With the heavyweight division taking a public beating more fiercely than any fighter in it is capable of administering to another, what's the best scenario that can result from this weekend's Eddie Chambers versus Alexander Dimitrenko WBO title elimination bout? It's hard not to hear and get caught up in the chatter eliciting how boxing is on it's last breath and will soon be eclipsed by MMA. Statements like that make for good copy, but that's about it. The fact is both sports are thriving, as evidenced by the interest surrounding who Manny Pacquiao will next fight and the upcoming UFC 100 clash between heavyweights Brock Lesner and Frank Mir.
Less than two weeks ago 61,000 fans showed up in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany to watch heavyweight Wladimir Klitschko stop former WBA title holder Ruslan Chagaev to retain his IBF/WBO titles. After the fight it was echoed by fans all over how dreadful the current heavyweight division is, which is a statement that indicates how short the memory of boxing fans can be. The heavyweight division has been the subject of ridicule since Joe Louis was defending the undisputed heavyweight title against the bum of the month club. That's right, according to boxing fans every heavyweight champ at the time reigned over a subpar landscape of contenders, starting with Louis and maybe even going as far back as Jack Dempsey's reign circa 1919-26.
It's been said by quite a few boxing writers and fans how the heavyweight division is hard to take seriously at this time, which is probably something of an over-statement. How does that apply to Chambers-Dimitrenko? For starters, unless one of them impressively handles (and, preferably knocks him out) the other, their fight won't mean much in as far as shaking up the division. In fact if Chambers-Dimitrenko ends in a decision, it very possibly could do both fighters more harm than good. In order for the heavyweight division to muster up some excitement, Wladimir Klitschko needs to be involved in a fight that is somewhat compelling, more so than does his brother Vitali, who has been living off the props he received after his fight with Lennox Lewis six years ago.
The Chambers-Dimitrenko winner is slated to be Wladimir Klitschko's next opponent. That said, a Chambers (34-1, with 18 KOs) win--especially if it's somewhat impressive-- is the better and more significant story. Chambers, who fights out of Pennsylvania, has been willing to go outside his own state and country to fight since becoming a serious title contender. A win by him in Germany, especially in what is considered hostile territory for American heavyweights, would add to the gate and interest with an impending fight with Wladimir Klitschko. Another factor that can't be overlooked if Chambers were to beat Dimitrenko (29-0, with 19 KOs) is, he can make a claim to being the best current American heavyweight and the only one willing and capable of going across the Atlantic to successfully prove that he's the best. On the other hand, Dimitrenko is only one of a basically anonymous group of Eastern European and Soviet heavyweights. A win over Chambers only moves him slightly closer to the top of the pile.
As far as who would make for a better fight and have a better chance to upset Wladimir Klitschko, that's an open book until after the fight. At first glance it's easy to deduce that the 6'7" Dimitrenko matches up better with the 6'6" Klitschko. Dimitrenko likes to use his jab and throws them in succession. Klitschko is a fighter who's very driven by his left hand. That said, if there's one thing a fighter reliant on his jab doesn't like confronting it is another fighter who has a useful and active left hand. The problem with Dimitrenko is when he's not on the attack he often falls into a defensive posture when his opponent asserts himself and begins to cut loose offensively. That's a bad tendency to have when confronting Wladimir Klitschko, who happens to be terrific at sniffing out a fighter who harbors some doubt and who fights with trepidation.
Watching Klitschko over the last few years it may be a disadvantage fighting him if you are his size or slightly bigger than him like Alexander Dimitrenko is. Alexander is an adequate boxer, but he hasn't faced the same level opposition as Klitschko. From a fundamental and boxing structure vantage point, it's easier to conclude that Klitschko's form and fundamentals will hold up better than Dimitrenko's. Along with that, Dimitrenko is a huge target who despite being pretty versatile for a fighter his size, will have a hard time nullifying Klitschko's strength and power, not to mention his own power is still a question mark that hovers over him going into the upcoming fight with Eddie Chambers.
Chambers has been referred to lately as being an undersized heavyweight. His best fighting weight is probably in between 215-220. At 6'1" and assuming he's in the best shape of his life for the biggest fight of his career, his size if he knows how to use it can possibly work to his advantage against both Dimitrenko and Klitschko. And his mindset will go a long way in determining whether or not he gets past Dimitrenko and moves onto a title shot against Klitschko.
“I have to get off to a good start, it's vital”, said Chambers. “I have to step on the gas the entire night and force him to fight at a pace he isn’t used to." Which sounds about right. The question is can Chambers sustain a pace that he's never had to before? The last time he was in this situation he let a fight in which he was clearly on his way to winning slip away and lost a unanimous decision to undefeated Alexander Povetkin.
Chambers said, “I don’t want to leave it to the judges. I want to beat him so bad that the judges will have a ton of explaining to do. I am out to destroy him. This is my time and I plan to take complete control. Whether it is in one or 12 rounds, I’ll be the winner.”
Maybe Eddie Chambers has learned from his past fight and after having time to think and grow he'll develop into a better fighter as a result of his setback against Povetkin. To get past Dimitrenko, Chambers will need to bring his A game and fight better than we've ever seen him fight to date. Dimitrenko has gone on record saying this is the most important fight of his life. With both fighters being under 30 years old, there's a chance provided based on what they show on July 4th that they'll provide a future glimpse of the heavyweight division.
There's no question that Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko are at the top of the food chain in the heavyweight division. However, Wladimir, as formidable as he is, exudes the perception that he's no more than one Sunday punch away from disaster. The problem is getting close enough to plant a lottery punch on his chin. As for Vitali, he's 37 and his body has shown it is capable of breaking down in training or during a fight.
The heavyweight division needs a serious infusion. Maybe Chambers and/or Dimitrenko are capable of injecting it. Hopefully, it won't be by default.
Frank Lotierzo Can Be Reached at: GlovedFist@Gmail.com