A Fight to Stay Awake: It's Hard to Love Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko
The numbers say Wladimir Klitschko is a great champion. In fact, a Bill James disciple could one day look at his Wikipedia entry and declare, context be damned, that the Ukrainian star was among the very best heavyweight boxers of all time.
His record, right there in plain black and white, speaks for itself. Klitschko is 61-3 in his storied career, with 51 wins by way of knockout. He hasn't lost a bout in nearly 10 years.
His reign has lasted seven years and five months. Only Joe Louis sat the throne longer. Klitschko has made 15 consecutive defenses of his title and won 22 overall title fights. Only Louis and Muhammad Ali can match that.
|Chris Byrd||4/22/2006||TKO (7)||Won IBF Championship|
|Ruslan Chagaev||6/20/2009||RTD (9)||Won Ring Magazine Title|
|David Haye||7/2/2011||UD||Won WBA Title|
|Alexander Povetkin||10/5/2013||UD||Beat 2004 Olympian|
Against Alexander Povetkin, Klitschko was a boxing robot with two settings—jab and clinch. The result was a horrendous fight. His best work came when he pressed his immense bulk directly down onto Povetkin's neck every time they came into contact, which was early and often.
A solid technician like Povetkin threw him into a defensive shell that, while easy to respect, is hard to love. Povetkin was never really in the fight because Klitschko—and lenient officiating that let him lean and hold to his heart's content—didn't allow it.
In the end, the fight showed why he hadn't appeared on HBO in more than two years. No real challenger has emerged in his absence from American television, and with work like this, you can see why he's hardly been missed.
He's ruled over a diminished crop of fighters with an iron fist. But what, really, does that mean?
His best test remains his own brother Vitali, a fight that can't and won't happen. That leaves a hole in his resume where a big win belongs. Without it, no matter what the numbers say, Klitschko can never be considered among history's best.
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