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Is Big Brother a Keeper?
By Martin Wade (April 30, 2004) Photo © J.P.Yim 
Vitali Klitschko vs Corrie Sanders
I know this is bad timing, since the clash between Vitali Klitschko and Corrie Sanders is now past tense, but I never bought the hype. I never even fathomed Corrie Sanders had a chance, not even a southpaws punchers chance. I didn’t even consider the theory (of some in media) that Vitali would be burdened by a case of nerves stemming from his brothers collapse at the hands of Lamon Brewster. None of this innate “wisdom” was based on any knowledge about the boxing game, nor did it come from any training camp access. None of the above, my belief in what would transpire comes from my experience in the role of protector. I am proud to state that I am a big brother and the role of protector is in our muscle memory, in family hierarchy we are “upper management”. Our sense of obligation is resolute and unyielding, Vitali put it best with the comment “ the only mistake Corrie made was to beat my brother”. In the mind of a big brother, Lamon Brewster only represents another ass to kick at a later date. This kind of mental disposition may be the norm for Vitali, since proving his mettle against Lennox Lewis he’s flourished in a kind of focus and toughness that American fans appreciate. In my opinion Big Brothers resolve is something we should all get used to.

For me, the writing was on the wall during the buildup for the fight with Corrie Sanders cavalier demeanor. It seemed that he was riding the media’s view of how relaxed he was, and he bought into the “Vitali is the one with pressure” theory. Pressure? What pressure? He’s a fighter, a very good one who’s very upset with you Corrie. As a big brother (while standing up for younger siblings) the only pressure I encountered was the pressure of being arrested. Vitali is a more rugged and durable version of his brother, Sanders failed to view him as a different animal from Vladimir. I also believe Lennox Lewis dropped the ball in his role of mentor, failing to tell the truth about what he endured in his bout with Vitali. By contributing to Corrie Sanders “So what, their all the same” attitude Lennox failed in his role as big brother. As I settled in to watch this bout I still clung to the wisdom (of many) that Sanders would be dangerous early. I also knew that despite the early peril Sanders could present, he was in store for what I’ll call in this paragraph a “shellacking”.

The Fight:

The first thing I noticed was the expression on the face of the South African Heavyweight. I’ve seen that face before, darting eyes, almost as if the guy is looking for an exit. Once close to Vitali, the eyes became more expressive in the last minute fight instructions. Corrie Sanders eyes seemed to say, “ I’m sorry was that your brother?”

Round one was a cautious one; Vitali seemed to exhibit more bearing than his more athletic sibling. Vitali landed a telling body shot that would initiate a familiar refrain. I have more to say about Corrie Sanders “body” later, but back to what turned out to be an entertaining scrap. Just when you thought Vitali was the “different” brother Sanders caught him with a stinging straight left hand at rounds end. I remembered something I’ve heard before; it’s not “what “ happens to you it’s how you respond. Vitali seemed stunned yet understands when to hold on and how to survive, big brother stuff. Rounds two and three were punctuated by spearing straight shots to Sanders “gut” (I said I’ll get to that later) and the cagey veteran had already started to present signs of fatigue. The visibly winded Sanders played a great role of possum (or mongoose for you historians) by exploding with occasional left hands when Vitali got brave. Vitali Acquitted himself well, often avoiding danger (sometimes pulling straight back) and countering with stinging right hands. Between rounds four and five I pondered the question “ what do we want from our big men?” Given the # of left hands Vitali had allowed himself to be caught with early in the fight I settled for this answer.

The minimum requirement of a serious heavyweight contender is to be able to take and administer punishment. Add Vitali’s scintillating performance against Lennox Lewis last year and I would say he fulfills my floor expectations. Round five was a drubbing; Vitali toyed with Sanders to a compubox tune of 38-1. When I saw that graphic I considered the critics of compubox, the human error theory and made my own assessment. Give or take a few shots, none of the arguments against compubox seem to be currently helping Corrie Sanders. By round five Corrie Sanders vertical position in the Staples Center Ring was one of defiance, almost as if fighting on was his way of saying “goodbye”.

In round six Vitali’s big brother justice allowed for nuance: tight hooks off of feinted jabs and torso flexibility, I even saw the 6 7’ man’s knees bend while alluding a punch. Round six showcased Vitali’s continued ability to avoid Sanders (by now) winging wide shots and retaliate with blistering one twos to the game veterans mug. By round seven the WBC championship “fight” degenerated to a woeful beating, only Corie Sanders toughness gave the engagement the look combat. God Bless Him.

In round 8 Corrie Sanders epitomized what many talk about yet rarely do, the act of “going out on your shield”. In the face of heavy artillery Sanders abandoned any notion of form winging helicopter punches hoping to stave off the onslaught from Dr. K. Finally with mercy referee John Schorle put a halt to the bout in round 8 effectively beginning Klitschko’s reign as WBC belt holder. We as fight fans can ride out a lackluster heavyweight division if the contestants continue to provide us with good fights. The Staples Center crowd proved this with a rousing ovation for the effort of both big men. I’ve resigned myself to accept Big Brother as the top heavy, especially in light of Chris Byrd’s commitment to “please fans” and stand in front of bigger men. I also don’t mind Don Kings reign as undisputed Heavyweight Champ in lean times, his tournament can keep the division on life support until someone special comes along.

The Aftermath:

HBO’s poll was fine by me, we’ve all been around long enough to know what business their in. Did you see the grin on Larry Merchant? Now he looked like a guy who stumbled upon a blank money order. Poor Chris Byrd, he seemed to wear a fixed mask of disgust all weekend. The facial grimace he wore having to defend his merit as a champ on HBO was the same one he wore on Friday Night Fights.

Sanders "Condition":

Corrie Sanders was more than game and courageous Saturday night but his “condition” leaves me with this observation. If Mike Tyson is plagued by: Age, i
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nactivity, lack of inspiration, mental illness (a lot of the medications contribute to weight gain), slow metabolism (short stocky frame), and just overall “lifestyle” why have we never seen a gut of Sanders like proportion on him? . Maybe because at the end of the day “when” (and I do mean when) Tyson shows up at the gym he trains like a fighter because it’s all he can do. Sanders on the other hand trained like a golfer, let’s hope the gentlemen boxer can do the right thing and retire to the links.

The Term Sloppy:

I’ve heard the term “sloppy” thrown around a lot in regards to the Klitschko Sanders bout. I believe that you can’t have it all; we sacrificed a lot of fluidity (and punch output), as the heavyweights got bigger. Besides, there’s “good sloppy” (see Klitschko/Lewis) and a bad sloppy”. Klitschko Sanders was “good sloppy”, I’ll get my razor sharp precision and technique when I tune in for the Pretty Boy on May 8th.

Until the Next “Jones”, the Boxing Junkie.

Questions or comments,
Martin Wade:
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