Wladimir Klitschko, the towering heavyweight who holds both the IBF and WBO world titles, has little respect among boxing fans.
It’s an unusual scenario.
The mighty Klitschko (50-3, 44 KOs) defends both titles against America’s Tony Thompson (31-1, 19 KOs) on Saturday in Germany but you might be better off watching Regina Halmich than the big Ukrainian if you’re looking for action. The fight will be televised by HBO early at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time.
In the past the heavyweight champion was often a symbol of strength and fortitude, something like a human destroyer with 100 guns and unlimited power. Or at least the champion was a master craftsman with impeccable sharpness and abnormal speed in his punches.
We haven’t seen anything like that since Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe toiled in the ring. Those guys were skilled and seemingly fearless in the ring. Now we have a very large and muscular man who prefers to throw a few punches then grab the opponent before receiving a blow in return.
Even Shirley Temple showed more guts in her day.
Baffling is the word to describe Klitschko. Though his nickname is Dr. Steelhammer and he has plenty of knockouts in his resume, since winning the IBF title against smallish Chris Byrd, the good doctor has become more ice skater than prizefighter.
His fights against Calvin Brock and Ray Austin showed some semblance of aggressiveness. But against Lamon Brewster and Sultan Ibragimov he looked like a timid fledgling rather than a humongous physical specimen.
Emanuel Steward, the Hall of Fame trainer from Detroit, has been begging and pleading for his fighter to get on the good foot and send the evil intentions toward opponents.
Maybe all those degrees have Klitschko mixed up?
The older brother Vitali Klitschko was one of the most exciting heavyweights in the last 20 years, but injuries have cut him down like a Cuban scythe. He had no shyness inside the ring and would gladly trade killing blows with anyone including former world champion Lennox Lewis. Many say he ran Lewis out of boxing.
But not so with Wladimir, he’s an enigma.
Fighting on behalf of the U.S. is another towering heavyweight in Thompson. He’s an enjoyable athlete who has skills and a decent jab. Could he possibly stop the reign of the reluctant world champion Klitschko?
Dan Goossen, president of Goossen-Tutor Promotions, has Thompson under his wings and several other young heavyweights like California’s Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola, as well.
Maybe Klitschko is more talented than any other heavyweight but that talent does not translate into entertainment. And entertainment is what prizefighting is all about.
“Did you hear what he said about wanting to entertain the fans?” said Goossen during a press conference last week for Arreola. “That’s what the heavyweight division needs, an entertaining champion. Not a guy who barely wants to exchange punches.”
I’m not saying Klitschko is a phony and not deserving of the heavyweight title. But he’s a sheep in wolf’s clothing. That wolf needs to come out. All that pitter-patter and jumping out of danger has got to stop.
Imagine James Toney running away from action? That would never happen. But Klitschko resorts to that tactic whenever the going gets tough. Or he holds on with those massive arms. Maybe he belongs in MMA?
Hopefully, on Saturday, I’m wrong.
Maybe a little of his brother Vitali will rub off and we can have a true heavyweight champion to brag about once again.
The wolf needs to show up.