This Saturday from the land of sauerkraut, Oktoberfest and lederhosen comes a very meaningful heavyweight fight as the contending Lance “Mount” Whitaker invades Germany to challenge Luan Krasniqi in a WBO heavyweight title eliminator.
Whitaker, the man formerly known as “Goofi”, has run his 10-year professional record to 29-2-1 with 24 victories by knockout. He is a big man with major league power and could eliminate Krasniqi with one well placed heavy hand. Should the bout go the distance, one would have to believe that the American Whitaker will be behind the 8-ball of a tactical boxing battle. The Kosovo, Yugoslavia native Krasniqi has adopted Rottweil, Germany as his home and under the hands-on management of promoter Klaus-Peter Kohl has built up a 27-1-1 (13 KOs) record.
The two losses on the resume of Whitaker were both to super-sized men such as himself. A 1999 split decision loss to 6’5” 245-pound Lou Savarese and a unanimous decision defeat at the hands of 6’6”, 260 lb. Jameel McCline in 2001 are the only defeats in a career that has had Lance on the outside looking in for so many years. Now, as close as he has ever been to a major title shot and a chance to take on WBO champ Lamon Brewster, Whitaker must travel to enemy territory in Germany.
Krasniqi, a 34-year-old veteran, has left Europe just once to fight and has staged most of his ring battles in Germany. His most recent bout was a 12-round draw against Timo Hoffmann, as two judges saw the bout 114-114 while the third had the 6’7” Hoffmann ahead by a razor thin 115-113 margin. Hoffmann is much more of a “boxer” as opposed to the “puncher” that Whitaker is, but the big man had the size to cause Krasniqi problems.
The lone defeat suffered by the Luan “The Lion” was in 2002 when he inexplicably refused to come out for the start of the ninth round in about against Przemyslaw Saleta. At the time, Krasniqi was undefeated at 20-0, yet he surrendered both his perfect record and the EBU heavyweight title while on his stool. His corner urged him to come out but Krasniqi had apparently spent everything he had within the first half of the fight and had been physically abused by Saleta in the eighth round. In a later interview, Krasniqi admitted to considering quitting as early as the fifth round.
Worth noting that when facing a power puncher like Whitaker is that Krasniqi was knocked down in the second round of his 2002 fight against Rene Monse. Any fighter can go down when hit by the right punch at the wrong time, but Monse has just 7 KOs among 14 wins and isn’t much of a heavy hitter. Whitaker has 24 KOs in 29 wins and has ended the evening inside of three rounds on 19 occasions.
Questions abound as to what Luan Krasniqi will do when the 6’ 8”, 260-pound Whitaker connects. Over the course of a 12-round championship fight, should it last that long, one has to assume that Krasniqi will be hit – and hard – so what happens next? To his credit, the “Lion” avenged his defeat to Saleta by dropping him three times in the first round and sending the Polish veteran into retirement. Still, the fact he lost his EBU title and tossed away an undefeated record may be cause for some concern should the going get tough this weekend.
The history of Lance Whitaker’s losses suggests that it takes a big, strong fighter with heavy hands to get the better of him. While the 6’ 3”, 230-pound Krasniqi is none of these, he is thought to be the better technical boxer in this bout and “boxers” tend to have an advantage against “punchers.”
As Krasniqi stated early this week “one punch can end things quickly.” Saturday we will see if Lance Whitaker gets the opportunity to land the one punch that ends things, or if Luan “Lion” Krasniqi earns a hard-fought victory.