Why Vitali Klitschko Is Today's Top Heavyweight

13.12.04 - By Frank Lotierzo - - It's been a year and a half since former heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis stopped current WBC champ Vitali Klitschko, in what may have been the last fight of his career. In his bout with Lewis, Klitschko proved that it was just a matter of time before he would have the title heavyweight champ attached to his name. In fact, he was leading in the fight when it had to be stopped after the sixth round because of his severely cut left eye. At the conclusion of the fight both Lewis and Klitschko were exhausted. Along with being exhausted, the caliber of fighting displayed by both that night was not indicative as to what we've seen from them in past fights. However, both displayed the kind of courage associated with fighters who are called champ at some point in their career.

In re-visiting Lewis-Klitschko for the last time, let's clear a few things up. Lewis won the fight legitimately. It was the result of a punch landed on Klitschko thrown by Lewis that caused the cut. Klitschko fought outstanding and was winning on the scorecards when the fight ended. But that doesn't mean a thing regarding how the fight would've turned out had it continued. Lewis wasn't in anything close to top condition and apparently had no respect for Klitschko judging by how he fought, and it almost cost him..

Lennox Lewis fought and defeated the best heavyweight in the world before retiring from boxing, he doesn't owe Vitali Klitschko or boxing fans a thing. What Lewis did in his last fight was provide the boxing world a glimpse of the fighter who will most likely, and maybe is already, perceived as the premier heavyweight in boxing, Vitali Klitschko. Some fans and writers need to get over that Lewis owes Vitali a rematch nonsense. If Lewis fights Klitschko enough times at age 39 and beyond, Klitschko will surely beat him. And what will that prove? That Klitschko won their first fight, or he was the better fighter and champion?

If Lewis came out of retirement to fight a rematch with Klitschko, he'd be a fool. He is in a no win situation regardless of the outcome. For once a fighter didn't try and con himself or anyone else and got out of boxing at the right time. Going out in his last fight with a win over the fighter who many believed was his most serious and dangerous challenger was the way to go out. If Lewis lost a rematch to Klitschko, he'd never get credit for winning their first fight. And if he won the rematch, it would be said in many boxing circles that Klitschko was nothing special and only fought well the first time because he caught Lewis on an off night like McCall and Rahman did.

Lewis had his time, this is becoming Klitschko's. Credit Lewis for getting out of boxing on top instead of being ruined by it. Anyone saying Lennox Lewis is a coward or afraid of fighting Klitschko couldn't illustrate it any better that they really don't know a thing about fighters who make it to the level that Lewis did. Enough on Lewis.

Since fighting Lewis for the title, Vitali Klitschko has won a title elimination bout against Kirk Johnson, the vacant WBC title by defeating Corrie Sanders, and defended it against Danny Williams. Over the last year and a half Klitschko has demonstrated in the ring why he will some be endorsed by boxing's most astute observers as the top heavyweight fighter in the world. Just as Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, and Lennox Lewis were at one time during their title tenure.

In his title elimination bout with Kirk Johnson, other than some hard jabs and wild left hooks thrown by Johnson, Klitschko really wasn't pressed. In the second round he dropped Johnson and methodically took him apart leading the referee to stop the fight later in the round. The victory over Johnson set up Klitschko's next fight with hard punching southpaw Corrie Sanders.

Klitschko and Sanders fought for the WBC title that Lennox Lewis relinquished when he retired this past February. Sanders came out hard and fast against Klitschko, and had him hurt a few times during the first three rounds. Klitschko showed his poise and versatility by holding on and moving away while Sanders was punching himself out. When Sanders started to slow, Klitschko started picking him apart with straight left-rights to the head. By the fifth round Sanders became desperate and looked to end the fight with one punch, leaving himself more vulnerable to the body. The thinking fighter Klitschko is, saw this and started following his one-two's with a few straight rights to Sanders exposed body. By the eighth round Klitschko sensed Sanders power was gone and became more aggressive and began hammering him with big right hands forcing the referee to stop the fight.

Instead of fighting and trading with Sanders, which would've played to his strength, Klitschko stepped back and countered. When Klitschko was hurt or shook, he knew how to hold on and stay away not allowing Sanders to land any finishing punches. When Sanders slowed and tired, Klitschko forced him to either fight, or hope for a lucky punch while taking a beating.

In his last fight this past weekend Klitschko stopped Danny Williams in the eighth round to make the first defense of his WBC heavyweight title. Williams earned the title shot because he was able to survive the first couple of rounds against a rusty 38 year old Mike Tyson. When Tyson wasn't able to get Williams out early, it was just a matter of time before he was stopped. Danny Williams is not a special fighter, and didn't merit all the glowing praise as a fighter heaped on him because he beat a shot Mike Tyson.

Klitschko showed during the eight rounds he was in the ring with him that other than being pretty tough and having stopped Tyson in his last fight, there isn't much else that can be said about Williams. Against Williams Klitschko showed that he is a good technical boxer and a thinking fighter. He utilized his reach and kept Williams from sustaining any real offense, outside of making a few desperate lunges throwing wild left hooks to the body and ineffective right hands up top. During the fight Klitschko varied his attack and mixed his punches. When Williams was thinking jab, he went to the body. When Williams was looking for the right, Vitali utilized an educated left hand and countered with his hook.

Klitschko knew and fought the ideal fight against his overmatched and outclassed opponent. Whenever Williams was unsure on how to go about fighting or attacking him, Klitschko forced him to do something, usually leading to a scoring opportunity for him. And when Klitschko saw Williams attempting to go on the attack hoping to turn the momentum of the fight, he completely nullified him. Instead of confronting Williams and trading, Vitali stepped back and countered. By Klitschko adopting this tactic he actually hit Williams harder and did more damage.

Vitali Klitschko is a smarter fighter than I originally thought, and he knows how to utilize his strength's. However, he also understands distance, physics, and the importance of being able to fight effectively moving to and away from an opponent.

Klitschko is emerging as a fighter that is looking more and more like the man to beat in the division. I'm sure that's not high enough praise for some fans and followers. But declaring him the next great this or that, and they'll be coming out all over shortly doing just that, based on his last year and a half, the period where he's shown the most as a fighter, it's just too soon for me. And if he were to be upset in one of his next fights, They'd be calling him an overrated bum the next day. Once I assess him a great fighter, I can't reduce him to a bum later.

Klitschko showed why he can be special against Williams. It's not that beating Williams is such a big deal, it's how he beat him. Like a good quarterback who takes what the defense gives him and picks it apart. He also understands that moving back and away from an opponent doesn't mean your losing or not controlling the fight. Something Lennox Lewis utilized and understood.

Klitschko being 6' 7"or 6' 8" (depending on who published the measurement) and weighing 250 pounds makes him hard to attack and game against. On top of that he understands how to fight and box. And you must take into account that he is a pretty good puncher and takes a good punch. That combination makes him pretty complete. Sometimes because of his size he doesn't look as fluid and well rounded as he is, but when you watch him do the little subtle things he does neutralizing his opponent, you can clearly see that it happened by design and not accident.

In my opinion Vitali Klitschko is the best heavyweight in the world. His size makes him a very tough obstacle to deal with for the other top heavyweight's. However, he is also a thinking fighter and understands the limitations his opponents face when fighting him. And he does all that he can during the fight to make it as hard as possible for them to overcome him.

I believe the giant heavyweight's are overrated and not unbeatable like some portray them as being. Lennox Lewis was the first outstanding heavyweight over 6' 4" that put together a career body of work that will no doubt stand the test of time. Riddick Bowe was as skilled as Lewis, but wasn't on top long enough. I think Vitali Klitschko has the potential to possibly become the next really big heavyweight that is a special fighter. At this time in the heavyweight division, Klitschko's size, toughness, determination, and ability to think in the ring make him too much for any other fighter in what is a very pedestrian heavyweight division.

I'm looking forward to watching his reign as champ unfold and develop. I've stated my case why I think he's the best heavyweight fighter in the world. But as far as arguing and debating who's better between Klitschko and Lewis, or matching him with histories greatest heavyweight champions, I'm not ready to go there with a fighter who is 2-1 in world title fights. I'll let other writers do that.

Klitschko's career is still a work in progress and nobody can say for sure what his place in history will be until his career is finished. Those who anoint him the greatest today, will anoint him a bum tomorrow, if he loses.

Article posted on 12.12.2004

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