When Wladimir Klitschko defends his heavyweight championship against Jean-Marc Mormeck on Saturday night, most boxing insiders and fans agree that it is likely to be an easy night of work.
It might be tougher for him to defend his opponent beforehand than to retain his belt.
Mormeck, a former titleholder at cruiserweight, gives up nearly eight inches in height, and plenty in natural size as a man who has spent the better part of his career below 200 pounds. One only needs to look to the recent past to see the fate of blown-up cruiserweights (or even small heavyweights) against Klitschko. David Haye and Eddie Chambers didn’t exactly fare so well.
The champion has a different spin on it, though.
“Mormeck is one of the most experienced fighters I have ever faced. He has had many world title fights, has very good technique, can take a punch and is very intelligent inside the ring,” Klitschko told RingTV.com. “I will take any chance to knock him out.”
His desired result is surely the most likely one, but he can hardly be blamed for the quality of his opponent. “Dr. Steelhammer” has not lost since April of 2004, a TKO loss to Lamon Brewster. Since then, he has 14 consecutive victories—including one over Brewster—in overwhelmingly dominant fashion. As THE RING heavyweight champion, Klitschko (56-3, 49 knockouts) can have his pick of the litter, but he sits in an enviable (or unenviable) position of having nobody left to fight.
For all his shortcomings, Mormeck (36-4, 22 KOs) was the next available challenger. Other foes deemed more difficult, such as Alexander Povetkin, did not express interest in facing the hulking Ukrainian.
Klitschko’s lauding of Mormeck’s viability as an adversary can’t be held against him either. For one, his company, K2 Promotions, is promoting the event. Expecting business masochism would be absurd. But his respectful treatment of the man he will be facing is a breath of fresh air after the debacle he was involved in before and after his brother Vitali’s recent victory over Dereck Chisora.
Chisora spit in the face of Wladimir, who works the corner of his brother during his outings as well, prior to causing a ruckus at the post-fight press conference with Haye.
“I give respect to Chisora as a boxer, but as a human being? Not at all,” said Klitschko. “As a sportsman you have to be a role model for the youth in the world and behave in a proper and respectful way. Behavior like he showed in Munich is never to be tolerated and I hope that the boxing organizations will find appropriate consequences for Chisora.”
While Wladimir and Vitali are humongous stars in Europe and remain very recognizable worldwide, the consensus among the North American audience is that the brothers aren’t exciting. It would seem that shattering bottles or uttering death threats is too much, but shaking hands and posing for photos in front of local monuments is not enough.
The criticism carries over inside the ring also, where the common complaint is that the Klitschkos are too careful and tedious.
Wladimir sees a fundamental flaw in that argument.
“Boxing is not only about throwing punches but also about not getting hit. My brother and myself place great emphasis on the defense but also have good punching power. I believe our knock out percentages prove that,” said Klitschko, who has polished off 83 percent of his opponents inside the bell.
Assuming his statistics improve over the weekend, Wladimir, 35, will be back in the familiar position of choosing a challenger, worthy or otherwise. When asked about names like Povetkin, Tyson Fury and Chris Arreola, he refuses to even address them, simply stating “the IBF No. 1, Tony Thompson, is my official challenger for my next defense.”
Even though he seems to have plateaued, with the list of boxers who could feasibly win two rounds against him short or non-existent, he’s relishing his rule over the division, and has no plans of walking away. With a PhD in sports science, he wants to use his doctoral knowledge to “help people achieve their personal goals” once his career is over. A recent documentary film on he and his brother, Klitschko, was released to critical acclaim.
Despite the success in the fitness industry and now on the big screen, Wladimir prefers the script he’s living out right now, however predictable it might be.
“Right now I am playing the role of the heavyweight champion of the world. I like it very much and hope to be able to do it for a few more years,” said Klitschko.
Photos / Emily Harney-Fightwireimages.com & Klitschko.com-KMG
Corey Erdman is also the host of RingTV Radio. Follow him on Twitter @corey_erdman