|The Klitschko Conundrum
By JD Camacho, DoghouseBoxing.com (Mar 20, 2009)
Vitali Klitschko is taking a risk. But in his eyes, Juan Carlos Gomez isn’t it.
Gomez, whom Klitschko will be fighting against this Saturday for the WBC Heavyweight Title, is a former Cuban exile and proven cruiserweight with a single loss on his ledger. He’s speedy, crafty, and experienced. He’s also vulnerable, as his lone loss a first round knockout to Yanqui Diaz can attest. Perhaps because of that, Klitschko doesn’t see the risk in his mandatory.
Rather, the risk comes from the exposure he’ll receive. The elder Klitschko took a pay cut to have the fight on the non-premium ESPN, the self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports. For the most part, in the American market that proclamation rings true. Vitali Klitschko reduced his purse to make way for a bigger audience. That bigger audience has the opportunity to watch a heavyweight title fight, virtually free of charge.
But Vitali Klitschko is 37 years old. That’s about the same age Joe Louis was before he got leveled by Rocky Marciano. That’s about the same age Muhammad Ali was before he was embarrassed by Trevor Berbick. That’s about the same age Larry Holmes was before his beheading at the hands of Mike Tyson. That’s about the same age Lennox Lewis was when he called it quits, even after exchanging blows with Vitali himself and coming out on top.
Is that the face boxing wants for its heavyweight division an aging, injury-prone champion? Is this the heavyweight that should be getting this exposure? Won’t Vitali be gone in a few short years maybe a few short fights? Sure, George Foreman was heavyweight champion at the age of 45. But Vitali isn’t the big lovable freak that George turned out to be. Vitali Klitschko may be putting boxing at risk.
Of course, platforms like this do not make or break the sport. The sub-par entertainment offered by the widely hyped De La Hoya Mayweather bout did not put boxing back to sleep. Instead, the money made stirred the sport out of its slumber and created a string of worthwhile matches in its wake. But Vitali Klitschko represents what was once the most prized possession in sport.
His brother Wladimir carries the same burden. Early last year, Wladimir left the rich confines of Germany and journeyed to New York City to partake in the first unification of the various heavyweight belts in nearly a decade. Backed by the US media and buoyed by an interested HBO, Wladimir was ready to embrace his role as the heavyweight champion of the world. As it was, the boxing world looked ready to embrace Wladimir. Disappointing, then, was Wladimir’s lackluster twelve round decision where the giant Ukranian looked to some observers to be playing patty-cake with his overmatched foe.
No crowning, no coronation, no congratulations not for Wladimir, and not for boxing.
Vitali does not exhibit quite the same safety-first reluctance as his brother. But even if he excites the masses on Saturday, how much longer can he go on? How much longer can he ride any popularity boost he may receive? How much longer can he hold the reins of his reign?
Vitali Klitschko has the opportunity to restore some luster to the heavyweight championship. But in the hands of an aging warrior, that luster may fade quickly.
-There’s a difference between being past your prime and being shot. Omar Sheika might let us know which is true of the current Roy Jones Jr.
-When asked about Mixed Martial Arts, Jones said that it’s harder to get to the top in boxing because it’s one-dimensional. Kimbo Slice, the heavily criticized Internet street fighter, says that boxing is easier to ease into because it’s one-dimensional. So how many dimensions is a good amount again, guys?
-If Bernard Hopkins is going to challenge a slower, non-flashy but powerful fighter like Tomasz Adamek for his farewell, why not go for the whole boat and fight Wladimir Klitschko?
-According to various sources, Floyd Mayweather Jr. is returning. Thank goodness. If the target is indeed Manny Pacquiao, may I suggest credible southpaws Carlos Quintana and Luis Collazo as worthwhile tune-ups?
e-mail JD at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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