When heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko made his way to the ring Saturday in front of about 35,000 frenzied fans at the SC Olimpiyskiy Arena in Moscow, I felt a sudden, terrifying surge of adrenaline. You know… the kind you feel when someone yells “Boo!” and you didn’t know they were there.
I saw Jonathan Banks.
And he didn’t have to say anything to scare the hell out of me either. See, the last time I saw Banks; he was busy robbing us out of any action, at all, against Seth Mitchell in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center. In fact, about 50 ft. away from me that night was Klitshcko himself, looking absolutely mortified by the proceedings in his dapper attire.
Seated next to him was the very lovely Hayden Panettiere, and I started to believe good ole Wlad had her mistaken for Alexander Povetkin the other day. Klitschko looked like he seeked to grope, caress, hug, or even marry Povetkin considering how many times he initiated affection. Hell, Povetkin may have even been confused when Klitschko actually tried to hit him.
I don’t know who came up with the game plan for this fight (clearly it was part of the strategy in stymieing the aggressive Povetkin), but I’m fairly certain the late Emanuel Steward would not have sanctioned it. Banks (without being facetious at all here), is not the legendary Kronk trainer and won’t try to be. He’s a respected fighter himself with a wide inventory of knowledge, but I’m not so sure another pairing isn’t more suitable for the champ. Then again, few are smarter or possess the resume of Wladimir Klitschko.
Somewhere out there, while I was complaining about the lack of sustained action, there was a guy out there with an order of wings and fries throwing bones at the screen and calling Wladimir a bum, or the worst heavyweight champion he’s ever seen.
But this isn’t fair.
I re-watched the fight again, and upon further inspection I walked away more impressed with Klitschko than ever before. Not because of this fight specifically, but because of what he’s done, again, while decisively beating a formerly unbeaten fighter so soundly in his own fashion. Plus he “Ali’d” Povetkin in how he draped him so often while never [once] hitting him in the body. Never.
Klitschko mugged Povetkin.
When he wasn’t spearing him with the jab, he turned it into a compact hook. He snuck in massive right hands. He put his immaculately conditioned 37 year-old frame of 250lbs all over Povetkin (26-1, 18KO’s) to wear him out. He out-muscled him, threw him around, grappled him to the floor and abused him. If armchair Stanley with wing sauce on his shirt thinks this is easy- it is not. Boxing is one of the stiffest tests of endurance a man can face, especially when you are a heavyweight of his size and with his longevity.
Klitschko’s run is truly historic. He’s been considered the universal heavyweight champion (along with Vitali to a much lesser degree) for the better part of almost 8 years. He now has 22 heavyweight title fight wins- that’s only behind Joe Louis. He now has 15 successful title defenses- that’s only behind Louis and Larry Holmes.
Despite all of this, you’d be hard pressed to have many fans give him a real chance to defeat Tyson (he would probably beat Tyson), Lewis, Holyfield, Frazier, Foreman, or say a Marciano.
“All I can do is fight every opponent who gets into my way, to always compete with the best and thus being the best possible.” stated the eloquent and stately Klitshcko (61-3, 52 KO’s).
You may not like him, his style, or fully appreciate what he’s done, but in reality only Holmes and Louis are more accomplished than him in history. It is not his fault that his performances over the years don’t include names or personalities of the past that stir emotion, or make it easy to give him credit. But he’s earned the right to have your respect- even if you won’t give it to him.
He is one of the greatest ambassadors and true champions in the history of the sport in any division, and he should be a saluted for achievement and excellence.
Wladimir Klitschko, you’re an all-time great.