Earlier this year Vitali Klitschko’s promotional team sued Lewis in attempt to force a title shot. Saturday night Vitali Klitschko will finally get that shot.
With Canadian Kirk Johnson tearing a pectoral muscle, Klitschko steps in as his replacement, challenging reigning heavyweight king Lennox Lewis for the trinket known as the WBC belt, but more importantly for the right to declare himself the top heavyweight on the planet.
Lewis-Johnson apparently held no intrigue. With Dr. Ironfist stepping in to replace the largely anonymous Canadian, the intrigue level rose. And with Lewis tipping the scales at a substantial 256 ½ pounds, the intrigue level has continued north.
Lewis is 6 pounds heavier than when he knocked out Mike Tyson one year ago, and 3 pounds heavier than when Hasim Rahman banished him in South Africa, a loss Lewis reversed in the rematch.
Klitschko’s trainer, Fritz Studnek, claimed Lewis’ weight betrays a lack of respect for his man. In his opinion, Lewis looks heavy, too heavy.
Emmanuel Steward claimed he has no worries as Lewis’ muscles have become more “dense” with age. The prevailing opinion of those who were at the weigh in seems to be that Lewis looks a little soft, maybe not soft enough to completely open the door for Klitschko, but soft enough to at least cast some doubt as to Lewis’ readiness to face the 6’8” inch Ukranian behemoth. In short, the door really does appear to have creaked open, if only just a little.
Conventional wisdom dictates this is a fight that Lewis should win. Lewis has terrorized big, dangerous opponents throughout his career. Razor Ruddock, Andrew Golota, Micheal Grant, to name a few, were hammered mercilessly by Lewis.
Lewis will follow the same gameplan Saturday night. There is little doubt that Lewis believes Dr. Ironfist would more aptly be named Dr. Tinheart. Klitschko famously quit against Chris Byrd before the 10th round, citing a torn rotator cuff. Despite the seriousness of the injury, he has never been able to live down the label that he is a quitter.
Against Golota and, more recently, Micael Grant, Lewis came out attacking and looked awesome, reducing his towering opponents to the proverbial deer in the headlights. In these bouts, Lewis was in shape and boxed to set up the big shots.
Against Rahman in South Africa, Lewis didn’t bother to do what he does best, jab, instead opting to throw fireball right hand haymakers. He didn’t connect, he tired badly, and Rahman left South Africa with his title.
Herein lies the intrigue with this fight. Is Lewis in good enough condition to be confident he can box aggressively and bide his time, waiting for an opening to present itself to take Klitschko out? Or will he forget what he does best, forget to box and try to club Klitschko into submission with brute force?
Against Shannon Briggs Lewis took the latter approach, the same one he used against Rahman in South Africa, and ended up hurt himself early. Lewis was eventually able to recover, getting himself out of jail with some audacious boxing, because he was well-conditioned that night. It is conditioning that will play a major key Saturday night.
If Klitschko can withstand the early onslaught, he has a very real chance to win this fight. With Lewis’ conditioning appearing suspect, Klitschko will gain confidence if he can survive through to the mid rounds, knowing Lewis has always had questionable stamina, even when he is well-conditioned.
Of course, there is the not insignificant question of just how good is the Russian? In truth, with the exception of Chris Byrd, he has not faced Class A competition, so it’s hard to say definitively. He has fought the likes of Herbie Hide and dominated. This may be proof that Klitschko is indeed the genuine article, but we won’t know until Saturday night.
Against Byrd, Klitschko was hammering the smaller man until he started to feel the torn rotator cuff. Historical revisionists now recall this fight as if Byrd gave Klitschko a beating. Don’t believe it. Yes, Byrd was coming back into the fight late, but Klitscko was well ahead on the scorecards and dominant up until that point.
Klitschko has a solid amateur background, a heavy and accurate jab, and better handspeed than he is given credit for. He often looks awkward in the ring, but his orthodox, upright European style could just give Lewis problems. And, of course, Lewis is no Dr. Ironchin, and if Dr. Ironfist hits him on the button there will be a new heavyweight champion.
It says here that Lewis’ conditioning is the key. If he is indeed ready to go, he wins this fight, and very likely does it by knockout. If Lewis does not close the show early and begins to tire, an upset becomes a legitimate possibility.
For the Bettors – Look to play the Under at 8 …. Klitschko is extremely heavy fisted, especially with the right hand, and a victory by the Ukranian by way of knockout would not be a complete shock. However, Lewis should win, he should do it by knockout, and he should do it before round 7.
Lennox Lewis by way of TKO in round 6