An Open Letter to Vitali Klitschko
By Sean Newman (July 1, 2005)
Open letters penned by various boxing journalists, both online and in print, have become fairly commonplace. I can’t say for sure whether or not I’ve ever written an open letter, for the effects of alcohol over the years may have blunted my memory. Ha ha. I don’t believe I have. I must say, however, that I am compelled to write this one, in light of Vitali Klitschko’s wishy-washy behavior towards the identity of his next title challenger. So, Mr. Ring Magazine Heavyweight Champion of the World, this one is for you.
Dear Mr. Klitschko,
First of all, I would like to congratulate you on your successes as a boxer in the heavyweight division. Few fighters could have accomplished what you have, i.e. retiring in your corner due to an injury in a fight which you were winning, being scorned and written off, only to come back and put up a Herculean effort in losing against Lennox Lewis, a fight which you were winning. In doing so, you successfully shed the “coward” label with which you were bestowed and became a hero to many.
Then you came back and obliterated a bloated but talented Kirk Johnson. We were all but ready to call you heavyweight champion right then. For the vacant title, you faced Corrie Sanders, and we were all interested because, after all, Sanders had crushed your little brother Wladimir. You prevailed that night in a sloppy slugfest reminiscent of your battle with Lewis, and we (or at least, most of us) readily accepted you as the new “Man” in the division.
You took on Danny Williams in your first defense. That too, much like the Sanders fight, was acceptable, because, even though we knew that Williams was susceptible like Sanders, the heavyweight division was in shambles and who better to fight than the man who scored an upset KO over Mike Tyson? Throw in a minor storyline about Williams having destroyed your dream to fight Tyson, and bingo, we have a hit. Or so it may have seemed.
Vitali, after woeful pay-per-view numbers with the Williams fight, and despite your numerous injuries, you should be calling out the best the division has to offer right now. And you have. At first, anyway. There was the on again, off again fight with Hasim Rahman, who you still must face provided he gets past Monte Barrett. Then you called out Lamon Brewster following his devastating knockout of Andrew Golota. There were also rumblings of a match with James Toney. Chris Byrd is still out there, likely willing to fight you again. Most recently, you thoroughly embarrassed yourself by challenging Oleg Maskaev. Let’s deal with each of these fighters one at a time, shall we?
Hasim Rahman. Yes, he was in shape and focused against Kali Meehan and destroyed him. But what had Meehan ever accomplished? Losing a controversial verdict in a pedestrian fight against Lamon Brewster? Rahman is almost never an explosive type fighter, and can become lackadaisical. Hell, he got knocked clean out of the ring by the man you are challenging now in Maskaev. So what gives? Why won’t you agree to fight him next?
Lamon Brewster. Sure, he decimated a nut case in Andrew Golota, but really, what does that prove? Even I could probably sneer and snarl and look menacing enough to frighten Golota into a quiet submission. So what? Oh, that’s right. The little brother “revenge” factor. Well guess what, Vitali? That’s a tired angle. We want to see you fight the best, and Lamon is not the best. Not yet, anyway. Aside from his drubbing of Golota, he was lucky to win against Wladimir and he hit the lotto against Meehan. Yet, even though a fight between you and Brewster may have been somewhat worthy of watching, you seem to have forgotten all about it.
James Toney. Good grief, Klitschko. Surely you’re not scared of a guy who’s 5 feet, 9 inches tall, shows up in the ring fat and out of shape and has tested positive for banned substances, are you? Yeah, he’s skilled, but with his power he could hardly dent your chin. Why not give Toney a chance?
Chris Byrd. This fight is a natural, Vitali, and one that most people feel would crown a true heavyweight champion, even if they do not agree with The Ring Magazine. No man has ever clearly beaten you, but a fight against Byrd would represent an opportunity for you to vindicate yourself for that loss that caused you so much grief. Aside from that, you were easily beating a prime Chris Byrd, and that version of Byrd no longer exists, as clearly evidenced by his last three fights.
Finally, Maskaev. Geez, what are you thinking? Oleg belongs nowhere near even the heavyweight top twenty. For the sake of boxing, I hope that this fight will not be made. Before Oleg started getting knocked out by everyone he fought who had a pulse, maybe I could see him fighting for a title, especially after sensational wins over Rahman and a still unexposed Derrick Jefferson. But no more. I’m telling you this for your own good, Vitali. If you fight Maskaev, you will be considered a joke. And good Lord, for what? What if he gets lucky and lands a good shot on your chin? Where do you go then? This is absolutely a no-win situation for you.
I hope you are reading and will take these things into consideration. Best of luck in the future champ, and keep fighting the good fight…just as long as it’s against good opponents.
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