, bar none, to include his brother, Wladimir.. Anyone who has ever read my past work knows full well that I have touted Vitali-K as the premiere heavyweight of this era in the past, so to claim otherwise is only a conclusion one could reach without doing proper research. The position I have on this topic was never intended to take away from fighters like Vitali and Valuev, but rather open a meaningful dialogue in the minds of those fight fans who consistently say that size mattered in the Mayweather/Marquez showdown, yet don’t feel that some heavyweights have the right to this same argument. As I pointed out last week, heavyweights routinely have this obstacle as they find themselves in a division that gives them no other choice than to be skilled enough to go up in weight and defeat an opponent who may be significantly larger, outlined by the fact that the division starts at 200lbs and literally NEVER ENDS. Considering such a wide gap in size equality which in some cases extend across the board (height, reach, weight, etc.), the point I attempted to convey is that if such an argument about size is valid, why has there never been a true movement to initiate a super-heavyweight division? Clearly, this scenario opens room for an entry point to make that ‘size’ argument, yet it never has in the past. The top 3 arguments I’d like to address that were sent to me are as follows:
Critical Argument #1: Americans complain about the state of the HW division because they can’t compete and don’t have any (Champs)
(My Perspective): I would openly concede that there’s a hint of truth to this argument overall, but it’s a partial truth at best. One truth that holds the key to this entire scenario is that American heavyweights have failed themselves miserably by not taking the sport seriously. Every last American heavyweight champion in recent years has either eaten himself out of a career, drank himself out of a career, drugged himself out of a career, or jailed himself out of one. The lone exceptions over the past 20 plus years were Foreman, Byrd, and Holyfield, neither in which are young or able enough to compete on that level today. So, I think the best way to address the fact that we (Americans) no longer have great heavyweights is by identifying those things as the core (and much bigger) issues, but certainly not inferiority. Another great point of contention is that most American men that size (6-6 and taller) would rather play basketball or American football, where they have a team to rely on, rather than get punched at for less money and fewer endorsements. Those two reasons somewhat explain why the division here at home isn’t such a buzz topic, but I agree, that shouldn’t take away from these guys who do have the ability to sell out stadiums in their country. Getting back to the size debate, what people need to realize is that although there has been some big heavyweights in the past, the world has just been introduced to the superbly skilled and athletic type heavyweights we see today, who stand 6-6 and taller, yet have the genetic makeup of a world-class level athlete. The ones that were this size before were elephant-slow, and far less conditioned. (And I would employ anyone to give me an example of a 6-6 or taller boxer from past or current (aside from the K-Bros) who was as athletic and skilled). If that trend continues, there will clearly be a need for a super-heavyweight division if the “size” argument is believed to be true. Lennox Lewis and a few others were right there at 6-5, but a guy like Vitali who stands at 6-8 and is able to take part in activities like soccer, snow boarding, and kick boxing, categorically, there’s something totally rare about that kind of athlete and you have to realize them as a very special talent unlike many if anything else out there in high volume.
Critical Argument #2: Some say that men above 200lbs have the ability to withstand far more power than a smaller man, which is why the HW division allows such a wide weight gap.
(My Perspective): For everyone who presents this argument, my response would be that it all comes down to one thing. Some men can take it (the pain and power) while some men can’t. Baldomir is one example of a fighter who has proven to take any shot an opponent can land on him and never back down. Mayorga, Glen Johnson, Margarito, Clottey, and a few others have also proven to have high thresh-holds for pain. Either way, if a fighter has the skills, it won’t always matter because he’s never feeling that power, anyhow. Guys like Whitaker, Hopkins, Toney, and Calderon come to mind immediately here. Case in point, there are heavyweights who can withstand a punishment, just like there are men smaller than heavyweights who have that high thresh-hold for withstanding pain. A man of any size can take a punishment if he’s wired that way, but only a man of true skills can get the “W” against a much bigger man if he isn’t (wired to take that punishment). In the case of Marquez and Arreola, they had the high thresh-hold for pain to withstand the assault, yet they didn’t have the level of skills to overcome the opponents. Mayweather and Vitlai-K have both been viewed as boring to watch, and less than entertaining. Truth be known, perhaps maybe they’re just so good to the point where it only seems that way because few have been able to test them. That would be the most logical explanation here, but unfortunately, as we learned, it’s only skills when one man gets the uncontested results, and it’s viewed as size when the other does. There lies part of my problem.
Critical Argument #3: The Klitschko’s don’t get their just due in the U.S. because they “aren’t American”.
(My Perspective): I can’t speak for everyone, but anyone blind enough to make such a statement about me has truly never followed my work. For those that forgot, I’m the same guy that took comparable heat less than a year ago for saying that I thought Joe Calzaghe (from the U.K.) was the “Fighter of the Year” after defeating legends Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones jr. on their turf, rather than joining the Pacquiao faithful who felt wins over a less-than-stellar David Diaz (who wasn’t even the undisputed champ in the division), and a weight depleted Oscar De La Hoya should have given him the nod. Every word I’ve ever spoken in this sport has involved a certain level of integrity, simply for the fact that I respect the sport and realize that each of these men sacrifice more than each of us know for the sake of entertaining us, so there’s no way in hell I would ever slight any last one of them.
So, once again, we have to recognize the true ability of these guys as modern day men who walk at the head of the class, but if they are credited for their skills despite the size advantages they share over most, is it fair to question the pure skill level of a man whose occasional size advantage has NEVER matched the one they typically hold? Pacquiao overcame ODH…Floyd overcame Corrales (RIP)…Vitali overcame Arreola, and Floyd overcame Marquez. In that four-part equation, some bigger men defeated the smaller men and some smaller men defeated the bigger man, but at the end of the day, in all of those matches, IT WAS THE MORE SKILLED MAN WHO WON. Look at those fights, as well as history, and realize that although we can debate many topics, that one truth is indisputable!
On that note, I energize the debate, but rest my case!
*Vivek Wallace can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, Youtube (VIVEK1251), Twitter (VIVEK747), Facebook, Myspace, and www.vivekwallace.com*