TSS Closer Look: Klitschko/Thompson

BY Zhenyu Li ON July 01, 2008
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The heavyweight kingpin Wladimir Klitschko will put his titles on the line against the WBO mandatory challenger Tony Thompson on July 12. As an independent Chinese boxing scribe on the TSS team, I’ll try to break down the fight in an unbiased fashion.

Wladimir Klitschko

Strengths:

Devastating right hand. "Dr. Steelhammer" lives up to his moniker, possessing arguably the heaviest right hand in the current heavyweight division.

Stinging jab with pinpoint accuracy. Wladimir Klitschko has developed a well-educated thudding left, with sensational precision. He used it to full advantage when he stopped big Ray Austin in two, without even unleashing his heavy artillery – the right hand. He also jabbed his way to victory against his last two opponents – former heavyweight champ Lamon Brewster and Sultan Ibragimov.

Evolved to an upgraded version.
Under the tutelage of legendary handler Emanuel Steward, Wladimir Klitschko has been much improved in terms of mentality, conditioning, strategy, balance and his left jab.

Speed edge among Giants. A towering presence in the ring, Wladimir Klitschko has faster hands than they appear to be, and is comparatively agile for a fighter of his size.

Weaknesses:

Questionable chin.
Questions remain on the subject of Wladimir Klitschko's chin. Against Corrie Sanders and Samuel Peter, he suffered three knockdowns in both fights. And all three of his losses as a pro have come by way of knockout. He has a relatively long neck, making him vulnerable to onslaughts.

Overly cautious. After suffering the brutal knockout by Corrie Sanders in 2003, Wladimir Klitschko seemed very hesitant to unseal his right hand, as if afraid of being hit.

Couldn't box in the process of retreating.
A stand-up European style fighter, Wladimir Klitschko couldn't let his hands go when going backwards, especially when being pressed against a tough opponent.

Lacking the ability to survive a crisis. Wladimir Klitschko is always in trouble when facing adversity. Most of his wins are of the dominant variety. He has rarely weathered the storm; he did so against Samuel Peter, when he came back from three knockdowns to secure a decision victory. His Cossacks' instinct may, perhaps, have been stolen by his doctorate.

Tony Thompson


Strengths:

Size and reach. Tony Thompson is one of those rarities in the existing heavyweight division who can compete with the Ukrainian Giant in size and reach. He even has a minor reach advantage over Klitschko, 81½" to Klitschko's 81".

Southpaw stance. Southpaw fighters are avoided like the plague. Nobody wants to encounter them inside the ropes. Tony Thompson is one of them. But will his southpaw stance cause Klitschko any trouble? Probably not. Klitschko has fought six left handers in his pro career, going 5-1, losing only to the heavy hitter Corrie Sanders. In that regard, will stance be an advantage for Tony Thompson, a disadvantage, or neither?

Weaknesses:

Age. Tony Thompson will experience his 37th birthday three months following his showdown against Wladimir Klitschko, whereas the Ukrainian turned 32 in March.

Quality of opposition. When checking his seemingly impressive record - 31-1, 19 KOs, we find out that his resume was littered with nobodies, has-beens and never-weres, while the Ukrainian Giant has sent four champions to Loserville. Those champions were Chris Byrd, Samuel Peter, Lamon Brewster and Sultan Ibragimov.

Knockout ability.
Although Tony Thompson was born to be an above-the-average heavyweight in size, his power falls into the category of average, as witnessed by his 19 knockouts in 32 fights, with a kayo percentage of 59%. Considering Klitschko's glass chin, which is perhaps the only fragile point a contender could exploit to triumph over the heavyweight king, the lack of power in Tony Thompson seems to be his biggest disadvantage.

Prediction:

Being criticized severely for inaction in his last fight, Klitschko needs to win convincingly this time. Expect him to start out cautiously, using his pulverizing jabs to keep Thompson at bay and run him ragged. The "Dr. Steelhammer" right hand will find its target and put the challenger to sleep in the second half.


Zhenyu Li is the columnist for People’s Daily online and a member of the International Boxing Research Organization. He can be reached at zhenyuli_cn@sina.com.

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