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Heavyweight Division Hangs in Balance this Saturday
By Orlando Rios, Jr. (April 22, 2004) 
Vitali Klitschko
(Photo © J.P. Yim)
The heavyweight division, which remained in limbo with Lennox Lewis trying to decide whether to retire or not, will finally take form come Saturday night, as Vitali Klitschko takes on Corrie Sanders for the vacant WBC heavyweight title. The Klitschko Vs Sanders bout will mark the third consecutive weekend that a heavyweight fight takes center stage. Winner of the bout will not only leave his mark as being the first heavyweight champion since Lewis, but also could set the groundwork for where the heavyweight division is going.

Vitali Klitschko has quickly became a fan favorite following his war with Lennox Lewis in June of 2003 in which Vitali was winning on all the judges scorecards (58-56) before the bout was stopped due to a cut above Klitschko’s left eye. Following his second round beat down of Kirk Johnson, who originally was scheduled to fight Lewis, but dropped out cause of a shoulder injury which allowed Vitali Klitschko a title shot. Only problem is, as many have noted including Roy Jones, JR. who mentioned it following the Wladimir Klitschko Vs Lamon Brewster bout, was that in both crowd pleasing performances, both Lewis and Johnson came in out of shape. Although Lewis and Johnson being out of shape cannot be blamed on Vitali Klitschko, it does raise the question, how will Vitali fair against an in-shape top notch heavyweight contender? And how will Wladimir’s second shocking loss in the last two years affect older brother Vitali?

In steps Corrie Sanders, who going into his first bout with the Klitschko brothers, was a virtually unknown southpaw heavyweight from South Africa. Sanders had taken on Hasim Rahman back in May of 2000, only to lose by TKO in the seventh round. The Wladimir Klitschko Vs Corrie Sanders fight was looked at almost as a tune up fight, with Wladimir looking to gun for Lennox Lewis. But four knockdowns later, and “the next big thing became the next big bust”, as Larry Merchant from HBO said. For Sanders, it’s a new found fame, but more importantly, a second chance. At 38, time is on the short end of the stick for Sanders, but all this could change come Saturday night.

But if Klitschko fought fighters that were out of shape, then an argument, just the same can be brought on Corrie Sanders. Was the Sanders rout of Wladimir Klitschko a fluke or was it just a simple case of Wladimir Klitschko overlooking Corrie Sanders towards Lennox Lewis and getting caught? Will Sanders himself be out of shape? Too date, this will be Sander’s 4th fight in 4 years, with none in the past 3 years being as big as this one.

The heavyweight division finally enters the A.L.L, (After Lennox Lewis) era and pits the top two contenders to see who will become the next heavyweight champion. And without any doubt, most boxing fans are split on who to take. Vitali has quickly become a fan favorite and his charisma both in and outside the ring make it very hard to bet against him. Time after time, he has emphatically stated his desire to become the next heavyweight champion, and most really want to see him do just that. The Vitali Klitschko story is almost Cinderella like. How appropriate would it be for Vitali, who started his title run at the Staples Center in Los Angeles versus Lennox Lewis, to end it back in Los Angeles at the Staple Center by becoming world heavyweight champ?

But for every Cinderella story, there is an equal and opposite story, and the Corrie Sanders saga is just that. From virtually unknown, to dropping Wladimir Klitschko, the eventual “heir” to the heavyweight crown, to now taking on Wladimir’s brother, Vitali for the WBC Heavyweight crown. Taking out both brothers would ensure a special place in boxing history for Corrie Sanders.


This is a very difficult choice to make. I like Vitali Klitschko, and I think he is the better of the two brothers. He showed unbelievable heart and desire in his battle with Lennox Lewis, and out-boxed, punished and eventually finished off Kirk Johnson inside of two rounds, something which had never been done to Kirk Johnson. Already both fans and writers are waiting to jump on the Klitschko Dynasty, while others believe the Klitschko name hangs in the balance come Saturday Night.

Corrie Sanders is on a boxing high, and his shocking win over Brother Wladimir Klitschko, propelled Sanders to the heights of the boxing world. Problem is, has Sanders’ momentum worn off? He hasn’t fought in over a year, and only four times in four years, and never in as big an environment as this. Even at 38, it may be Vitali, not Corrie who holds the edge in big time world championship experience, with none being bigger than his bout with Lennox Lewis.

Across the board, this is a pretty even fight, with no one fighter having a real big advantage over another. Klitschko wants revenge, while Sanders seems to be a reborn fighter who up until now, hasn’t cashed in. Questions linger all around, and there is not one clear favorite, although some would argue. Its heart and fan favorite versus a journeyman sleeper who shook the boxing world in more ways than he’ll ever realize.

To me, there is a desire for fans see Vitali Klitschko win the heavyweight crown, much in the same manner that fans rooted for Winky Wright to finally stake his claim as being one of boxing’s best.

In the end, I see the Vitali Klitschko Vs Corrie Sanders heavyweight title bout, living up to expectations. Vitali has yet to disappoint and Corrie will be in the limelight that he has so longed for. I can see the fight going past 6 rounds, probably lasting no longer than seven or eight rounds, with the tide eventually swinging towards Vitali Klitschko.

Orly’s pick:

Vitali Klitschko by late stoppage.
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