The Klitschko Konundrum
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (Feb 27, 2012) Doghouse Boxing
Vitali, Wladimir Klitschko
This Saturday in Dusseldorf, Germany, Wladimir Klitschko defends his collection of title belts (IBF, WBA and WBO) at the ESPRIT Arena against Jean-Marc Mormeck, best known for his days as a cruiserweight titlist. This is coming off the heels of Vitali's defense of the WBC title a couple of weeks ago against Dereck Chisora; like his older brother’s bout, this fight will not be on HBO or Showtime in the states but via the hit-or-miss stream provided by Epix. The Klitschkos, despite being the dominant, two-headed force in the sport’s “glamour” division, have largely been relegated to...well, guys whose bouts are now on Epix, who in turn have driven the two premium cable giants out of the heavyweight business.
Despite drawing consistently large audiences and Super Bowl-like television ratings throughout Europe, in America, they are thought of as safe, cautious and boring boxers (despite having knockout percentages among the best in heavyweight history). In many ways, these guys are boxing's version of soccer: loved in Europe, not so much in America.
But why?
Maybe it's because Great White Hopes aren't so supposed to be this dominant.
Lately, there has been a healthy amount of discussion regarding sports and race with the recent success of Jeremy Lin, point guard of the New York Knicks. Lin’s Asian-American heritage has been a large part of this narrative (and certainly fueled by the tweets of one Floyd Mayweather, who basically stated that plenty of African-American players do similar things without getting the credit) and this current phenomenon. Let's be honest; while Mayweather's comments are off-base in that Lin's first four games were unprecedented from a statistical perspective, he is correct. A big part of why everyone's eyes were so opened was because this wasn't just another black- or to a lesser degree European- baller playing at an extremely high level in a game where Asians have been rare (to say the least). It's OK (seriously, it is) to notice that Lin looks different than the overwhelming majority of his court colleagues. You'd be blind or dishonest to say you didn't (and c'mon, if you were on a playground, unless you knew who he was, Lin might still be the last guy chosen for the pick-up run).
He is now the black quarterback times ten because there will be many more Michael Vicks in the future (i.e. Robert Griffin III) than Lins.
So how does this all connect to the Klitschkos? 
Well, it says here that if both Wladimir and Vitali were born in America and came out of a city like Philadelphia, Brooklyn or Los Angeles, they'd be lauded. Yeah, they're white but they're not white bread, corn-fed. For much of the American public, it isn't just enough that they have the right complexion- they also have to originate from here. We want Jack Dempsey to walk through that door, not Ivan Drago. And for decades, the boxing community was conditioned to expect “the baddest man on the planet” to look a certain way- and it isn't like the Klitschkos. From the great Joe Louis on, this division more than any other had largely been the domain of the black boxer (save Rocky Marciano, that's their one!) till the arrival of the Ukrainian heavyweights at the beginning of this new century. These guys don't come from the normal archetype we associate with most pugilists. They didn't grow up in poverty; they are highly educated and well-read and in a game full of savages and misbehaving miscreants (just look at the post-fight presser that took place in Germany between Chisora and David Haye), they are the models of decorum.
We may not admit it but while we talk about the dignity of the sport, there is a part of us that wants our heavyweight rulers to have the background of a Sonny Liston, the anger of a Mike Tyson or the brashness of a Muhammad Ali.
Let's be perfectly frank. If these guys were American minorities, many of the very same folks who espouse the “Sweet Science” as being hit-and-not-being-hit while deriding this duo would crown them in the manner they do Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward, who are given credit for exhibiting “skill” and rarely getting hit. If you look at the Klitschkos’ recent track record (Wladimir has not tasted defeat since April of 2004 and Vitali hasn't lost since June of 2003), just how many rounds have they lost over the past seven or eight years? They have sharp jabs, control distance, don't get touched all that often and eventually break down their opponents. Yet they are never lauded by the “skill set” who loves to tell you that no matter how unentertaining a fight or fighter is, we should appreciate his technique and craft.
But regarding the Klitschkos, all of a sudden, it matters if they are exciting or not. It seems they, unlike some of the other fighters on mythical pound-for-pound lists (solely for their ability to win fight after fight regardless of the aesthetic value of their contests), are held to a certain double-standard. “Yeah, you guys win but, geez, you guys aren't entertaining enough.” Call other fighters “boring” and you get branded a racist by some (Seriously, you do. I've got the emails to prove it).
Since their last defeats (Wladimir was stopped by Lamon Brewster in 2004 and Vitali was halted by Lennox Lewis in a memorable affair at the Staples Center in 2003), the Klitschkos have done as good a job in cleaning out their division as any fighter of this current generation. Wladimir, who is 14-0 since his last “L,” has defeated the likes of David Haye, Sam Peter, Eddie Chambers, Ruslan Chagaev, Hasim Rahman, Tony Thompson, Calvin Brock and Chris Byrd. Vitali, who retired for nearly four years after defeating Danny Williams, has downed Corrie Sanders, Kirk Johnson, Juan Carlos Gomez, Chris Arreola, Kevin Johnson and Tomasz Adamek. Yeah, I understand, this isn't exactly “Murderer's Row” but for many other boxers, you’ll hear the argument that you can only fight who's available in your day. And other than the 70’s- perhaps the deepest generation for quality heavyweights- most eras are lacking when it comes to the big men. Not every era has Ron Lyle, Jerry Quarry and Ernie Shavers hanging around.
The “Brown Bomber” had the “Bum of the Month Club.” Well, the Klitschkos have the “Bum of Every Quarter Club.” What's the difference? 
Yes, the Klitschkos have had their missteps. Vitali was dubbed “Chicken Kiev” by Michael Katz after retiring on his stool, well ahead on points against Chris Byrd in 2000. I went with “Quitschkos” as Wladimir was halted by Ross Puritty almost a year-and-a-half earlier. But through all their trials and tribulations, there is no denying just how they have rebounded, regrouped and absolutely ruled this division recently. It's just a shame that their only real threats come from each other, which is unprecedented. They alongside the Marquez brothers (Juan Manuel and Rafael) have set the standards for boxing brothers.
And looking at it without prejudice and clear objectivity, how can you not rank them both among the top 15 heavyweights ever? Yeah, I said it. Top 15. Both of them. Wladimir has a mark of 56-3 with 49 stoppages. Vitali is 44-2 with 40 knockouts to his credit. They are also power forward-sized prizefighters with the wingspans of 747s and high boxing I.Q.s. Ask any veteran matchmaker if this version of the Klitschkos would be a tough out for anyone who ever fought, he will unequivocally say yes. As for their résumés, well, I'd take their careers over the likes of Mike Tyson, who some have lionized for basically having a three-year run against a slew of coked-up Don King washouts (again, another case of style over substance. After all, the Klitschkos aren't the types to be put into hip-hop lyrics but unlike “Iron Mike,” they have reinvented themselves, evolving as fighters).
Yeah, I'll say it; the Klitschkos don't have swagger. They don't even pretend to or even try (and after using a tired word like “swagger” in my column, let me give myself 50 lashes across the wrist).
Have they provided us with the memorable moments of an Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman or Evander Holyfield? No, but that's a whole ‘nother argument for another day. Truth be told, I'm not necessarily crestfallen with their exclusion on American airwaves. Hey, I can't lie; I've been utterly bored by their fights but you have to give credit where it’s due. They not only win; they dominate. Yet for some reason, they are constantly the aim of a good amount of derision from those who probably once lauded Winky Wright for winning round after round while rarely putting himself in harm's way. Perhaps they will be a lot like Larry Holmes or even a Lennox Lewis, the recipients of much heat and disrespect during their primes while not fully appreciated and respected till they had been gone from the sport for a few years.
It's interesting; while Lin probably gets a bit too much credit because he's an athlete who doesn't fit the stereotyped role, for that very same reason, the Klitschkos probably don't get enough.
I got this email from Jason Pribila, who pens articles for our sister site at
Hey Steve,
I hope Maidana could rebound at 140, but he may be a spent bullet.
It just hit me that Broner isn't channeling a young "Pretty Boy" when he fights, but his performance is quite similar to that of The Time's Morris Day.  Any chance "The Problem" could add Jerome Benton to his entourage to hold the mirror as he gets his hair brushed?
I may have to throw in "Purple Rain" before the Oscars.
Take Care,
Jason, I don't get why some people are so bothered by Adrien Broner's hair-brushing shtick. I've always kinda thought it was amusing. As for it being disrespectful to his pops, well, last I checked, it seemed like he was in on the joke. I mean, this isn't Floyd Mayweather and his father making fools out of themselves on HBO’s “24/7.” I understand Broner is a polarizing figure. You either love or loathe him- and from a promotional standpoint, that's a great thing because one way or the other, when he fights, you want to witness it. He leaves an impression. You don't want to be a beige spot on a beige wall. Broner is purple polka dots.
To me, he reminds me a lot of Randall Hill during his days at the University of Miami. “The Thrill” was the flamboyant wide receiver forever remembered for running up the tunnel of the Cotton Bowl in the blowout of Texas ( Nobody could celebrate a 12-yard completion like this guy ( There wasn't enough mustard for this hot dog. And his antics grated on opponents and their fans (and, truth be told, his own coaching staff and school administration) but he elicited a certain emotion when he and the rest of his ‘Cane cohorts played. 
Broner seems to have a lot of ability. He took apart a guy in Eloy Perez that I thought had a legitimate chance to beat him and he did it in an entertaining and memorable way. Honestly, I respect guys who put themselves out like this and perform on a high wire with no safety net. This is the entertainment industry and being from a city like Cincinnati, he will have to battle like heck to garner attention away from the likes of the Reds and Bengals. With more performances like this past weekend, Broner will carve out his own niche.
Again, let’s pump the brakes a bit on the Broner bandwagon. It was less than a year ago that he may have lost to Daniel Ponce de Leon and he looked a full two weight classes larger than Perez as they stepped into the ring. But I want to see where this goes; it could be a very fun ride.
Then I got this from a Jonathan Turk:
Hi Steve,

Can anyone explain what is going on with Gary Russell jr.'s career? After reading extensively about his amateur days and Olympic fiasco in the Washington Post he has completely dropped off the map for fans in DC and the east coast.  He has not had a single professional fight within 500 miles of his hometown.  Why not put the garbage fights early in the career on locally instead of places that care even less
like Biloxi, Hidalgo and San Diego?  Looks to me like Berto jr. Quality talent and zero fans.  Is it in all of Haymon's contracts that fighters cannot be built in their home area?  I'm sure he can pick up
his annuities from the networks AND fight in his home area.  Do they think eventually they'll bring him back to the DC area for a big fight and sell tickets?  That might happen because DC boxing fans are
awesome but they also don't give a crap about people who don't show them love.  Maybe there's some other reason to this idiocy but what is GBP's major malfunction here?  It's not rocket surgery.

P.S. I LOVED Barry Tompkins on the Sho extreme broadcasts.  I hope he is in position to replace Gus Johnson, whose technique has been the same since day 1 and not developed to fit the sport.  He would bebetter suited calling the Kentucky Derby.  Give me a booth with Barry, Al and Antonio on showtime championship and Brian Kenny and Steve Farhood on Shobox.  Curt Menefee is doing a good job but, I know this may be a shock to Showtime, boxing fans like boxing people calling their fights.
Jonathan, I'm hoping and assuming that the June 30th show that Richard Schaefer talked about in Washington D.C. in this article ( will feature the ultra-talented Russell, who is slated to return on April 14th on Showtime in Little Rock, Arkansas. But yeah, it's one of Haymon’s ironies. Here's a guy from the concert industry who seems to not care one iota about selling tickets or building local fan-bases. But again, as long as networks keep feeding his guys large annuities in the forms of license fees, perhaps there's no need to make that sacrifice. Say what you want about Berto; yeah, he couldn't fill up a phone booth but he's made a lucrative living in this sport off this template.
But as the night of December 10th showed with the strong turnout for Lamont Peterson-Amir Khan fight, regions will support their boxers- but you are correct. You have to consistently hit these markets and build a foundation. I'm glad to see Golden Boy Promotions going back there, which makes sense, given that they also represent Russell and heavyweight Seth Mitchell.
One of the reasons I think Broner can be an attraction in Cincy is that, while he has taken the world tour while being built up, he has also had his fair share of fights in his home city early on in his career.
With the ease in which Broner handled Perez, I'm guessing there is a good chance he may open up that May 19th HBO broadcast before the Peterson-Khan rematch in Las Vegas...Devon Alexander handled Marcos Maidana with ease but I'm not sure it's more to do with his effectiveness or the fact that Maidana simply isn't a 147-pounder...The six-round draw between Richard Contreras and Daniel Quevedo at the Doubletree in Ontario, Ca. on Friday night is my early frontrunner for “Fight of the Year”...With the Home Depot Center soccer pitch being booked for June 16th, there is a chance that Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.'s next fight could take place at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas...Fresh off his “ShoBox” victory over Lanardo Tyner, Jessie Vargas could open up the May 5th pay-per-view card versus Alfonso Gomez...The Lakers are really interested in Rasheed Wallace? Huh?!...I remember when the NBA All-Star Game was “can't-miss.” I can't recall the last time I actually watched it...

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