By Paul McCreath - When Wlad Klitschko defeated Ruslan Chagaev a few weeks ago it was his 11th win in a row. The last 8 have been title fights of one kind or another.I n almost every case we hear from the critics immediately after how bad Wlad's opponent looked. The "haters" sometimes go so far as to suggest the challengers don't even try. More common is the suggestion that they were all bums and that the heavyweight division has declined badly in recent years. While there is some truth in the idea of a declining division the fact remains that four of the men Wlad defeated, namely Chagaev, Sultan Ibragimov, Calvin Brock and Sam Peter were all undefeated at the time they met Wlad. Two or them, Chagaev and Chris Byrd were reigning belt holders and two more, Lamon Brewster and Hasim Rahman were former belt holders but somewhat faded. That hardly sounds like a bunch of bums..
The Wlad fans on the other hand like to point out that Wlad is simply so much better than the others that he makes them look bad. The truth I suspect might be still debated years from now but I wanted to look at this question a little bit closer. I decided to look at what happens to these fighters after they meet Wlad for some possible clues. We will start with the bout where Wlad won his title from Chris Byrd since that seems to be about the time that he began to really dominate his foes.
Chris took a solid beating and was stopped in 7 rounds in April 2006. The significant point here is that after this bout it was a full year before Chris fought again and he seriously considered retirement. He never again has won an important fight and has in fact dropped down to first lightheavyweight and more recently cruiserweight for his bouts. Age is of course a factor here but Chris has never been the same again. You can say the same about all those that followed Byrd as challengers to Wlad.
Calvin Brock came next in November 2006. He was stopped in 7 rounds.Other than two soft tune-up wins it was a year before he resurfaced against another top fighter the following November when he was unimpressive in a decision loss to Eddie Chambers. He has never fought again and apparently has eye trouble.
Next in line was the softest of Wlad's foes Ray Austin who lasted only until the second round in March of 2007. He would not take another serious fight until he blew away Andrew Golota last November in China. This remains the biggest win by any former Wlad challenger after meeting Wlad. With Golota's past history you can't really call that a huge surprise or a big win either.
After Austin came Lamon Brewster in July of 2007 and a 6 round stoppage this time. Brewster did not fight again for 13 months after and has had only a couple of soft fights since. Then in February of 2008 Wlad met Sultan Ibragimov in a unification match. It was a dull fight that saw little damage done but Sultan was so discouraged by the result that he has never fought again.
Tony Thompson came in July of 2008, this time an 11 round stoppage.A year later Tony has had one easy fight with no talks of anything big on the horizon. Hasim Rahman followed him in December as a replacement for the injured Alex Povetkin and lasted until the 7th round. He hasn't fought again either.
I think you can see the pattern here.Once a fighter has met Wlad in a title bout that fighter is never the same again. These fighters usually need many months before they ever try to step up against a top rated fighter once more and many never do. My theory is that these are men who have been beaten both physically and mentally. Until they met Wlad they had been used to winning all or nearly all of their fights then suddenly they are in over their heads. This is a huge blow to the fighter's ego. Their fighting spirit has been broken. It happens during the fight with Wlad and lasts a long time after. Whether this happens because Wlad is so good or they are so bad is impossible to prove either way but few would argue that there is a huge gap in ability between them and Wlad.It may be a long time before anyone comes along that can bridge that gap. The handlers of Chris Arreola might well think about that before they try to throw Chris in the deep end with Wlad or brother Vitali at least until Chris has proven himself by defeating someone of the caliber that Wlad has found so easy.