Ever since the great John L. Sullivan captured the heavyweight world championship in 1885, Americans have assumed it belongs to them by birthright.
Upon entering the 21st century East Europeans have embarrassed, battered and knocked out Americans like so many bowling pins.
That’s why Philadelphia’s “Fast” Eddie Chambers (30-0, 16 KOs) is creeping over to Germany to battle Russia’s Alexander Povetkin (14-0, 11 KOs) at the Tempodrom in Berlin on Saturday Jan. 26. The IBF elimination bout will be shown on HBO.
No fanfare, no hoopla, just a casual visit to Povetkin’s home turf.
“We’re keeping it low key,” says Dan Goossen, president of Goossen-Tutor Promotions that guides Chambers. “But it is an important fight that could put Eddie Chambers among the elite fighters in the heavyweight division.”
Sure there’s been an occasional heavyweight in the history of pro boxing that grabbed the world title without American citizenship papers. Bob Fitzsimmons, Tommy Burns, Max Schmeling and Primo Carnera were good chaps from overseas who wore the heavyweight world championship belt. Later on Ingemar Johansson had his moment too in 1959. Then the next non-American to win a heavyweight world title didn’t happen until South Africa’s Gerrie Coetzee in 1983.
So what happened?
Various experts blame the exodus of prime heavyweight candidates to the NBA, NFL and track where millions can be gained without taking a single punch.
But it has to be more than that.
More likely, it’s the disintegration of the former Soviet Union that kept potential heavyweight boxers from entering the professional ranks from 1917 to 1991. Who knows how many Russians, Ukrainians, East Germans, Czechs, Romanians, Polish and fighters from other East European countries would have captured world titles during those 74 years of Communist rule?
Now there seems to be a glut of East European prizefighters with four of the more recognized world titles now in their possession.
It’s like an invisible Berlin Wall keeps Americans from winning a heavyweight world title.
Things can change with two of the titleholders scheduled to fight each other in a non-organized unification tournament: IBF Wladimir Klitschko of the Ukraine and WBO heavyweight titleholder Sultan Ibragimov of Russia will battle each other on Feb. 23 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The other two titleholders Uzbekistan’s Ruslan Chagaev, the WBA titleholder and Russia’s Oleg Maskaev, the WBC champ, are primed to defend soon.
Meanwhile, in Berlin, Goossen prays that Chambers can be the next opponent for the winner between the two east European fighters Klitschko and Ibragimov.
“It’s what we’ve worked for to put Eddie Chambers in the position to fight for the heavyweight title,” says Goossen who has about a dozen heavyweights in his fold.
Though Chambers is a small heavyweight at six-feet, and weighs only 210, his exceptionally fast hands, defensive prowess and youth could lead to victory.
“He’s definitely got the tools to erase the stigma that American heavyweights are not up to par,” said Henry Ramirez, the trainer of another American heavyweight hopeful Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola. “Eddie has a good chance of beating Alex Povetkin. Both are very good fighters.”
Russia’s Povetkin stopped former two-time heavyweight champion Chris Byrd in his last fight that was also in Germany.
It was a shocking result to many boxing insiders.
But 25-year-old Chambers has surprised experts too.
The Pittsburgh native who prepares in Philadelphia beat Calvin Brock and Dominick Guinn to reach this point. Both those wins were not set ups.
“He proved he’s ready for the heavyweight title in beating Brock and Guinn,” said Ramirez of Chambers. “Both Povetkin and Chambers were good amateur fighters who moved up the ranks.”
Chambers wants to be the first American to recapture a heavyweight world title in the midst of the East European blockade. It’s kind of a sneak attack.
“We’re keeping it quiet,” says Goossen who has his fingers crossed. “It’s up to Eddie now. It’s every fighter’s dream to get the opportunity.”
Is Roy Jones back?
The battle between two future Hall of Fame candidates proved a decisive win on the scorecards for Roy Jones Jr. against the smaller Felix “Tito” Trinidad, but far from decisive in proving the Pensacola boxer still has the legs.
Jones knocked down Trinidad twice with blistering combinations that showed the hand speed is still locked in his gloves. But Jones was far removed from the 2002 version who could move around an opponent with the agility of a jaguar.
That version of Jones is gone forever.
At times Jones looked like a newborn colt testing out his legs with an unsteadiness that disappears with each minute. But not in Jone’s case. The unsteadiness in his lower limbs is now a permanent fixture.
If the fight had taken place six years ago, Jones would have knocked out the gallant Trinidad in a mere two rounds. Last Saturday, he attempted to put the Puerto Rican fighter down for good but was unable to convince the legs to respond.
It’s not over for Jones, even though he can no longer skitter around the ring as if on ice skates, the lightning speed of his punches remains a formidable weapon. Plus, he knows the game enough to change his tactics and style to fit the handicaps of his teetering legs.
But don’t expect Jones vintage 2002.
Roman Karmazin loses
Russia’s Roman Karmazin seemed to have a slight advantage in his fight with Africa’s Alex Bunema, but a left hook changed everything in the 10th round. Sensing Karmazin was still unsteady, Bunema pounced on the Russian veteran and pummeled him into unconsciousness.
It was sad to see the Russian fighter lose by knockout after his struggles to gain fame after 12 years fighting professionally. But his boxing style of fighting with his left hand dangling by his leg, proved too much of a detriment.
Karmazin was repeatedly tagged by lead right hands. It could be the end of Karmazin’s pro boxing career.
Foul Pole wins
Andrew Golota (41-6-1, 33 KOs) gutted out a 12-round decision over Mike Mollo (19-2, 12 KOs) in a grueling heavyweight fight.
Golota, 40, is best known for his two foul-infested fights against heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe in 1996 that resulted in two disqualifications. Those penalty marred exhibitions resulted in the Polish-born fighter being nicknamed “Foul Pole” Golota.
Remarkably it was Mollo, 27, who did the fouling as Golota used his massive six-feet, five-inch frame to batter the smaller fighter over 12 rounds.
It’s amazing to believe, but Golota has earned himself yet another possible shot at a heavyweight title in winning a unanimous decision over Mollo.
Fights on television
Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Hugo Cazares (25-4-1) vs. Kermin Guardia (37-7).
Sat. HBO, 7 p.m., Eddie Chambers (30-0) vs. Alex Povetkin (14-0); replay of Roy Jones Jr. (52-4) vs. Felix Trinidad (42-3).