ODE TO THE KLITSCHKOS
Swedish reader of THE RING since the 1980s here, with some thoughts to get off my chest.
1. Just watching Wlad Klitschko obliterate Jean-Marc Mormeck, it is obvious that the one thing that hampers him the most is a lack of confidence against punchers (and for a reason, of course). This version of Wlad – no matter how pale Mormeck turned out to be, to no surprise – would have done pretty much the same to David Haye, had he just had the confidence to get in that square jungle and take command of the action. This Saturday night in northwest Germany, he simply looked awesome: fluent, sharp, a technical wonder for a man of his size, and with his head intent to go for the kill. Which brings me too…
2. Sure, the division is in a poor state, but the dominance of the Big K’s is not solely because of this. In Wlad’s case, he possesses what must be one of the best jabs in the history of heavyweight boxing. Man, that is one heavy piston slowly – or quickly, depending on your choice of words – transforming the opponents’ brains into a dizzy sponge, ultimately breaking them down. With that said, my point is: the so called crisis of the division is not so much a matter of a lack of talent (which, indeed, is a fact) or Wlad (or Vitaly) being boring, as to none of them being Americans. Think of Big W being a 240-pound badass named Big Willie Brady, born and bred in Bronx or whatever, beating the s__t out of all them Eastern Europeans. We are talking superstar frenzy here, Doug, mark my words. And when the K-Bros are gone, they’ll be sorely missed, ‘cos really, what is there to long for? Robert ‘Rigor Mortis’ Helenius vs Chris ‘Fat Cat’ Arreola hammering each other for the, eh, heavyweight championship of the world? Now, that would be the day when I tune in some good old soccer instead.
3. On another topic – the topic of narrow American perspectives – how come no one (or not so many) gives Andre Ward his due criticism for the ridiculous argument that Bute has to prove himself worthy of fighting him? With Bute selling out the mighty Bell Centre in ten minutes every outing, wouldn’t he be a natural target if he was as unworthy as Team Ward are implying? Had the roles been reversed, Bute would’ve been slammed – hard. Of course, Ward knows what all knowledgeable boxing people know (or should know, if they are knowledgeable): Bute is one heck of a fighter. I’ve been following him for years, streaming his fights in the middle of the night with matches between my eyelids, and this guy has the goods. Just look at his composure, his cat-like movement, his excellent balance and his ability to position himself at the right distance – not mentioning his execution-style body shots. I’m confident Froch is in over his head here, and that Ward will continue to come up with good reasons not to fight him – simply because he can sense that this guy is a) quality thru and thru and b) has the perfect style to beat him. Ironically, I think the Kelly Pavlik of old in his turn could have been the stylistic nightmare for Bute. What do you think, and do you think that Youngstown’s hero still can find the fire and form to bring it on the classy Romanian?
Well, that’s all for know. Looking forward to Lucian Bute-Carl Froch and, oh my, to Brandon Rios-Yuriorkis Gamboa. Won’t need any matches for my eyelids for that one. Be good, take care. – Johnny of Sweden
Thanks for emailing your thoughts Johnny. Rios-Gamboa and Bute-Froch are definitely worth staying up all night to watch. I’ll respond to your three points in order:
1. I agree that the current version of Wlad Klitschko, when he’s operating in full confidence, would have been a handful for any heavyweight champ in history. However, your observation that he freezes up against punchers – which I agree with 100 percent – is one of the reasons I hesitate to deem him “great” (as some fans do already). Klitschko did not look like a great heavyweight against Haye, and he should have. But he couldn’t pull the trigger against a guy he thought might be able to hurt him. Sorry folks, that’s not the stuff of greatness. It doesn’t mean he won’t eventually be enshrined in the hall of fame. Two of my favorite heavyweight hall of famers – Floyd Patterson and Ken Norton – also froze up when they fought punchers.
2. I agree 100 percent that if the Klitschko brothers were American they would be among the biggest pro athlete stars in the U.S. They would be in the top five of every U.S. boxing writers’ pound-for-pound list and the same scribes who rip ‘em for being boring or too dominant (while kissing Floyd Mayweather’s ass) would be comparing them to Muhammad Ali (or at least Larry Holmes in terms of technical brilliance). I disagree that they will be sorely missed when they are gone. They will be missed, even by some of the American boxing media, but if the likes of Helenius and Arreola fight each other and make for entertaining scraps on a consistent basis I think a lot of us (at least the hardcore fans) will be satisfied. There’s always room in boxing for a good heavyweight fight, even if most observers believe the participants will never advance beyond contender status. Hardcore fans like Yours Truly were excited about Evander Holyfield back when he was throwin’ down with Alex Steward and Michael Dokes on Showtime, even though pretty much every one dismissed his chances against the superstar of the sport, Mike Tyson, at the time. David Tua and Ike Ibeabuchi never lived up to their promise, but their 12-round battle is a modern classic. Derrick Jefferson and Mo Harris were practically fringe contenders who never beat a legit top-10 heavyweight, but their 1999 slugfest was a sheer delight to behold.
3. I don’t think Pavlik could have bested Bute on his best day. He’s a flat-footed stalker who has to be set to get off with his best shots and doesn’t apply enough pressure to cut the ring off on Bute and stress out the talented southpaw the way Libroda Andre did in their first bout. I agree that Ward gets a bit of break from the American boxing media, but I also think classy Oakland technician deserves a bit of a break after the Super Six tournament. If I were managing him I wouldn’t take him straight into a showdown with Bute. That matchup can marinate while Ward’s left hand heals completely and maybe gets in an easy RING title defense while future foe Bute raises his stature outside of Canada by defending his IBF belt against Froch in the English badasses hometown. Ward-Bute can be a bigger fight in late 2012 or in 2013. I know it’s frustrating to hear fightrs talk like managers or businessmen, but that’s the way it is these days, especially among undefeated American boxers who fight exclusively on premium cable. It’s the legacy of Roy Jones Jr. However, even though Jones co-promoted Ward early in the 2004 Olympic champ’s career, I think Ward’s mentality is closer to Bernard Hopkins than RJJ, which means he WILL challenge himself against everyone of note in his chosen division.
You forgot some top ten guys Klitschko beat when you listed his accomplishments in the Friday mailbag: Calvin Brock and Tony Thompson were both top ten in The Ring when Wlad beat them.
Fighters clearly ahead of him if he retired today: Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Ezzard Charles, Rocky Marciano, Larry Holmes, Gene Tunney, George Foreman, Jack Johnson, Lennox Lewis.
Fighters he is close with if he retired today: Mike Tyson, Joe Frazier (I think Wlad’s ahead though), Vitali Klitschko (I think Wlad is ahead), Evander Holyfield (HGH delivered to Evan Fields questions a lot of his accomplishments), Harry Wills.
Fighters Wlad is ahead of: Sam Langford (split many fights with McVea, Wills and a guy named Jeff Clark – most of his fights were well below heavyweight. Don’t let his boxrec ranking fool you), Floyd Patterson, Gene Tunney (only 3 heavyweight fights), Max Schmeling, Sonny Liston, Jersey Joe Walcott,
Thanks. – Matthew
Yes, Matthew, I’m aware that Brock and Thompson were rated by THE RING when Wladdy beat them. Brock was also undefeated when Klitschko fought him (as was Sam Peter, Sultan Ibragimov and Ruslan Chagaev). However, Brock’s 29-0 record had as much to do with the excellent matchmaking of Carl Moretti (then with Main Events) as it did the tap-dancing heavyweight’s ability. Brock was a modest talent at best. I consider him one of the biggest overachievers I covered in the 2000s (and I say that with all due respect). Thompson is a solid, crafty technician. I think Klitschko’s late stoppage of the sturdy southpaw is one of his better performances.
Anyway, here’s my question to you and anyone else who wants to put Klitschko among the top 10-15 heavyweights of all time: Who the hell did Brock or Thompson ever beat? Who did Peter or Ibragimov ever beat?
When I rank fighters of any weight class, especially on an all-time list, I do so primarily based on who they fought – not so much on stats (titles held, title defenses, records, etc.). And I just don’t go over who they fought; I look into who their opponents fought. That’s how I know if they fought quality opposition. And going on that criteria, I rank Joe Frazier ahead of both Klitschko brothers.
Smokin’ Joe had less fights (37) than Wladdy has knockouts (50), but he fought during the Golden Age of the heavyweight division (the ‘60s and ‘70s) and he took on the best of his era. The top-10 contenders Frazier faced include Oscar Bonavena, Jerry Quarry, Jimmy Ellis, George Foreman, and of course, Ali. Foreman and Ali are hall of famers (and most consider them to be all-time greats). Those are the only two fighters to beat Frazier. Look into who Bonavena, Quarry and Ellis fought. I guarantee you’ll see the names of men who are enshrined in the hall of fame.
I also rank Walcott and Holyfield ahead of Wladimir.
TODD THE TURD SPREADS HIS STINKY MESS
I’ve been meaning to write in for a while and I finally got round to it. Unfortunately this letter isn’t specifically for you: I was reading the Friday mailbag, enjoying it as I usually do, until I got to the letter from Todd (the Turd) Terminator.
I know he usually writes with passion but he severely missed the mark with one of his points: “Brits let the bottles and piss-cups fly whenever their guy loses in boxing.” To say that Brits do stuff like that any time a Brit loses (based on an isolated episode from 32 years ago) is madness! As for booing the American National Anthem, they did wrong there, but it wasn’t meant as an insult to the US but more to get under the skin of Mayweather. I hope that you realise it was one instance that got out of hand and most Brits were ashamed of it, and it was widely condemned in the media.
Should we say that all Americans are racist because of remarks by Bernard Hopkins and Floyd Mayweather (as well as xenophobic comments by Todd the Turd)? I don’t, but if you take isolated cases you could smear any demographic, whether it’s representative of the general population’s opinions or not.
Chisora: well he’s a moron (and technically Zimbabwean) and I’ve never liked him. Haye wasn’t much better, but it’s not just Brits who behave like animals (Mike Tyson, anyone?).
America is still seen as the home of boxing but can the Americans match the passion of the UK’s “intoxicated thugs” who fill arenas and football stadia? Take a look at the half dozen people who turned up to Hopkins vs Dawson compared with up to 5,000 people at the Prizefighter series (competed by journeymen and young prospects, rather than established names)!
British boxing isn’t perfect but I’m proud of our boys (and girls). Thankfully we “soccer-hooligan” Brits aren’t as judgmental as The Turd!
Rant over. Back to you for some reasoned opinion, Doug! – Ollie Hunt, Reading, UK (and proud!)
There’s no doubt in my mind that British boxing fans are more passionate (and generally more knowledgeable – at least in terms of the sport’s history) than American fans. UK fans are right up there with Mexican and Puerto Rican fans, in my opinion.
And, for the record, I did not agree with Todd’s take on the Brits (which is why I brought up Adrein Broner’s recent boorish behavior).
Also, I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that our friend Todd is not American. In fact (I hate to break this to you), I think the Triple T is British. (Todd, if I’m wrong, let me know).
I just cannot believe that neither Showtime nor HBO will televise the Bute v Froch fight. I mean wtf? This should be a good fight. I don’t get why the networks are passing on this. It’s as if they have hatched a plot to kill their own sport. If Bute takes care of Froch, as I suspect, they certainly haven’t done a thing to interest people in Ward v Bute. And if Froch wins, they certainly aren’t stirring up any interest in a rematch with Ward. Sorry Doug, I just don’t get it. – Stephen, Montreal
I don’t either. It could be that the network big wigs want to see Bute or Froch face an American fighter, but it’s not like Bute and Froch are unknowns to U.S. fight fans. Bute has fought on ESPN, Showtime and HBO. Froch’s last six bouts have been on Showtime.
It’s a terrific matchup, and I’m sure Ken Hershman and Stephen Espinoza are aware of that. Maybe Bute and Froch’s promoters wanted more money than HBO or Showtime were willing to shell out, or perhaps they wouldn’t budge on certain licensing issues. Or maybe the fight was made too late and the schedules/budgets of both premium cable giants are already locked in. I don’t know…
Maybe we’ll get lucky and ESPN or NBC Sports Net will step in. I think Bute-Froch deserves a basic cable-sized audience. But if it winds up on a small pay-per-view show here in the States, I’ll have no problem buying it.
JOAN GUZMAN, A LAZY YURIORKIS GAMBOA?
Luckily, Gamboa seems to have a professional focus Guzman lacked outside the ring. I’m really excited about the kid, it’s too bad Guzman seems to have ended up one of boxing’s many near misses. I’ll keep watching him, and I’m sure he’ll continue to dominate anything short of the superstar level, but I kind of wish he’d have amounted to more. Take care. – Todd S.
You nailed it on the head, Todd. Both Guzman and Gamboa are gifted with elite-level talent (which is backed up by extensive, decorated amateur careers), but the Cuban dynamo has the hunger that the Dominican star lacks.
I want to see Gamboa fight because he challenges himself. I can’t wait to see him take on ‘Bam Bam’ Rios at lightweight next month. I don’t care to see Guzman fight. I know he’s skilled and talented but all of that ability is wasted on guys like Jesus Pabon. I don’t care to watch mismatches. If Guzman wants fans to take him seriously, he’s got to take his career seriously, which means he needs to be working towards meaningful fights. He should get back into the ring asap, and he or his handlers need to be calling out 140-pound contenders and fringe contenders.
I’ll pay attention to Guzman if he is matched with Mike Alvarado, the Zab Judah-Vernon Paris winner (and call me crazy but I think Judah-Guzman would sell tickets in New York City), or heck, even the Kendall Holt-Tim Coleman winner. If he can beat these guys, he might get the attention of the 140-pound elite.
And if he can’t make 140 pounds, I want to see his handlers throw his lazy butt to the welterweight wolves: Mike Jones, Kell Brook, Devon Alexander, maybe even in Paul Malignaggi (again, I could be a little nutty, but I think Malignaggi-Guzman might create some excitement in my native NYC).
Email Doug Fischer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dougiefischer