Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Heavyweight (yawn) Boxing

I recently watched a heavyweight boxing match on HBO featuring IBF International champion, Tomasz Adamek from Poland, and U.S. challenger, Chris Arreola. A quick look at these "fighters" made me yearn for the days when names like Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield were names to be feared and respected. And it's not just that Adamek and Arreola are relative unknowns. Adamek doesn't fit the part of a heavyweight boxer. He's small. He's essentially a beefed-up super middleweight. He sticks and moves pretty well (he's quick, though his footwork is awkward and he often crosses his feet in range of his opponent) but has zero power in his punches. He's in no danger of knocking out a heavyweight opponent, but here he is, an IBF heavyweight champion. Granted, it's not THE heavyweight title, but still...

Arreola, on the other hand, is a big guy, but he's totally out of shape. He's the IBF's number one international contender, yet comes into a title fight with rolls of fat on his sides, and where he should have menacing pectoral muscles, he instead sports drooping breasts. Yes, he has power in his punches, but that power is meaningless being that he can't catch an opponent who is light on his feet (as a boxer should be) and can't throw punches in combinations. On the occasions where he was able to catch Adamek and actually hurt him, Adamek was able to easly slip away or duck in and clinch him and give himself enough time to clear his head. Arreola looked like a clumsy bear who couldn't catch a wounded rabbit.

I know that the Klitschko brothers are the real champions. They are huge (Vitali is 6'7" and Wlad 6'5"), they are smart (both have a Ph.D.) and they are talented. Wladimir Klitschko holds both the IBF and WBO world titles and Vitaly holds the WBC title. But neither of these guys have ever really defeated a decent opponent. Wladimir's record sports wins over guys like Eddie Chambers, Tony Thompson and Ray Austin. Who the hell are these guys?

The "big name" fighters he's faced have been Hassim "The Lucky Punch" Rahman, Ruslan Chagaev, Sultan Ibragimov and Lamon Brewster. Not exactly the kind of fighters who have made a name for themselves in the sport and not exactly names to be feared. Well perhaps Klitschko should have been afraid of Brewster after Brewster knocked him out in 2004. But the fact remains that Klitschko hasn't had any stiff competition.

Vitali boasts victories over Arreola, Kevin Johnson, and a stubborn Corrie Sanders who knocked out Wladimir in 2003. Sanders had a tough chin and a wicked left hook, but by the time he fought Vitali he was 38 years old and had more gray hair than my father. Again these are not guys who ever really established themselves in the sport of boxing.

The only big name fighter that Vitali faced was the last great heavyweight boxing had to offer, Lennox Lewis. Both men are humongous and very skilled. Vitali nearly pulled out the win, rocking Lewis with some viscious right hands, but Lewis had opened up a cut above Klitschko's eye and was able to aggravate it to the point where the doctors stepped in and ruled Klitschko unable to continue, so Klitschko's best validation for being a supreme heavyweight champion comes from a loss. Not exactly convincing.

Boxing needs a great heavyweight rivalry once again. It needs Ali-Foreman, Ali-Frazier, Frazier-Foreman, Holyfield-Tyson. The best boxing fans could hope for these days is a Klitschko-Klitschko bout that will never take place. The brothers have promised that they'll never fight one another as it would put their mother through too much strain.

So it seems as though boxing fans will have to pretend to get excited to see one of the Klitschko brothers fight WBA champ David Haye who recently retired one of the biggest disgraces to heavyweight boxing, John Ruiz. And we will yawn as another non-champion gives up his belt to a Klitschko.

To whomever steps up and gives the Klitschkos a decent fight...

My lips to yours.

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