Friday, November 14, 2014

Wladimir Klitschko Goes For Title Defense Number 17 Against Pulev

A storyline that has quietly been gaining momentum is unified IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko’s steady march towards Boxing history.  Klitschko, the two-time Heavyweight world champion has in his second reign as champion compiled sixteen successful title defenses since regaining a portion of the Heavyweight crown by scoring a knockout in his second win over then IBF world champion Chris Byrd in 2006. 

Normally a fighter who has been as dominating as Wladimir Klitschko has been for much of the last decade, the idea of that fighter making a run to attempt to match or even surpass the all-time record for successful title defenses, not just of the Heavyweight division, but rather the entire sport would certainly garner significant attention. For Klitschko however, much of his career has been defined not only by his own individual dominance, but also as one half of what this observer has often called “The Two-Headed Heavyweight Championship Monster” known as the Klitschko brothers. Until late last year when Wladimir’s older brother Vitali retired to focus on his political ambitions, the Heavyweight division was simply ruled by two brothers with iron fists.

Although the retirement of Vitali has left at least the potential for an undisputed champion to eventually be crowned in the division, there is no dispute that Wladimir Klitschko is the number one fighter in the Heavyweight division and the retirement of his brother has not diminished his dominance. In his last fight in April of this year Klitschko dominated a “Game”, but over matched Alex Leapai in scoring a fifth round stoppage to retain his unified world title and earned his sixteenth consecutive title defense.

Klitschko’s TKO of the WBO’s number one contender Leapai cleared the way for him to make another mandatory championship defense against the IBF’s number one contender the undefeated Kubrat Pulev. Pulev, a native of Sofia, Bulgaria is unbeaten in twenty professional fights, is a former European Heavyweight champion, and has scored victories over top contenders Alexander Dimitrenko, Alexander Ustinov, and former two-time world title challenger and former two-time Klitschko opponent Tony Thompson in his career.

The fight between Klitschko and Pulev, which was originally scheduled to take place on September 6th was postponed when Klitschko had to pull out due to an injury where he tore his left biceps during the final stages of his training camp. The postponed clash however, will take place on Saturday night at the O2 World Arena in Hamburg, Germany.

The question that will face the unbeaten Pulev will be essentially the same question that has faced every Klitschko opponent. Can Pulev avoid Klitschko’s jab and straight right hand to get on the inside of Klitschko’s eighty-one inch reach? If Pulev can accomplish this, another question that will be asked of him will be will he be able to do so without being tied up and/or put in a position where Klitschko can use his size, weight, and strength to his advantage.

The good news for Pulev is unlike recent Klitschko opponents Alex Leapai and Alexander Povetkin, he stands 6’4, has an eighty inch reach, and has typically weighed in between 245lbs.-250lbs. or above for most of his fights. This would indicate that Klitschko will not likely be able to rough up and grapple with Pulev as easily as he was able to do against Alexander Povetkin. Nevertheless, it will still be interesting to see how Pulev attempts to combat Klitschko’s primary weapon the jab followed by the straight right hand. A weapon that opponents both short and tall have had significant difficulty dealing with. It has proven to be a task that is easier said than done and it will be of interest to see if Pulev has an answer for Klitschko’s arsenal.

What might be troublesome for Pulev is he is known for being a slow starter in fights and if he does not attempt to bring the fight to Klitschko and look to make the champion uncomfortable from the outset, this fight could well end up being what Boxing fans and experts alike have come to expect of Wladimir Klitschko. The champion slowly, but systematically breaking his opponent down. Klitschko, who has a career knockout percentage of 80% having scored knockouts in fifty-two of his sixty-two career wins is likely viewed by most as the significant favorite heading into this fight.

Pulev however, has shown in the past that he can pick up his pace as a fight progresses as he showed in his fight against Tony Thompson. Pulev, who has eleven knockouts in his twenty career wins will likely look to extend this fight into the middle and late rounds. The key to the fight in this observer’s eyes will be whether or not Pulev has an answer to avoid Klitschko’s arsenal and whether or not he can turn this into a fight. If Klitschko is allowed to control distance and able to fight his fight, it could be a short evening. It is up to Kubrat Pulev to show what he can do against a dominant Heavyweight champion.

Assuming that Wladimir Klitschko is successful in what would be his seventeenth consecutive title defense against Pulev, an element that will follow each defense that follows will continue to be Klitschko’s march towards Boxing history. Only two fighters in Heavyweight history have had more successful title defenses than Klitschko. Larry Holmes who defended his title twenty times from 1978-1985 and Joe Louis who set the all-time record for successful title defenses in the whole history of the sport defending his title an incredible twenty-five times from 1937-1949. Although Wladimir and his brother Vitali will likely go down as two of the most dominant champions in the history of the sport and also two of the most underappreciated champions in history, there is no dispute that Wladimir has entered elite company as only Holmes and Louis are above him in regard to successful title defenses in their respective reigns as Heavyweight champion.

If Klitschko continues to win it is my hope that Klitschko’s quiet, but steady march towards Boxing history receives the attention and recognition that it deserves. We will see if Kubrat Pulev can upset Klitschko’s march towards history on Saturday night.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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