Firstly I want to talk about Chris 'The Nightmare' Arreola’s (27-1) performance in this fight as this was the big surprise. We already knew WBC Champion Vitali 'Dr Iron Fist' Klitschko’s (38-2) capabilities going into this fight, at 38 years of age he is an experienced and truly tested heavyweight. This was Arreola’s big test of legitimacy and even though he only won one round of the ten on two of the judges’ scorecards, and none on the other, I would say he passed with flying colours. I usually like to put a bet on the big fights even if it’s just a few quid on a round here and there. But in this fight I had no idea which round to go for. I was sure Klitschko would knock him out, but I could see it happening in any round from the 3rd onwards.
Arreola totally surprised me (and Klitschko, as he stated after the fight, which I will come back to), what a performance, I believe he did everything he possibly could have, within his physical and mental capabilities to win this fight. Although Arreola couldn’t get to Klitschko to land his big punches, he barely took one backward step and managed to block and slip a lot more punches than most other Klitschko opponents. Arreola’s stubbornness and massive heart was what made this fight so entertaining. Every round I was wondering if it was going to be the round that he finally breaks down Klitschko’s mean machine?
Based on this fight and the Lennox Lewis fight, it seems Klitschko just throws as many shots as he can if his opponent is in range, regardless of how tired he becomes. Klitschko averaged over 80 punches per round, which is phenomenal for a heavyweight, let alone a heavyweight of his size. If Arreola had any chance of beating Klitschko it would be by doing exactly what he did; putting on constant pressure, using the jab and unloading whenever he got the chance to land. It didn’t matter that he was losing every round; his only chance was to wear Klitschko out, then knock him out. He wasn’t going to outbox the guy over 12.
Arreola’s exceptional durability, ability to take a punch and stamina were all displayed in this fight. It seems to me that had he not been facing a Klitschko, he would almost certainly have won against any other heavyweight around. The tears at the end of the fight showed that he had turned up to win, and when the realisation hit him that he hadn’t, he became overrun by emotion. Had the referee not stopped the fight, it seems Arreola would have become only the second man to have ever gone the distance with Vitali Klitschko, although he was rocked by big right hands a couple of times in the 10th, so I can’t be sure?
As he has in all his fights since losing to Lewis in 2003, Klitschko executed his game plan perfectly, as has little brother Wladamir in his recent starts. The difference though is that Vitali manages to entertain as well as dominate. This is because he takes a lot more risks by throwing a high volume and variety of power shots, rather than just being patient behind the jab. Although it sounds negative, the best way to describe Klitschko punches are kind of lazy, even clumsy, thudding blows. He holds both hands so low beneath his waist, and likes to use looping punches from all angles rather than straight shots. Maybe this is what allows him to throw so many? He is very relaxed when letting his shots go and because of his leaning back defense, he doesn’t need to hold his arms up in front of him which preserves energy.
As Klitschko prefers to use his 6 foot 7 inch height to adopt such a defence method, you would expect him to have exemplary footwork to keep him at just the right distance. But this doesn’t seem to be the case, Arreola managed to land some decent punches and these were all landed when Klitschko was off balance from trying to move away in a hurry when his feet weren’t in the right position. This is why whenever he gets hit he looks to be in trouble as he staggers all over the place. His legs often get crossed over making him vulnerable.
Lennox Lewis showed us the blueprint of how to beat Vitali, by staying on him with constant pressure, thus not giving him a chance to set his feet. Unfortunately for Arreola, he may have had the skill but he didn’t have the size to pull it off. Coming back to the bizarre nature of Klitschko’s punches, I noticed in one replay he landed a punch on Arreola’s chin, that then went on to follow through to hit him in the body and then as it bounced off the body it then hit the arm. It’s no wonder he has such a huge KO percentage when he manages to throw so many lofty, sluggish, powerful swings that also happen to be very accurate.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Vitali Klitschko’s boxing method is more similar to Muhammad Ali’s than any other heavyweight I know. I’m not talking about his punching technique or even style wise. I’m talking about choosing to lean away from punches with his hands by his side as his main form of defence, head hunting tendencies and high punch output. What makes them seem so different is where Ali has speed, Klitschko has power. Vitali Klitschko should be up there with the best heavyweights of all time, but as he hasn’t had the level of opposition to give him the defining fights he’s been looking for, he is enormously underrated.
You may not be able to compare a heavyweight of the present to a heavyweight of the past as the size they are now would make it unfair. Of course a Jack Dempsey or a Rocky Marciano at less than 190 pounds wouldn’t be able to beat the top big men of today. So we have to compare their accomplishments. Vitali Klitshcko is a heavyweight champion that has knocked out over 90% of his opponents, only been beaten twice due to injuries in fights that he was ahead on the scoring, and to top it all off had a 4 year period of inactivity. At this point in his career he has lost fewer rounds than Floyd Mayweather has, in the same amount of fights.
Coming back to Klitschko’s statement at the end of the fight, about how surprised he was that Chris Arreola managed to put on such a tremendous performance, I would like to point something out. In the press conferences leading up to this fight, Klitschko made this out to be a very hard fight for him, even going so far as to say that he wasn’t sure who would win when questioned on the outcome. Now, Klitschko pretty much won every round but says he’s surprised how well Arreola did? Shouldn’t he be more surprised at himself for winning so convincingly when he wasn’t sure if he was going to win at all? So he obviously thought the fight was going to be an easy one, but didn’t want that to hamper the ticket sales. Why couldn’t he just say that? Ali used to say it all the time when he believed it, and it made him a bigger attraction for it. Just to jog your memory, Ali stated before their first fight that Sonny Liston would be his easiest fight to date, described Henry cooper as ‘a bum that won’t go past 5 rounds’, and perhaps most comically had this to say about Floyd Patterson: ‘he’s too short, he’s too slow, he don’t hit hard, he can’t take a punch and he don’t have the footwork’.
And one more thing while I’m on a rant; since when was a fight that ended after ten rounds called a 10th round TKO and not an 11th? It used to be recognised that if a number rounds had been completed (say ten), then it must be an 11th round TKO as ten rounds were successfully completed.