'Left-Hook Lounge': Vivek Wallace's Mailbag feat. Vitali-K/Briggs, Haye, and Bute!
Chaz L. (Brooklyn, NYC): I read your article last Friday about Shannon Briggs and Vitali Klitschko and I has to say, it was a very painful defeat to watch unfold. I'd like to know a few things. First, your thoughts on the stoppage that never came? What do you think this fight really proved for Vitali Klitschko? And what do you think it said about the state of the division itself?
Article posted on 18.10.2010
Vivek W. (ESB): First and foremost, I want to wish Shannon Briggs a healthy recovery. I had the opportunity to watch the fight unfold and like many others, I found myself wondering why the stoppage never came? I guess it's very easy to sit here and say the referee should have done this, or the team should have done that, but I think two underlying elements involved directly trumped both options. Briggs is a man of tremendous pride and his interest in showing that pride to the world is what propelled him to stop his team from ending the fight, leading them to believe he could continue, and his sentiments were further supported by his actions in the ring, where he continued to chat it up with Vitali after every single shot of the deadly assault landed flush. In hindsight, the ref would have probably taken his liberty to end the fight if he could do it all over again, but in the back of his mind there was probably the reality that this was all taking place in front of a full house - (nearly 17K plus) - who all came for their monies worth, and as long as a man is cognizant enough to respond verbally and at times pugilistically, the heightened moment before a euphoric crowd can easily swallow the reality - which was that this man had endured more than he needed.
The oddity here is that when there's no major blood pour, the impression is always "hey, he's taking some flush shots, but he's standing, he'll be fine". There are occasions where we've seen guys bloodied that could continue, yet aren't allowed to; and I've seen times like this where a man is battered and not bloody, and shouldn't be allowed to continue. This was one of those moments.
Now.....You also asked what did it "really prove" for Vitali? Well, something I've said for a while now. Wladimir continues to get the credit, and he has done a great job, too, but Vitali is easily the most technically sound big man we've seen in the sport in quite some time. There was a reason the aging Lennox Lewis failed to give him a rematch for a fight that Lewis lucked into winning, by virtue of a stoppage caused by a cut, despite being behind (Lewis) on the cards. Vitali rarely gets the credit he deserves, but he is very much fundamental, and there's no coincidence why he's right behind Mayweather as the sports two plus/minus ratio leaders and probably will retire that way. Both are criticized for what some perceive to be a weak work rate, but they ONLY throw punches when they know the time is right, and when you bring aggression, they respond with much of the same....just more intelligently applied. Break down the fight footage and you will see how deliberate Vitali is when it comes to punching on the break (which is perfectly legal, unless the ref is the one who breaks the action). He's incredibly smart in the ring and his athleticism paralleled with his size makes him that more deadly. You have to respect that.
Finally, to address your question about the state of the state of the division.......here's my rendition, which has been altered a bit from days of the past. Here in America, it's very easy to be dismissive and join the "heavyweight division is weak" choir. Truth is, considering the talent we have added to the mix and the fact that it just simply doesn't equate, it's very logical why many here in the U.S. feel that way. In London and Germany, arena's are filled to capacity, and every person that fills it pays for a ticket or personally requests one. My point.....where there's action worth watching, the fans wanna watch! In America, it isn't just the heavyweights, it's the sport itself that has lost it's way. Fans in America only come out and drop dollars when the 'Hollywood' element comes out, and to bring the 'Hollywood' element out, you have to bring the drama and the Hollywood reality agenda. HBO carries the 24/7 series, made for Hollywood and it's the only time we see the 'Hollywood' element in the American landscape of the sport. Showtime doesn't. Now ask yourself when was the last time you saw a famous mega-star at a Showtime televised card? It doesn't happen, despite Showtime's consistently better card matchups. Bottomline, in America, people flock to drama, and when there's no drama AND sub-par action, too, there usually isn't much. Across the pond, they simply love the sport....with or without the 'Hollywood element'......Period.
Harvey K. (FaceBook Msg): David Haye has recently stated that the Klitschko's "need" him to seal their legacy. They are both accomplished, but with so few others out there to actually fight, do you think this is a true statement since he does represent the new school?
Vivek W. (ESB): I think it all depends on what you consider when you use the term "legacy". When you really examine that word, "legacy", due to the often contrasting elements behind it, the range of answers you may get to this question surrounding the Klitschko's legacy will widely vary. You have those out there who will say "they have dominated, and they have already sealed their legacy". Then you have those who will say "they have taken part in the weakest era of the divisions storied history, so they have no legacy". Somewhere in the middle you have those who will agree with Haye and say, "well, they have dominated but they haven't faced anyone, so since Haye is the only halfway decent competitor around at this stage, yes, they have to defeat him"! My personal feeling towards the matter? I don't think we can hold the era against them. All you can do is judge any fighter by the effort he gave against the man standing across from him.
I would have to say that of the two, Vitali, with or without Haye has sealed his legacy. He has a lost to Lewis, but we all know the deal there. Had the cut not caused the stoppage, he was well on his way to victory, barring anything crazy, (which could have happened - in all fairness). His other loss was to Byrd, but an injury stopped him there too, despite him being ahead on all cards at the time. has never been decisively beaten. So with or without Haye, his legacy is sealed.....whatever one may consider that legacy to be. Wladimir, on the other hand, still has a bit more tread left on his tires. I would love to see them both get a crack at David, but for Wladimir, I feel this is a must. He has to. Now does his legacy truly depend on it? I think some could argue that his dominance was defined enough to say no, but I honestly don't know how you get around it.
The funny thing in this whole matter is that this question ask what the K-Bros need to do to solidify their legacy, but the man who says they need him to solidify theirs haven't actually done anything to solidify his own. Haye did well as a cruiser, unifying his division and looking pretty decent in the process, but if he truly steps away by age 31, what can we really and truly point to as his career defining moments????? I honestly don't see any that would require us to say he has "sealed his legacy" yet. What is his legacy? That's an honest question for those out there who feel he has one. My money says that rather than worrying about what others need to do to seal their legacy, Haye needs to press the action to help solidify his own. And that's coming from someone who considers themselves a fan of his!
Peter G. (Cleveland, OH): There's rumor spreading that Pavlik may get a shot at Lucian Bute. I think Pavlik still has a lot to give the sport, and I think this would be a great matchup, because Bute won't handle his power too good. Would you agree?
Vivek W. (ESB): Short answer.....No. Not at all. Similar to Vitali, and Calzaghe, and a bunch of other boxers from places other than the U.S., Bute has a helluva talent, but has flown under the radar for the simple fact that you have probably never really seen much of him. We have American fighters who remain under the radar, so it should come as no surprise that across the pond and beyond our borders there are men and women of the sport who are equally as dangerous, if not more so. Bute has solid skills, and as Miranda learned, solid power too. The problem that lies here for Pavlik is that he has NEVER shown that he can truly handle a skilled boxer - which I would classify Bute as. Yes, Pavlik certainly has a punchers chance, but over the course of 12 rounds, I just don't see him outboxing Bute, or really landing enough flush shots to dictate the end result. Pavlik is in desperate need of a career saving victory, I just don't like this one as that possible opportunity. Bute is far too polished. If Pavlik doesn't make drastic changes, he will be more embarrassed than he was the night with Hopkins.
(Vivek Wallace can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 954-292-7346, Youtube (VIVEK1251), Twitter (VIVEKWALLACE747), Facebook and Myspace)
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