The Heavyweights-Life after the Klitschkos
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The Heavyweights-Life after the Klitschkos
By Ollie Odebunmi, Doghouse Boxing (July 11, 2014)

Wlad and Vitali
Wlad and Vitali
Dominant heavyweight champions are expected to dispatch overmatched challengers with extreme prejudice. But that entails taking risks. Wladimir Klitschko hates getting hit. He has perfected the art of winning ugly while taking minimal risks. It is highly effective, but has turned off fight fans in their droves.

The most fun at a Klitschko event in ages was provided by Shannon Briggs this past May. Gate-crashing the pre-fight press conference for Klitschko's defence against the obscure Alex Lepai, Briggs put on his best Clubber Lang impression. Ripping off his tank top to reveal an impressively muscled torso, Briggs accused Wladimir of ducking him, yelling, "you ain't no champ.” Warming to his Rocky theme, Briggs didn't spare Wladimir's trainer, reminding him; "Mr T killed Mickey.”

The Klitschkos have dominated the heavyweight landscape since Lennox Lewis retired in 2003, but times are a-changing. Vitali, his ancient body creaking, exchanged the murky world of boxing for the treacherous world of Ukrainian politics. Wladimir at 38 is also nearing the end.

In the first competitive heavyweight title fight in years, Bermane Stiverne stopped Chris Arreola in six rounds to win the WBC belt vacated by Vitali Klitschko. At 35, Stiverne may not be the future of the division, but the softly spoken Haitian is the archetypal hungry fighter, and has no intention of giving up his newly minted WBC belt anytime soon.

Stiverne’s mandatory challenger is Deontay Wilder. The Olympic bronze medallist is a thunderous puncher who has won all his 31 bouts by knockout. But his list of opponents is hardly awe-inspiring. Considering he has been a pro since November 2008, there are still unanswered questions: How will he react when his opponent swallows his best shot, bites down on his mouthpiece and gets right back in his face? How will he react when the other guy cracks him on the chin with a solid shot?

Wilder may add Stiverne to his long list of early knockouts, or may find himself in a real dog fight. Either way, it will be fun while it lasts.

British heavyweights Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora meet on July 26, with the winner hoping for a shot against Klitschko. Chisora, a brawler with decent power, acquitted himself well in losing a 12-round decision to Vitali in February 2012. The wonderfully named Tyson Fury, a 6'9" 260-pound giant, defeated Chisora back in 2011, and is confident of repeating the feat. Fury has long accused Wladimir of ducking him. He may have a point. He has the power to hurt Wladimir, and it is hard to see the champion smother his way to victory over a man who is so much bigger than him.

Fury is not the most technically accomplished fighter, and his chin isn't the greatest. But he always comes to fight, and his loud, brash personality makes headlines.

The verbose David Haye is also keen to get back in the mix. His last fight was a 5th round stoppage of Chisora back in July 2012. He pulled out of a February bout with Fury citing a shoulder injury that needed corrective surgery. Recently resurfacing, he boasted to British fight magazine, Boxing News, that he could beat any man on the planet. (A highly original line)

Haye has speed and power, but his chin is suspect and his credibility still pretty low after he stank out the joint against Wladimir Klitschko back in July 2011. Haye ran at the mouth, promising all kinds of bodily harm to Wladimir, only to run all night, blaming a damaged toe.

One to watch is 2012 super- heavyweight Olympic gold medallist Anthony Joshua. Born in London of Nigerian parentage, the 24-year- old Joshua has the size and pedigree to go all the way. At 6'6", 240 pounds and an imposing 85-inch reach, Joshua is the latest of the super-size athletic heavyweights heralded in by Lennox Lewis and Riddick Bowe and continued by the Klitschko brothers.

Still a novice pro, Joshua has won all six of his fights by KO, displaying sound technique, natural power, good speed and an ability to throw fluid combinations that belie his size. If he continues to develop his skills, and doesn't fall apart the first time he takes a solid whack on the whiskers, he may beat the same path trod by Lennox Lewis, and not the dead end street to Palookaville trod by Audley Harrison.

Seems there are some exciting times ahead in the heavyweight division, and there is life after the Klitschkos.

Ollie Odebunmi is the author of The Last Great Heavyweights-From Ali and Frazier to Lewis and Tyson. Available at Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple ibooks and Kobo books.

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