Once again Wladimir Klitschko (53-3) proves his dominance over the heavyweight picture with an interesting yet somewhat dull victory over Ruslan Chagaev (25-1-1). Klitschko barely needed to throw a hook or uppercut let alone a body shot. While the German based Ukrainian probed his jab into the face of his foe for 9 rounds, with the occasional straight right over the top while receiving nothing in return, I found myself wondering why he couldn't just close the show. Even though over 80% of Klitschko wins (47 of 53) result in a knockout, he manages to accomplish this without any dramatics. I'm not insinuating he needs to go about his business in a more carefree way that would put him at risk of getting hit to make it more exciting, but at least throw some finishing combinations when it is obvious he has his man. At the end of the 9th round Chagaev had given up on his feet as he started to absorb every right hand Klitschko threw at him without any response. Klitschko could have done whatever he wanted but he was still content to throw cautious straight rights set up by jabs. However, all this offense may be too much to ask of the 6 foot 7 inch Ukrainian, when considering that his only exciting fights resulted in a loss, with the exception of the Samuel Peter fight back in 2005 (W12 UD).
It has become more apparent in Klitschko's last few fights that he is getting hit a lot less. With a rejuvenated extra-extra cautious approach that combines not attempting to throw anything other than straight shots, and only letting power shots go after enough rounds of jabbing have gone by. The crowd (and his opponent) become anesthetized into a state of stupefied boredom to the point that they are more interested in the fight ending than the actual result.
To the everyday spectator the combatants don't appear doing anything. I had a friend ask why the guy that couldn't reach the other one gave up before receiving and real punishment. It then became clear to me that while I was content, or more resigned to watching an interesting heavyweight title fight rather than an exciting one, anyone short of a die hard boxing fan would find it excruciatingly boring. So much so that they have to wonder if the shots that are landing are actually doing anything at all. I could see it was only a matter of time before Chagaev was methodically knocked out, or pulled out after the late barrage of accurate straight right hands to the chin in the 9th.
A less interested spectator finds it difficult to comprehend the devastation of Klitschko's punches due to his workmanlike, safety first, methodical approach to fighting. Had we been watching a Tyson a Lewis or a prime Holyfield I'm pretty sure there would have been shudders from anyone watching when the power shots were landing in slick combinations as they once did. However, you cannot really fault Klitschko's safety first performances of late, as they are defining the art of hitting while not being hit (which is generally accepted as the main aim in boxing). To enable us to see Klitschko on more of a level playing field, its a case of finding a Heavyweight that is big enough and skilled enough to pressure him into making mistakes.
Chagaev seemed to be the most worthy replacement of David Haye, if not more worthy. Undefeated in 25 outings, the one-time conquerer of Russian giant Nikolay Valuev, WBA 'Champion in recess' and generally understood to be ranked at number 3 in the world behind the Klitschko brothers themselves. Chagaev's performance when outpointing Valuev back in 2007 was a beautiful display of in-out foot movement, while unloading enough combinations on the inside to offset the giant and stop him from launching his own attack.
This time out it soon became clear as early as the 2nd round that game plan wouldn't work against Klitschko. His far superior skills and athleticism showed when Chagaev was flattened by a right hand to the chin that jarred the misplaced named 'White Tyson's' neck back. After this point Chagaev became reluctant to force the attack as he did time and time again against Valuev, and was eventually ground down to a standstill. Although the challenger held an impressive record going in to the fight, the ease of Klitschko's win wasn't much of a shock as Chagaev came close to a loss in 2006, when only scrapping past the fading and rather limited john Ruiz with a split decision. Chagaev's best shot of the night was a left hook that came after the bell rang at the end of the 8th round, when Klitschko had dropped his hands. The only other shots Chagaev seemed to be landing were ineffective straight left and rights to the body that Klitschko took the sting out of by moving away.
So it appears David Haye might be the most worthy opponent after all. But Haye would still have to be a big underdog, as although he has knocked out qualtiy Cruiserweight opposition in Fragomeni, Mormeck and Maccarinelli, he didn't completely dominate in those performances. He was constantly hit with the jab, and straight shots in general in the Fragomeni fight, to the point that he was close to being stopped on cuts. And cut again in the Maccarinelli fight which ended too quickly to see the full extent of Haye's vulnerabilities. Haye was knocked down in the Mormeck fight, albeit it was partly a slip. Add to this list the Thompson loss and you can also start raising questions about Haye's stamina.
At Heavyweight Haye got overconfident and suffered a knockdown to glorified journeyman Monti Barrett, and blitzed an overprotected Audly Harisson victim in Tomaz Bonin in 1. Despite this questionable list of performances it seems that Haye is the only hope of forcing an eventful fight out of Klitschko. Yes it may be too soon for Haye to be mixing it with the best at heavyweight, but I don't think fighting anyone else in the division, bar even more dangerous big brother Vitali would prepare him for the size, power and experience that Wlad will bring.
One might suggest that fighting and beating the soon to be WBA champion Valuev would bring a belt to the table, and provide a good comparison of size. But what did that do for Chagaev? I say lets get Haye in with Wlad as soon as possible, and sit back and watch the fireworks. I still don't fancy Haye's chances beyond an early knockout in the first 4 rounds. But those first 4 rounds would be more exciting to watch than 12 rounds of Wlad against any other viable heavyweight, with the possible exception of Chris Arreola, who in my opinion needs more experience than Haye at this point.
As for Valuev facing either of the Klitschko's even he knows better than that. Valuev is on what I like to call the other side of the heavyweight division. Since the beginning of the Ruiz v Holyfield trilogy the WBA belt has been passed between and fought for by heavyweights such as these two, and Valuev, Mcline, Toney, Oquendo and Chagaev. These guys must know that they are not quite good enough to fight for the 'real' heavyweight title against recent top level operators such as Lewis or the Klitschkos.