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The Universally Recognized Heavyweight Champion, at Least to the Fans
By Orlando Rios, Jr. (May 1, 2004) 
Vitali Klitschko
(Photo © J.P. Yim)
Vital Klitschko finally accomplished his life long dream of becoming the Heavyweight Champion of the World, by out slugging Corrie Sanders before the bout was stopped in the 8th round, making me a perfect 2 for 2 in my last couple of fight predictions (Mosley and Klitschko). But as is always the case, there are the doubters, and Steve Kim in his “Just another Belt Holder” article, says that although Klitschko does have a world title belt, he is only one of four, and not the universally recognized champ like Lennox Lewis, Bernard Hopkins, or Winky Wright. Larry Merchant said it best after the fight saying to the effect, that when you think of heavyweights today, you'll think of Vitali Klitschko, and everybody will want to see him. Although I agree with Merchant, I have to also agree with Kim a bit. In essence, Klitschko is the “universally” recognized champ, and a poll conducted by HBO right after the fight seemed to agree. But Klitschko is, as Kim says, only one of four, with the other three champions being Lamon Brewster (WBO), Chris Byrd (IBF) and John Ruiz (WBA).

To become “the champion”, Vitali should go after slick slapping south paw Chris Byrd. Chris Byrd beat Klitschko only because Klitschko refused to answer to the bell in the 10th round due to a shoulder injury. Klitschko, who was dominating the fight and up on all the judges scorecards, 89-82 and 88-83 twice, stunned boxing fans by not being able to finish the last 3 rounds, when he could have easily pulled a De La Hoya (when he fought Trinidad) and ran the last 3 rounds. It was very unlikely that Chris Byrd was going to catch him and drop him with a monster shot. Regardless of the fact, Klitschko decided that it was better to “live today and fight tomorrow”, and it has indeed paid off. Without any doubt, he has become one of the few all around fan favorites along with the likes of Arturo Gatti, Fernando Vargas, Oscar De La Hoya, and Mike Tyson.

Fernando Vargas told me once, “Love you or HATE YOU they will HAVE to respect you for your decision.” Regardless of the decisions that Vitali makes on who to fight next, he will always have the respect of the fans and perhaps a few writers too.

The late Robert Kennedy said, “One-fifth of the people are against everything all the time”, and although Vitali Klitschko will always have his doubters, there is no denying, that he is, at least to the fans, the universally recognized champion, and that is all you need to know.
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