Boxing


Can Wladimir Klitschko resurrect his reputation?

20.04.05 - By Patrick Corcoran: Among the more precipitous declines of highly touted fighters in recent years is that of Vladimir Klitschko. With a wide array of weapons, terrific hand-speed for a big man, and great size, just two and a half years ago, he seemed the heir apparent in the heavyweight division, if not Lennox Lewis’ usurper. He had a lot of people convinced; no less than Jim Lampley said he was the future of the division.. Many agreed that he was the most skilled big man since Holmes, the biggest puncher since Tyson. With flashy wins over Ray Mercer and Chris Byrd, as well as a likeable persona, he seemed poised to dazzle the world in the ring and outside. Then he got hit, and everything changed. The first man to dent that chin was Corrie Sanders, a South African journeyman who, although quick-fisted, is no Lennox Lewis. After Sanders’ two-round, four knockdown annihilation, certain predictions regarding Wlad had to be rethought.

Klitschko, his promotion squad, and his fans were prepared to consider this a just momentary blip on his inevitable ascent to greatness. He was given a shot at the WBO title in the chaos that ensued after Lewis’s departure, against an unknown named Lamon Brewster.

Brewster, of course, knocked Klitschko out, and that was pretty much the nail in the Klitschko-is-Foreman coffin. Once a fighter is written off as having no heart and a weak chin, well, unfair or not, it is hard for him to recover. Consequently, it is nearly impossible to win any argument supporting Klitschko these days.

An uninspiring win over DaVarryl Williamson in October did nothing to change the popular impression of Klitschko, but as long as he is still fighting, Klitschko can try to resurrect his reputation. His next fight on that path is Saturday night in Dortmund, Germany, with Eliseo Castillo, a Cuban fighter with a pretty record that reveals nothing. Castillo’s most notable win to date, a ten-round decision last year over pokey ex-champ Michael Moorer, demonstrated him as a competent fighter, but was more memorable as evidence of Moorer’s decline in skill than of any great future for Castillo. He can change this view only somewhat with even a devastating performance over Klitschko.

Wladimir, the younger of the two Ukrainian giants has fallen so far in public esteem that even should he score a first round knockout, the public perception will likely be that he only won because he was fighting an overmatched opponent in Castillo. Clearly, whatever aura once existed about Klitschko is gone. His offensive prowess is a non-issue if he can’t take a punch after the fourth round. If this is the case, if the Brewster fight was the real indication of what kind of fighter he is, all Castillo has to do is wait out the storm, pick his spots, and then start fighting when Klitschko shows the first inclination of being tired. I don’t see that happening. Cuban fighters are rarely big punchers, and Castillo’s performance with Moorer did not suggest that he can hurt a big man. Klitschko’s long reach and able punches are such that, if he has even a fraction of his former confidence, it should put him over the top against Castillo. But the days of Klitschko, the scary, indomitable, giant future champion of the heavyweight world are in the past, and will remain so no matter what happens Saturday in Germany.

Article posted on 20.04.2005



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