Klitschko or Sanders the Heir Apparent?

BY Rick Folstad ON April 21, 2004
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Dim the lights, raise the curtain and queue the band. The stage is set. All we need now is for someone to step out of the shadows and steal the show, grab the opportunity and shake it in everyone's face.

Some people need reassurance, some need their morning coffee and some need pats on the back.

Me, I need to know who the real heavyweight champ of the world is.

It's a personal thing, a kind of emotional addiction. The world seems to be a better place when you have a legitimate heavyweight champ. Governments run smoother, countries behave better and your wife looks even prettier.

A legitimate champ is not a lot to ask. We've had them before, dozens. Good ones, great ones. Marciano, Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Louis. We all recognize their names, could spot them in a crowded arena or knew them just by the sound of their voices when they were still in their wonder years.

With a legitimate champ, you have something to argue about when the beer is cold and the cigars are lit. Who was better, Louis or Ali? Could Tyson in his prime have beaten Marciano? What was Foreman thinking that night in Zaire?

But unfortunately, the real heavyweights have all grown old (see Evander Holyfield) or disappeared. They've gone the way of typewriters, 8-track tapes and dinosaurs. Extinction is ugly.

All we have left at the top of the division is a "Who's Who" of over-achieving tomato cans. Boxing's glamour division has gone third class, grabbed a seat on the Greyhound instead of booking a ride in the stretch limo.

Maybe that's why Saturday night's WBC championship fight between Corrie Sanders and Vitali Klitschko at the Staples Center in Los Angeles seems to hold some promise. Something could come out of it. Maybe someone will prove to us they have a marble chin, a Tyson disposition and the ability to leap tall buildings with a single bound.

We need a Superman, an icon, someone to step into the light and steal it, make the world a better place for those of us who feel left out because we can't name the toughest guy on the planet without smirking.

Face it. We never thought we'd miss Lennox Lewis or Mike Tyson.

So the opportunity waits. Sits there like a ripe apple waiting to be plucked. Someone needs to reach up and pick it.

Sanders has the punch. He's the first guy to send Wladimir Klitschko to the Land of Oz, exposing the myth that Wladimir was the division's new messiah. Eighteen of Sanders wins have come before the end of the first round.

Still, his chin has a few question marks. He's been stopped by both Nate Tubbs and Hasim Rahman.

As for Vitali, he showed the heart no one thought he had in his fight against Lewis last summer. He also had Lewis looking like a drunk blindly searching for his bar stool in that fight. He can punch.

As for pressure, it all rests on the shoulders of Vitali. He's the only Klitschko who hasn't fallen in the ditch on his trip toward a title. He has to prove that one of the brothers can actually fight, can become heavyweight champion of the world.

And finally, there's the revenge factor. Sanders beat up Vitali's younger brother, and there should be hell to pay for that.

Of course, a line is forming. Everyone has been beating up Vitali's younger brother.

Never mind who wins. Just give us a championship performance.

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