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A Heavyweight Staple

BY Steve Kim ON April 19, 2004
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Ok, have you gotten over just how bad the fight was between John Ruiz and Fres Oquendo for the WBA title? Just how bad was it? Well, it had me whimsically looking back at fights like Tony Tubbs-Tim Witherspoon. Now, you know when your waxing nostalgically about that particular era of heavyweight boxing, you know you're really watching a stinker.

Later that night, Chris Byrd and Andrew Golota would put on a surprisingly good fight for Byrd's IBF title, that ended up in a somewhat controversial draw. Many thought that Golota had done enough to pull the upset, but most were satisfied with the draw. But the reality is that Byrd may have walked away with his second fortunate decision in a row.

Judging by what we've seen the past few weeks, this weeks battle between Vitali Klitschko and Corrie Sanders for the vacant WBC trinket, is clearly the fight to determine who is the game's best big man.

The fight will be taking place this Saturday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and it is replete with story lines and variables.

How does the older Klitschko deal emotionally with the added pressure of upholding his families name after his younger brothers loss to Lamon Brewster two weeks ago? The bottom line is this, if Vitali doesn't get it done against the southpaw South African, their new promotional company 'K2' will be KO'd and done with. What is also interesting is to see how this added element plays into the emotion he already had for Sanders- who downed his brother last March in two stunning rounds.

The scene of Vitali engaging Sanders in a post-fight exchange after Wlad's knockout loss has been replayed over and over. Vitali, has vowed revenge for the Klitschko family. Sanders, has coolly stated that that revenge-minded emotion is exactly what will be his opponents downfall.

Sanders, once again, has been made a sizable underdog against a Klitschko. And perhaps he should be, maybe Brewster's knockout win over Wladimir proves that, perhaps, knocking him out is not a particularly big achievement. Also, Sanders since that knockout win has had as many fights as I have- which is to say none, nada, zip, zilch. In that time, Klitschko took on Lennox Lewis and fought valiantly until getting stopped on cuts in six rounds and then blew away Kirk Johnson in two rounds. For the most part, Klitschko has been in the gym preparing for a fight for the past year. Sanders, a scratch golfer, who talks openly of one day playing golf professionally, has spent much more time on the fairways than in the boxing ring.

But let's not forget this, Sanders was terribly inactive before his bout with the other Klitschko, too. It's not as if he's been so adversely affected by long layoffs that he suddenly forgets how to fight. And remember, he's still a left-hander, who can really, really crack. Just ask Wladimir, who was sent down four times in less than two stanza's against him.

It would be almost impossible for Vitali to fight as poorly as his brother did against a southpaw. The general rule of thumb is for a right-hander to consistently move to his left- away from left hands- but instead he moved right, which meant right into some powerful lefts. You'd have to assume that Vitali will not retain that same ineffective strategy on Saturday night.

It's been said that the term 'punchers chance' is another way of saying that an underdog has to get lucky. That could be correct, but it does have some validity when the 'dog is a heavy-handed puncher who knocked out the more highly thought of brother last year. Also, is Klitschko now more prone to cutting following his bout against Lewis last year? That wasn't so much a cut he suffered but a deep valley over his left eye. And remember this, he did once quit on his stool against Byrd back in 2000. George Chuvalo he isn't.

It's an interesting fight in many respects. And it's the best heavyweight fight of April. The winner here, will be considered the best heavyweight in the world, post Lennox Lewis.

But really, is that saying much?

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