It was during an interview in August of last year that southpaw heavyweight contender Tony “The Tiger” Thompson first spoke with RingTV.com about the wear and tear in his right knee which he says hindered him during his initial clash with RING champion Wladimir Klitschko on July 12, 2008.
Thompson was stopped in the 11th round by Klitschko, but has since undergone two separate surgeries to repair a torn meniscus.
“I’ve had a bad right knee and needed surgery even before the Klitschko fight. So then, since the Klitschko fight, I’ve had two knee surgeries on it. So for me, it’s been about getting my health together,” said Thompson, a 40-year-old Washington, D.C. resident and a married father of seven.
“When I fought Klitschko, I wasn’t properly trained because I couldn’t do any running thanks to my knee. So it’s been three years since the loss, and I’m just now starting to feel good again. Now that my health has returned, I have no doubt that I can perform in a good way if I can get these people into the ring.”
When Thompson (36-2, 24 knockouts) steps into the squared circle opposite Klitschko (57-3, 50 KOs) for their EPIX-televised rematch on Saturday at Stade de Suisse in Berne, Switzerland, it will have been nearly four years to the day since they last met.
But this time, the 6-foot-5 Thompson says he will be more prepared, both physically and mentally, for the nearly 6-7 Klitschko, 36, who will be after his 16th straight win and his 12th knockout during that run.
Thompson has stopped each of his past five opponents and once vowed to “knock Klitschko out and take all his belts to the United States.”
“Everybody in my team knew that I had an injury in the first fight. It’s hard enough to fight Klitschko with two legs, but I really was on one leg…with a healthy body, we actually have a legitimate shot…[I will] fight his a–. You know, a lot of people, they sit back and they just accept the inevitable against Klitschko. That’s not what we are coming over to do,” said Thompson.
“This is going to be a fight, I can guarantee. I’m not going to say to you that I’m going to guarantee victory and all of that, and yes, I’m going to win. But one thing that I can guarantee is that I’m going to fight. I’m going to come forward. I’m going to press the fight. I’m going to take the lead in every round. So I’m not going to sit back and let him jab me and right hand me to death…I’m going to be the one to press the fight. I’m going to be the one throwing a lot of punches. I’m going to be the one landing the most punches.”
KLITSCHKO TO THOMPSON: STOP MAKING EXCUSES
Klitschko is coming off a fourth-round knockout of former cruiserweight titleholder Jean Marc Mormeck in March in defense of his the WBA’s “super” title as well as the IBF and WBO belts. Klitschko’s run also includes a unanimous decision over that dethroned ex-WBA titlewinner David Haye in July of last year.
Haye has claimed that a toe injury hampered him against Klitschko, who believes that Haye and Thompson, with the knee, are simply making excuses.
“So I will suggest to Tony Thompson to fill out an application and to tell in advance what kind of injuries he has this time so that we know in advance what is going on. Because in the first fight, he said, without press, ‘Wladimir, I’m going to beat you. I know what to do. I’m going to win this fight,” said Klitschko.
“And he was very self-confident. I mean, he was super-confident and there was nothing spoken about a knee injury. And I don’t want to mention the kind of injuries I have but however, whatever was there, I think he was very tough and he was giving me a good fight.”
Klitschko did acknowledge that, at one point, Thompson appeared to be favoring one of his legs in their fight.
“I have to say he was actually, in one of those rounds, he went down and he hurt his knee and, you know, he was limping,” said Klitschko. “And Joe Cortez, the referee, you know, let Tony recover, walk around and continue the fight.”
KLITSCHKO ACKNOWLEDGES THOMPSON’S DIFFICULT STYLE
Klitchko’s trainer, Manny Steward, once called Thompson “the most difficult opponent” for his fighter.
“We tried four different strategies in fight with him until we found the correct method,” Steward told BoxingScene.com. “Thompson was much tougher than Wladimir’s other opponents because of his size, his stance and his relaxation in battle. He was the only boxer where Wladimir’s jab didn’t work.”
Klitschko agreed with his Steward.
“Before the first fight, we always have a strategy before every fight. It was kind of difficult to find it out because he was not getting hit in all of the fights. That means that the man has great anticipation for punches coming and in this, it was a tough job for me to land punches during the first fight because of starting with covering up. He has long arms and I think maybe he finds a way,” said Klitschko.
“It’s like I compare him to a spider: Big body, small head and long arms which is perfect for boxing and which makes it super complicated to fight against a guy like that. He looked fat, but he anticipates. He anticipates when to punch and he anticipates when the punches are coming. Boxing people say speed kills. But what kills speed? Anticipation.”
THOMPSON IS A FAMILIAR FOE
Part of Thompson’s success may have been familiarity.
In preparation for Klitschko’s second-round knockout loss to Corrie Sanders in March of 2003, Thompson once served as a sparring partner. Thompson served in a similar role for Wladimir’s brother, WBC beltholder Vitali Klitschko (44-2, 40 KOs) before his ninth-round knockout of Juan Carlos Gomez in March of 2009.
Vitali Klitschko, who turns 41 on July 19, will pursue his 13th straight victory in defense of his crown against unbeaten Manuel Charr (21-0, 11 KOs) of Germany on Sept. 8 at Olympisky Sport Hall in Moscow.
“Tony knows what to do and he has been around a long time. He has been here at training camp in Austria and he was a sparring partner for Vitali’s fight against Juan Carlos Gomez. He my sparring partner a long time ago in 2003 in my fight with Corrie Sanders. I’ve fought Tony Thompson. So I think Tony knows [my style] pretty good and I believe that he’s super-motivated because that’s his last chance,” said Wladimir Klitschko.
“And it’s always a tough job to get the title, but it’s even tougher to defend the title or titles in this case. But I’m wanting it, I mean, the job that I’m going. I’m actually looking forward to the challenge. I’m really looking forward to the challenge because that’s the man that’s coming up to me. I don’t need to run and chase him in the ring. I’m definitely looking forward to this opportunity to fight Tony Thompson again.”
Photos / Emily Harney-Fightwireimages.com & Klitschko.com-KMG
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org