I am in the minority these days when it comes to heavyweight boxing: I LOVE watching the Klitschko brothers.
Their fights have no drama, other than wondering how long it takes them to knock somebody out. But this is only because they are so excellent that they remove the challenger from the equation with ruthless efficiency.
They are in perfect shape, they box with skill and determination, and they are awesome natural athletes. Outside the ring, they are also worthy champions, always displaying class and representing the sport with dignity and respect.
There is only one criticism I have of their respective title reigns: they are both avoiding the best opponent available.
It isn't your standard "ducking" out of fear of a loss, or promoters squabbling over money. The best heavyweight fight of my lifetime will not happen because of a promise the men have made to their mother not to fight each other.
At the the risk of upsetting Mrs. Klitschko, however, I have to wish that this fight will some day take place.
Now, don't get me wrong, I understand perfectly well that this is different than Venus and Serena Williams playing in a tennis match. Wladimir and Vitali love each other and neither wants to be responsible for causing the other harm.
This is understandable, but is it fair to the sport of boxing?
This sport has given both of these men a lot in terms of money and fame. In return, they have given back some of their health and much of their time and energy. What they haven't given, however, is a fight with the best possible opponent.
You simply cannot have two great boxers in the same weight class that refuse to ever step into the ring against each other. It is extremely detrimental to the sport. If you don't agree, take a look at the general public's interest in heavyweight boxing. You may have to get out your microscope to find it.
People don't care because in sports they want to know who is best, that is the essence of athletic competition. There is no drama in heavyweight fights because none of them are being fought to determine who the best in the world is. If we know that two particular guys are numbers one and two, we need to see them against each other, not battering countless third place contenders.
It saddens me that the heavyweight fight most fans are excited for is Adamek vs. Arreola. That fight is likely a good brawl to be sure, but no more than a consolation prize in terms of the true heavyweight championship.
I must admit, as much respect as I have for the Klitschko family as people, I just don't buy their excuse for refusing to match up against each other.
Theoretically, either one of them could just as easily get hurt fighting somebody else. If the brothers were that worried about each other's safety, each would be telling the other not to box at all. Instead, they both stand in their brother's corner and cheer him on as he risks his safety against inferior competition.
So Wlad is comfortable with Vitali getting hurt by Lennox Lewis, just not by himself?
Another thing to remember is that boxing is a sporting event, not an actual "fight." As much as we like to use words like "war" and "battle" when discussing what happens in the ring, it is actually just two men trying to find out who is better at a sport.
Nobody would be telling the brothers that they have to dislike one another. There are plenty of boxers who are good friends that have gone at it in the ring. Is their concern for each other less valid than Vitali and Wladimir's?
The referee and doctor are there to protect fighters from being hurt, and that doesn't change whether the combatants can't stand each other or are best buddies.
At the end of the day, this fight will probably take place only in the minds of fight fans. I will continue to watch both Klitschkos and remain in awe of their ability. When it is all said and done, though, I will consider both of their careers incomplete, as I would any champion that refused a matchup with their best potential challenger.