Monday, April 28, 2014

Wladimir Klitschko: 16 Successful Title Defenses, Pulev Next?

When long reigning IBF/WBO/WBA/IBO Heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko entered the ring to make the sixteenth defense of his world title against WBO number one contender Alex Leapai on April 26th in Germany there was not a feeling of suspense. Leapai, the relatively unknown challenger had emerged on the scene after scoring a convincing ten round unanimous decision upset win over previously undefeated number one contender Denis Boytsov in November of last year.

There is no doubt as this fight approached however, that most considered Leapai to be a considerable underdog against a fighter who in addition to being a two-time Heavyweight world champion had also not lost a fight in over a decade. In the lead up to this fight I stated that Leapai needed to bring the fight to Klitschko from the outset and not allow him to establish distance. I went on to say that there was no way that the 6’0 Leapai could win this fight from the outside against the 6’6 Klitschko, who in addition to his height also has an eighty-one inch reach.

When the two fighters entered the ring there would be no element of surprise, but rather a great fighter at his best giving the Boxing world and another demonstration as to why he has been so dominant since regaining the Heavyweight title in 2006 in his second fight with Chris Byrd. Leapai began the fight trying to establish head movement and looking to apply pressure on Klitschko. Klitschko however, would score a knockdown of Leapai with the jab midway through the first round.

Although Leapai did not appear hurt he was not able to disrupt Klitschko’s rhythm in that Klitschko was able to establish his jab and in doing so began looking to land his right hand. This has been the fundamental style that has befuddled many an opponent for Klitschko in the last decade. It may not be the most entertaining style to watch in the eyes of some, but you simply cannot argue with success.

As has become the norm any time an opponent gets close to Klitschko, Klitschko immediately ties that opponent up and does not allow an opponent to get off with anything effective. Such was the case for Alex Leapai. Any time Leapai got close, Klitschko quickly tied him up and then reestablished the distance. Even though Leapai continued to try to get underneath Klitschko’s jab he eventually became a stationary target for Klitschko’s offense and could not establish hardly any offense of his own.

The one-sided encounter came to an end as the effects of Klitschko’s jabs and right hands gradually broke Leapai down as the champion scored two knockdowns in the fifth round to force a stoppage of the fight. In all truth and honesty there is not much to say about this fight nor is there much to analyze.

Sometimes it is a simple as one fighter doing what he has to do. With the win Klitschko has now successfully defended his title sixteen times leaving him four title defenses away from tying Larry Holmes who had twenty successful title defenses during his title reign from 1978-1985. Currently, Klitschko is nine defenses away from tying the all-time record of twenty-five successful title defenses, which was set by Joe Louis from 1937-1949.

Although there will be some who will say that Leapai, who was out landed 147 to 10 over the course of the fight simply did not provide any resistance for Klitschko and say that this title defense does not prove anything, I respectfully disagree. At the end of the day this was another day at the office for Wladimir Klitschko. In the bigger picture however, this fight was one more step on Klitschko’s march towards Boxing history. Even though there will be detractors who will say that there was a lack of depth in the Heavyweight division during Klitschko’s era, I believe statistics do not lie and when Wladimir’s career is said and done it will be hard for anyone to say that he was not an all-time great. All a fighter can do is face who is put in front of them.

Some may choose to debate as to the state of the Heavyweight division and whether or not that has played any role in not only Wladimir’s dominance, but of the Klitschko brothers as a whole. This observer believes that it may not necessarily be a case of a weak division, but maybe the two men who have dominated the last decade of Heavyweight Boxing Wladimir and older brother Vitali are simply just that good.

As for what’s next for Wladimir, it is logical to assume that he will face the IBF’s top contender the undefeated Kubrat Pulev later this year in another mandated title defense. As for the rest of the division, all the attention will now focus on the bout to determine a new WBC world champion as top contenders Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola meet in a rematch on May 10th. The winner that fight will probably be mandated to face undefeated top contender Deontay Wilder who defeated Malik Scott in March in a fight that was billed as an elimination bout.

No matter what happens with the WBC championship, the biggest story in the Heavyweight division will continue to be Wladimir Klitschko’s march towards Boxing history. As Klitschko’s reign atop the division continues it is logical to assume that if he were successful in defeating Pulev that Stiverne, Arreola, and Wilder would all be potential future opponents no matter who might be WBC champion.

The question that this observer will continue to ponder is can any of the above or anyone else in the division for that matter derail Wladimir Klitschko’s march towards Boxing history? It will surely be interesting as opponents continue to attempt to answer that question.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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