Hide the children and turn the dog loose. There are a couple of huge, disgruntled Ukrainians out there who think the heavyweight championship of the world was snatched out of their grasp by a quick-trigger doctor and a flagrant head butt.
The Brothers Grim, AKA heavyweight contenders Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, are a little unhappy with the way things unraveled in front of 15,000 fight-happy fans at the Staples Center in Southern California last week. Vitali lost to Lennox Lewis when the fight was stopped after the sixth round because of a gash the size of a soup can over Vitali’s left eye. The Ukrainian was ahead on all three scorecards at the time and Lewis was so tired, he looked like a drunk staggering back to his bar stool.
When the fight was over, Lewis didn’t exactly play the role of gracious winner. He started describing a different fight from the one most of us saw, saying how he would have knocked Vitali out if the fight had gone on. But if you listened carefully, Lewis sounded like a guy who had just survived a life-threatening experience and, despite wetting his pants, was trying to convince everyone how cool and calm he was just before his plane went down.
It was sad. Lewis gave no credit to Vitali, who rocked him several times in the early rounds and was still ready to fight despite the left-side of his face looking like momma’s homemade pasta. You’d like to think the heavyweight champion of the world had a little class.
As for the Klitschko Brothers, it’s amazing how quickly they caught on to some of the finer strategies of effective, New World marketing. Instead of quietly whining about Vitali’s loss, the Klitschkos decided to hold a national conference call Tuesday to help get the sour taste of disappointment out of their mouths.
These guys are as smart as their doctorate degrees say they are. Give them enough phone time and opportunities and they’ll be household names by Labor Day.
First up was Dr. Pearlman Hicks, who did the sewing up of Vitali’s face right after the fight. According to Hicks, who is a plastic surgeon, the gash over the eye was an inch deep and required three layers of sutures to close up. In all, Vitali received 60 stitches to close five cuts, most of them small. Still, he could be ready to start training again in 60 to 90 days and be ready to fight again in six months.
“The cut was not small, but Vitali’s eye was open and he could still see everything, all the punches,” said his bother Wladimir, who worked Vitali’s corner and who is scheduled to fight Aug. 30 in Munich against an opponent yet to be named. “Vitali was very focused on the fight and no one ever asked him if he was seeing all right or if he was ready to continue. I didn‘t hear anyone ask him any questions.”
Joe Souza, Klitchko’s cutman, called it a “helluva cut,” but it wasn’t so bad that it kept Vitali from seeing Lewis’ punches.
“I didn’t think the fight should have been stopped,” Sousa said on the call. “I thought if he had two more rounds, Vitali would win. And I had the cut under control. He was seeing real well. I was shocked when they stopped it.”
So was Vitali.
“With his decision to stop the fight, the doctor gave Lennox Lewis a big present – the heavyweight championship,” Vitali said. “I don‘t feel like the loser in this fight and everybody I’ve talked to said they want to see a rematch. The world wants to see who the real winner of that fight is.”
Right now, the winner is still Lennox Lewis, though it wasn’t one of his finer nights. Age and complacency seem to have robbed Lewis of the tools he used to dismantle Mike Tyson more than a year ago. But then you remember that Tyson hasn’t beaten a top contender in almost a decade.
For Klitschko, it was both a bad night and a good night. He lost the fight, but he won the moment. He didn’t take home a title belt, but he left with a lot more respect than he had when he arrived. But that’s still not enough.
“I just want to be the heavyweight champion of the world,” he said three or four times during the conference call. “I don’t want to fight everybody.
I just want to fight for the world championship.”
And money is no object.
“People are always talking about the money,” he said. “For me, when I win the heavyweight championship of the world, the money will come. I never think about money. I think about results.”
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the kind of result Klitschko wanted.