As one of the final chapters of the Klitschko Era closed, protagonists in the amorphous heavyweight division made moves this weekend to pick up the pieces once the two-headed family monarchy is done.
The elder Klitschko, Vitali (45-2, 41 knockouts), of Kiev, Ukraine, retained his WBC heavyweight title by dominating the Germany-based Manuel Charr (21-1, 11 KOs), dropping him in the second round before scoring a TKO stoppage due to a bad cut at 2:10 of the fourth. Afterwards, the 41-year-old Klitschko acknowledged the inevitability that he won’t be a force in the division some day.
‘I’m 41 and I’m still boxing, but one cannot trick nature — I will have to hang my gloves on a nail soon,” Klitschko told the Associated Press. Vitali has remained undefeated since his own cut prematurely ended a spirited challenge of then-heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis in 2003. With few options remaining, only a one-and-done payday with British former heavyweight titleholder David Haye seems to be a worthy alternative to retirement.
Vitali’s younger brother Wladimir (58-3, 51 KOs) holds THE RING, WBA, WBO and IBF titles and faces another unbeaten but unproven big man in Mariusz Wach in his next assignment. But at 36 and faced with the same lack of compelling matchups to stir up public interest in the Western Hemisphere, it may be only a short time before we see a heavyweight division without a Klitschko.
Earlier that night on the same card at the Olimpiyskiy in Moscow, Russia, a 31-year-old upstart named Magomed Abdusalamov (16-0, 16 KOs) overcame his first brush with adversity as he climbed off the canvas in the first round to knock out 42-year-old American gatekeeper Jameel McCline (41-13-3, 24 KOs) at 1:57 of the second.
Abdusalamov, who is from the other side of Russia in Makhachkala on the Caspian Sea, was dropped midway through the first by a right hand from the 6-foot-6, 264-pound McCline. The southpaw Abdusalamov rose quickly and commenced to being the aggressor, earning McCline’s respect with a series of overhand lefts that immediately halted the momentum of the four-time heavyweight title challenger from West Palm Beach, Fla.
Abdusalamov continued to apply pressure in the second round, forcing a pace that was uncomfortable for the larger, fatigue-prone McCline. Near the middle of the round, McCline seemed to slip and twist his right knee. Though a punch didn’t appear to land, referee Daniel Van de Wiele applied a count, reaching ten before McCline could rise.
Though crude and undersized (6-foot-3 and 230 pounds is considered small in the Klitschko era), Abdusalamov has shown an ability to overcome technically superior boxers, like in his previous bout against the larger Maurice Byarm, whom he also knocked out in two. Abdusalamov trains in the same Oxnard, Calif. camp as RING middleweight champion Sergio Martinez and rising featherweight prospect Javier Fortuna, and may prove to be a force in the future.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, a former Vitali foe and the man Freddie Roach proclaims to be the best young American heavyweight won easy bouts against overmatched opponents at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Polish favorite Tomasz Adamek (47-2, 29 KOs) of Kearny, N.J., and Philadelphian Bryant Jennings (15-0, 7 KOs) easily dispatched Travis Walker (39-8-1, 31 KOs), of Jacksonville, Fla., in five rounds and Youngstown, Ohio, native Chris Koval (25-10, 18 KOs) in 35 seconds, respectively.
Adamek, who has held titles at light heavyweight and cruiserweight before losing one-sidedly to Vitali Klitschko by TKO last September, fought Walker (who had just upset the world-rated Kali Meehan in his previous bout) for the number two rating in the IBF. Adamek closed the show by landing a quick four-punch combination that had Walker going backwards and followed it up with a flurry that ended the bout at the 1:08 mark.
Why Jennings fought Koval is a little more complicated. Koval’s record looks respectable on paper, that is until his competition is examined further. Koval has lost 7 of his last eight bouts, including a four round split decision to a fighter with a 4-6 record less than a year ago. The one victory was a four-round majority decision against a fighter with a 5-15 record just prior to that.
Jennings, with a hint of disdain in his eyes, quickly dropped Koval with an overhand right-left hook combo that sent the taller Koval tumbling awkwardly to the floor. Koval rose quickly, but Jennings rushed across the ring with a three-punch flurry that put Koval back on the floor. Jennings’ lack of an over-the-top celebration afterwards was appropriate commentary for what he thought of the opposition.
Jennings, who had just 17 amateur bouts after picking up the sport just three years ago at age 24, is still learning on the job despite holding wins over the previously unbeaten Maurice Byarm and former titleholder Sergei Liakhovich.
If nothing else, Jennings’ knockout broke Tye Fields’ record of fastest destruction of Koval by 8 seconds.
Photo / Scott Heavey-Gettyimages
Photo / Lars Baron-Bongarts/Gettyimages
Photo / Chris Cozzone-Fightwireimages
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.
You can vote for Songalia in the Outstanding Filipino Americans of NY Awards media/publishing category via Facebook: http://bit.ly/VOTE4RYAN