Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Look At The Potential Options For Wladimir Klitschko Heading Into 2015

A question that will often be asked in regard to a dominant fighter is who can provide a stern test for that fighter. The dominant fighter, unified IBF/WBO/WBA/IBO Heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko has been undefeated for the past ten years and has won sixty-two of sixty-five professional fights.  Klitschko would ask this question of undefeated IBF number one contender Kubrat Pulev on November 15th at the O2 World Arena in Hamburg, Germany as he would make his seventeenth title defense. 

The question that faced the challenger in this fight was whether or not Pulev had an answer for Klitschko’s arsenal, which is highlighted by his jab followed by a straight right hand. Although Klitschko’s jab and right hand have often been showcased in his fights, in this fight it would be his left hook that would be the significant weapon.

Despite being known as a slow starter, Pulev attempted to bring the fight to the champion from the outset. The challenger showed immediately that he was not intimidated as almost as soon as the fight began while in a clinch, Pulev tried to immediately hit Klitschko with his free arm, often hitting Klitschko in the back of the head. One thing that did help the challenger was his 6’4 1/2 frame and being nearly identical to the champion in terms of weight weighing 246 3/4 lbs. to Klitschko’s 245 3/4 lbs.

Recent Klitschko opponents such as Alexander Povetkin and Alex Leapai were unable to land anything significant when Klitschko was able to tie them up. This was due in large part to the champion’s natural size, strength, and weight advantage over them. This time Klitschko was not able to tie up his opponent as easily.

The champion however, would demonstrate his power in the opening round as he connected with a flush left hook that sent the challenger down to the canvas nearly midway through the first round. Pulev immediately arose from the knockdown, but was floored for a second time seconds later as he was clearly hurt as a result of the first knockdown.

Despite being knocked down twice, Pulev remained undeterred and continued to attempt to bring the fight to Klitschko. The challenger however, would be dropped for the third time in the fight in round three as a result of another Klitschko left hook. Pulev showed his mettle as he got up and continued to fight. Although Pulev’s courage and determination cannot be questioned, he simply did not have an answer to avoid Klitschko’s arsenal. The end would come in round five as Klitschko would respond after being struck by Pulev with a flush right hand, the challenger’s best punch up to that point, by landing a brutal left hook that sent the challenger down and out on the canvas. With the win Klitschko advances to 63-3, with 53 Knockouts. Kubrat Pulev falls to 20-1, with 11 Knockouts.

Much like his sixteenth title defense against Alex Leapai earlier this year, this was ultimately just another day at the office for Wladimir Klitschko. Although Pulev was clearly outclassed in this fight, he did show courage, tremendous heart, and deserves credit for the effort he put forth against a truly dominant Heavyweight champion.

What led to Pulev’s downfall in this fight in this observer’s eyes was two factors. One he has a style where he holds his hands up high, but does so wide, which allowed Klitschko a fighter who is known for his accuracy to more or less pick his shots. Pulev also did not offer much head movement and thus was a very inviting target for the champion. I was however, very impressed not only by Pulev’s courage and heart, but also by the fact that despite being knocked down multiple times, he continued to attempt to fight back and did not go into a defensive mode. Pulev’s determination will likely earn him respect and appreciation from both Boxing fans and experts alike. He certainly has the respect of this observer.

As for the champion, with now seventeen successful title defenses in his second reign as a Heavyweight world champion, the question remains who can provide a challenge for him as he continues his march towards Boxing history? In terms of the immediate future this observer sees two realistic options for Klitschko in 2015.

One option might be for Klitschko to meet the winner of the November 29th rematch between top contenders Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora to determine a new mandatory challenger in the World Boxing Organization’s (WBO) ratings. The other option would be for Klitschko to face the winner of the upcoming WBC championship fight between champion Bermane Stiverne and undefeated WBC number one contender Deontay Wilder, which will take place on a date to be announced. If a fight between Klitschko and the winner of that fight could be made it would mean complete unification of the Heavyweight division.

There are other options that could be on the table for Klitschko such as a rematch with former WBA champion Ruslan Chagaev, who Klitschko stopped in nine rounds in 2009. Chagaev, who currently holds interim/regular status in the WBA ratings could be a likely candidate following the recent announcement that top contender Luis Ortiz, who also was designated as having interim/regular status by the WBA tested positive for a banned substance following his first round knockout win over Lateef Kayode in September. 

Although it remains somewhat unclear as to who might be designated as the next mandatory challenger by the WBA as of this writing, it seems logical that Chagaev would be the obvious choice. If however, Klitschko opts to take an elective defense for his next fight, contenders such as Bryant Jennings, Vyacheslav Glazkov, and perhaps even former WBO Heavyweight world champion Shannon Briggs, who has been on a campaign to try and secure a fight with Klitschko, might all be considered options.

We will have to simply wait and see what Klitschko decides to do next. This observer however, will remain firm in his hope as I stated prior to Klitschko’s fight with Kubrat Pulev that if the champion continues to win that his quiet, but steady march towards Boxing history receives the attention and recognition that it deserves.

Following Klitschko’s knockout of Pulev, I commented on social media that both fans and critics alike can say what they want about Klitschko’s Boxing style, but the fact is Klitschko simply gets the job done and often does so by knockout registering a career knockout percentage of over 80%.  Wladimir along with his brother Vitali will likely go down in history as I have said often over the years as two of the most dominant and two of the most underappreciated champions in Boxing history.

As Wladimir stands alone as the only Klitschko who is still active as a fighter, as he continues to approach the statistical milestones set by former Heavyweight champions Larry Holmes, who had twenty successful title defenses in his reign as Heavyweight champion and Joe Louis, who set the all-time record for successful title defenses in any division in Boxing history defending his title twenty-five times in his reign as champion, there is no doubt that Wladimir Klitschko’s place in history will be as an all-time great. If Klitschko ultimately surpasses both Holmes and Louis in his current reign as champion it will be increasingly difficult for any unbiased observer regardless of what you might think of his Boxing style to deny him the recognition befitting of an all-time great.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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