Ask a professional boxer if he or she has ever entered the ring in perfect shape, and if they answer in the positive, they’re probably lying.
“I’ve yet to meet a fighter that went in there 100%,” said former lightweight contender and amateur star Brian Adams. “As a professional, there’s always something.”
Hasim Rahman, the heavyweight challenger in limbo after the fourth postponement of his bout against WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko due to an injured knee suffered by “Dr. Ironfist” Friday in Los Angeles, is probably not 100% right now. The former world champion most likely has bumps and bruises somewhere on his body, his muscles are probably sore and maybe for a meaningless non-title fight, he would pull the trigger on a fight.
But this isn’t just a fight. This is for the heavyweight championship of the world, and at some point you have to consider what you are fighting for. The heavyweight championship used to be the crown jewel of sports, and one writer once described a heavyweight champion as being “Boxing’s Mister President.”
No longer. Now it’s a joke because a) no one knows who the real champion is among the four titlists, and b) no one really cares.
Klitschko was supposed to be the one to change all that. He was supposed to be THE champion above the rest, the one who would unify the crown and make it safe again to tell people that you were a boxing fan.
He hasn’t been even close to that so far. He defended the title once against Danny Williams (who earned his shot by beating a shot Mike Tyson) almost a year ago, and since then he has done everything in his power to get out of fighting Rahman, citing a laundry list of ailments along the way. This is just the latest.
But that shouldn’t surprise anyone because Klitschko is just a man who happens to box for a living. It’s allowed him to travel the world, make a lot of money, and ensure his future. But at the end of the day, he’s still a sportsman. Sportsmen don’t see boxing for what it could be a life and death struggle. If he’s got an aching knee or a bad back, he’s not going to fight. End of story. He won’t lose any sleep over it either because when boxing is over for him, he can get into politics, write books, and help charitable organizations. The boxing fans up in arms over this latest postponement - the ones who would be buying the pay-per-views next Saturday - don’t really matter when it comes down to it. This is a sport, he would probably argue, not my life.
Conversely, Rahman is a fighter. There are no fall-back plans for him, so when he’s getting perhaps his final shot at the championship and all the fringe benefits that come with it, he puts aside those aches and pains he probably has, and he fights.
He has to fight. Klitschko doesn’t.
That’s the difference.
So when Klitschko hobbles to a podium somewhere to explain his latest physical mishap, don’t call him a liar he probably is legitimately hurt. You can save the ‘liar’ tag for every other fighter who steps in the ring and says ‘I’m in perfect shape, the best of my life.’ They’re the ones lying, but they’re also the ones we admire for playing hurt and putting it all on the line in spite of their various aches and pains.
Guys like Hasim Rahman.
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