When the two Ukrainian supermen with the funny names and funny accents first hit these starry shores, everyone thought they were twins; but as we all now know, they’re as different as night and day. The elder brother, Vitali, aka Dr. Iron Fist, went on to great things. He became heavyweight champion of the world. Wladimir, aka Steelhammer, is still a work in regress.
In the old days, most believed Wladimir was the Klitschko destined for stardom. He was better looking, better coordinated, and seemed to have a better grasp of the fundamentals. Vitali, while bigger than his baby bro, never looked much like championship material.
The rise of the super heavyweight coincided with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the Klitschkos are the first heavyweights to emerge from that wreckage. Vitali’s career peaked when he fought Lennox Lewis. That gutsy performance put Dr. Iron Fist on the map and paved the way to his present glory. Wladimir’s career peaked five years ago. He beat Monte Barrett and Chris Byrd. He beat guys named Botha, Mercer and McCline. He was a comer.
It all came tumbling down at the Preusshag Arena in Hanover, Germany on March 8, 2003 against Corrie Sanders. That second round demolition revealed some cracks in Klitschko’s foundation. The fight a year later against Lamon Brewster at the Mandalay Bay in Vegas leveled all expectations regarding Wladimir Klitschko.
HBO Boxing After Dark presented its maiden heavyweight program of the year Saturday night – Wladimir Klitschko vs. Eliseo Castillo – broadcast from the Westfalenhallen Complex in Dortmund, Germany. While the champ Vitali is recuperating from back surgery in LA, his sib Wladimir was having his heart checked in Deutschland.
Expectations were low for this bout going in. On paper the fight looked like a gimme from the start, a gift from HBO to Wladimir Klitschko. Everything from the overlong lightshow preceding Wlad’s entrance, which seemed little more than the glorification of glorification, to the drab fight between two men whose hearts just weren’t in it, suggests this was a match made to fill time.
Round one set the tone. Nothing happened. K threw out his jab. Castillo evaded it. Klitschko was the hunter. He found no game but won the round. Round two was as boring as the first. There were no exchanges. There was no fighting. It sunk the words “tactical fight” to heretofore unexplored new depths. Round three was Dullsville. Castillo never landed, because he never threw a punch. Klitsch plodded forward behind a stiff left jab. It landed a few times. The right also landed once or twice. Klitschko found the range in the fourth and started catching Castillo with every right he threw. Without Castillo firing back, it was only a matter of time. A big right caught the Cuban and knocked him off his feet. He beat the count and stumbled into the ropes. The ref waved it off. Wladimir Klitschko is back.
Or is he?
If the fight was held in the U.S. and not in Germany, the fans would have set the place on fire after the third. I kept thinking to myself as I watched Castillo’s nonperformance on HBO: couldn’t they find someone to fight Klitschko who had a pulse? We know it’s a package deal, a two for the price of one bargain extravaganza when it comes to the Klitschkos, but Vitali's accomplishments only make Wladimir’s going through the motions appear that much more transparent.
This was a nothing fight for no discernible title broadcast for no discernible reason. It proved nothing other than the fact that there is nothing left to prove. In the final analysis, Klitschko, who may one day be champ, is still not ready for primetime. Saturday's exhibition was a sorry excuse for a fight. Our memories may be shot full of holes, but we can still remember what happens tomorrow.
Wladimir Klitschko, as befits a PhD, was philosophical after the fight: “As everybody say: Never give up before try.”