If Haye Beats Wladimir Klitschko, Wlad’s Legacy Will Suffer Greatly…LOTIERZO

This is Wladimir’s signature fight, and it comes late, at age 35. Wlad has to be hope he isn’t following Michael Spinks’ footsteps…

Wladimir Klitschko 55-3 (49) has held the the IBF heavyweight title since April of 2006 and the WBO version of it since February of 2008. Which means that for at least three plus years Klitschko has held no less than half of the so-called legitimate titles that a heavyweight fighting in 2011 can hold, with the WBA and WBC being the others. Vitali Klitschko, Wladimir’s older brother, is the current WBC title holder and his next opponent, David Haye 25-1 (23), is in possession of the WBA title. Klitschko has gone 13-0 (10) since he last lost to Lamon Brewster, who he stopped in a 2007 rematch almost threes after he lost to Brewster via a 5th round stoppage back in April of 2004.

Presently, Klitschko is in the midst of the most dominant and impressive run of his career. In his last 10 consecutive title bouts, Wladimir has been utterly dominant. Not only has he remained unbeaten, you could count the rounds he’s lost on one hand. In reality, he hasn’t been involved in a fight that could even be considered competitive since he won a unanimous decision over the unbeaten and overrated Samuel Peter in September of 2005 in a title elimination bout. And I couldn’t care less how the fight was scored officially. Wladimir won at least eight of the 12-rounds the fight went, despite going down three times because of him being hit and pushed as he was trying to get away from the wild swinging Peter, who more resembled a bull in a china shop than an upper-tier heavyweight contender.

Since Klitschko, 35, signed to meet the cocky and tough talking former cruiserweight title holder, David Haye, the odds favoring him have dropped. As of this writing Wladimir is less than a 2-1 favorite to retain his IBF/WBO titles. In part because he’s now in his mid-thirties and also because many observers and pundits believe Haye is the most skilled and dangerous opponent he’ll have been confronted by since he began his current run of 13 consecutive wins back in late 2004.

Unfortunately for Wladimir Klitschko, this will become his signature fight and probably the one he’ll be most remembered by. For Klitschko, the perception of his career and title tenure is that he’s feasted on very inferior and limited opposition. With Haye being seen as his biggest challenge, he can’t lose. And if he does, especially if it’s in a devastating fashion, it’ll be almost as if his four plus year strangle hold on half of the heavyweight titles never even happened. I’m not saying that’s fair or accurate, but that’s the way it is.

Only former heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis was older than Wladimir Klitschko when he fought what basically turned out to be his career defining fight against Mike Tyson at age 37. Yes, I’ve excluded both Jersey Joe Walcott and George Foreman because they both beat many hall of famers before they defeated Ezzard Charles and Michael Moorer after the age of 35. And as we’ve seen during the last 25 or 30 years, boxing can be unforgiving even to certified all-time great fighters who lost their signature fight at the end of their career.

Here’s an example that should scare Klitschko. Think about former light heavyweight/heavyweight champ Michael Spinks and how he’s thought of today by some fans, if he even is. Spinks was destroyed by a prime Mike Tyson in one round in his last fight, and that’s what most boxing fans and writers sadly remember about him. Yet Spinks was one of the most accomplished fighters and champions of boxing’s modern era. Think about Spinks for a moment. Over half of his bouts were title fights. He dominated one of, if not the deepest era in light heavyweight history. Spinks could use the ring and box, step back and fight as a counter-puncher or press the action and fight as the attacker. Michael had dynamite in both hands and scored one-punch knockouts with his hook, uppercut and right hand over first class opposition (how many all-time greats can say that). Not to mention he never lost at his natural weight while fighting a resume of who’s who at 175. And lastly, he was the first reigning light heavyweight champ to defeat the reigning heavyweight champ, Larry Holmes, who happened to be undefeated when they fought. Sure, Holmes was 36 but Spinks still accomplished what 48 heavyweights couldn’t, and Michael clearly won their first fight to make history.

Today, most fans wrongly remember Michael Spinks for losing to Mike Tyson, a fighter who was younger, stronger, bigger and had the perfect style to beat him. In addition to that, many, despite them being wrong, flirted with the thought that Tyson was the greatest heavyweight champ in history the night he stopped Spinks in 91 seconds. Some fighters don’t get the benefit of history for one reason or another, and Michael Spinks is one of the greatest examples one could use to illustrate that. And if it can happen to Spinks, think about how tough history will be on Wladimir Klitschko if he loses to David Haye. Wladimir doesn’t posses half the credentials or resume that Spinks did, so you better believe Klitschko will be brutalized by the boxing media and fans if he loses his signature bout at the age of 35 at the end of his career. And if Haye himself proves to be a less than dominant champion (in the event he beats Klitschko), Wladimir’s legacy will suffer even more.

Again, I’m not saying whether or not that’s fair – it’s just the way it will unfold if Wladimir Klitschko loses to David Haye early next month. And for that reason, among others, Klitschko must beat Haye and capture his WBA title belt. No, beating Haye won’t solidify Klitschko as a great fighter. Actually, if Klitschko wins, it’ll be said that Haye was an overfed cruiserweight with a porcelain chin. But a win is a win and Klitschko will own three of the four universally recognized heavyweight title belts in boxing. And the debate will continue as to how worthy or unworthy he is in comparison to past title holders and champs who held the title an extended length of time. Which is a life-time better than the other discussion that’ll be unfolding if he loses to Haye.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

Comment on this article


-Radam G :

Wow! Nice piece! But I cannot give either one of these chumps da luv dat Slim -- better known as Michael Spinks deserves. This is just one sorry-arse era of heavies. If Haye beats Doc WK, in comparsion to Slim puttin' da whupa$$ on Larry "So Contrary" Holmes, it wouldn't mean Jack. Doc WK has fought and beat nothing but a couple of B+-fighting cousins -- Brewster and Byrd -- and cream puffs, tomato cans and stiffs. And sorry! But I totally reject the made-up-to-get-more-sanctioning-fees crusierweight division. [A lot of old-school traditionists reject that division.] Haye is and always has been a HEAVYWEIGHT. Anything north of 175lbs is old-school heavy. WTF! After all, Tommy Burns won the belt at 168lbs. Fitzsimmon, Jack Dempsey, Ezzy Charles, Rocky Marciano and Floyd Patterson weren't much heavier. Jack Johnson and Joe Louis were less than 200lbs when they first won the belt. Ninety percent of the heavyweight champions in the game was less than 195lbs when they first won the undisputed title between 1892 and 1992. Timeout for all these fatties and tallies of the last 20 years. There has not been an undisputed heavyweight champion since Mike Tyson. Larry Holmes, Lennox Lewis and the Klits bro/docs have never been undisputed heavyweight champions. Holla!

-brownsugar :

Spinks would always look like he was losing a fight while he was getting hlmself into position to land the show-stopper... he would intentionally give away a few rounds... his man would get over confident.. over reach... telegraph... or throw the same sequence of punches one too many times and Spinks would hit him with the ultimate perfectly time shot... lights out(like one of Takashi Mikes' Samurai fight sequences). Spinks shoulda went "Mosely" on Tyson... he had enough legs to stink it out a few rounds and who knows?..... Mike mighta' got tired.

-the Roast :

@B-Sug, at that time NOBODY could go Mosley on Tyson. He was a peak wreakin machine at that point in time. Evander would have beat prime Tyson by fighting fire with fire, but anyway, If Haye beats Wlad, Wlad has no legacy. He must win and win big. I think Wlad will come up big and dominate David Haye and win by KO in 8. I have been wrong before, I think I picked Spinks to take Mike into the deep water and win a late KO...

-Shoulder Roll Defense :

I think Haye has the tools (speed, power) to beat Wlad, but Emanuel Steward is a master at devising a fight plan. Wlad should win the fight by fighting tall behind the classic 1-2 combination. However, Haye's biggest asset is the pyschological battle. It appears that he has won the pre-fight pyschological battle, which might cause Wlad to go astray from Manny's fight plan and possibly leave his glass chin vulnerable. The Klitscho's brother's legacy will be that of having fought in a weak era. Most of the potentially great American heavyweight athletes are playing in the NFL and NBA. The heavyweight divison is in the same boat as MLB, they have lost their strong hold on the inner city and urban areas, thus the best athletes no longer participate in the sport. Rocky Marciano had a perfect record when he stepped away from the game, but he isn't considered the best heavyweight of all-time. Why is this? Most old-timers will tell you that he fought during a period of time when most of the good heavyweights were off serving in the military or well past their prime. The Klitscho's have dominated their era, but just like in the case of Marciano, their careers will have to be summarized objectively because they aren't quite what they seem on paper.

-Joe :

No one will care. Vitali has the only fight that most of us can remember the Lewis scrum. Wlad is remembered for flopping around the ring against Lamon. Now he jabs and hold for twelve rounds as instructed by Mr. Kronk Gym himself. Boring Giant Boxer - That's what I'll call it.

-mortcola :

Hey Joe - Foolish stereotype. How does a jab and hold fighter end up with 49 KOs in 55 wins; and score his last 10 of 11 by stoppage, some of them dramatic KOs, only one of which went into the 12th? I remember Wlad - boringly - dominating every fighter to get in the ring with him so thoroughly that they could barely get a punch off. People say bad competition? Well, no one in history has ever dominated every contender in a weak division so absolutely. So, I get it, you don't get your entertainment dollar's worth. But the guy is a master boxer with true KO power who has overcome his earlier weaknesses to become a consistently high performance heavyweight champion. If you know boxing, you appreciate his skill even if you wish you had more rock-em-sock-em robots moments.

-mortcola :

Next point....I really dislike Haye, and he has never fought an active, dangerous heavyweight. But, fact it, he is a mobile boxer with good hand speed and power. I believe Klitschko is more mentally strong than earlier in his career. But you can't grow a chin at this age. Haye has a legitimate chance to end the fight IF he lands a bomb. No way he outboxes WK, who, we should remember, was an agile, smart-moving combination puncher before Steward pared down his game. Some similarities to Hearns here, except that Hearns never gave up his love of warfare despite the shaky chin. Smart money says WK makes Haye pay dearly for some early efforts at a blitz, and brings out the running dog in him, reducing him to falling-short jabs and occasional off-target Hayemakers, before finally putting him down and out. But Haye is the QUICKEST power puncher Wlad has ever fought, since Corey Sanders (freakish speed and power, but also a southpaw); some chance that Wlad's iron-clad defense opens up in the face of the speed and intensity that Haye claims he's gonna bring, and has the athletic ability to, in theory. Put a few bucks on that possibility.

-mortcola :

As for legacy, Spinks always had a great chin, until Tyson came along. Wlad never did. If Wlad wins, people will remember the exhaustion/anxiety/chinny KO losses, because that's part of the Wladimir Klitschko story. If Haye wins by KO, people will simply add on that we knew he could never really handle a big punch, but he dominated everyone he could control. Depends, too, on how he handles himself when hurt. Tommy Hearns got creamed by tough but inferior fighters a few time....we love him because he always kept up the warrior attitude and energy. Klitschko may not be the same kind of action fighter, and he went seriously limp in his few losses....but the guy also came back as a confident, re-tooled fighter, facing his fear and weakness and dominating everyone. Deserving of the same respect. We may just never know if Klitschko will keep trying when he's on the losing end of a firefight, like Hearns did against Leonard, Hagler, Barkley, Kinchen (whom he came back to beat). That in-the-moment ability to sustain warfare when your advantages have failed you, that's a criterion we may never get to see WK satisfy.

-michaelabii :

Hey Guys - Just a reminder that it was a body shot that actually got the better of Spinks that night in 88. I thought (and still do) that Tyson at that stage of his carrier was the greatest attacking heavyweight that we will ever see with the right combination of speed, head & feet movement and power in both fists. He was also a tremendous body puncher - a fact many ignore till this day. Now back to the Haye/Vlad fight - This will only be Vlads defining career fight if he is able to overcome the doubts in his mind ala Cory sanders and Lamont Brewster. I personaly want Haye to win because it will inject much needed interest in the heavyweight division especially if he wins big and then fights Vitali who in my opinion beats Haye by points. However, Vlad has the natural tools to beat Haye and so logic dictates he should win this fight. Haye however brings certain intangibles that defy logic. For starters he shows absolutely no fear or respect for Vlad and this is crucial. No trainer can prepare you for a fighter who does not fear you. I am sure Haye is well aware of Vlads immense skillset but it just seems to me that he is in a mental zone where he feels he will overcome no matter what. Thats what I like to see in a fighter - what they used to call the "eye of the tiger" in the old days. Kudos to Haye for making us want to see this fight - he has literaly created the buzz for this fight on his own and is certainly stands to make a financial windfall no matter the outcome. I must add that Michael Spinks was probably the most dominant light heavyweight of all time and reigned supreme in an era where there were extremely skilled light heavies. Anyone remember the "Spinks Jinx" ! It was a thing of beauty. Peace out.

-mortcola :

Good points, Michaelabii - I'm interested to see whether Haye brings that supposed mindset into the actual ring. He fought scared most of the Valuev fight, throwing fewer punches than 45 year old Holyfield did against a huge but light-hitting and marginally-skilled fighter.

-brownsugar :

Some interesting words by Mortcols and Michaelabii, and several others...... I hope the fight isn't a onesided letdown. But at least they are finally going to do it.

-Radam G :

OMFG! It is not hard to have 45 kayos in 50-somethings wins if you fight all cream puffs, tomato cans and cadavers. Somebodee oughta do some checking. Tons of boxers have 10s and even 100s of kayos. But got knock da double fudge out, when they fought a chin checker. [I can name eight right off the bat, but I will let you lazy cats do some of your own research.] True da, true da! No doubt whatsoever that the great boxing guru Manny Steward has well-schooled Doc WK in the weakest division in boxing HISTOREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! More power to knowhow pugilistic gurus. They can make a weak-chinned bum heavyweight tally into a winner. And for saying that, nobody is a sinner. I've not seen a double knockout in a long while. Maybe these weak-chinned suckas will give us fans the joy of a double KO! Holla!

-undisputed34 :

hmm..i'm interested in the fight just to see if haye backs up any of his talk. i cant take anything from either of the K brothers, but despite what ive seen from the both of them in the ring, i find it hard to believe that either of them would be in the position theyre in if they were both about 5 inches shorter..BUT since that is an impossibility guess we'll never know. if we're talking all time greats...man..on paper you have to atleast consider them...but it takes more than just a skillset for you to be on that list IMO.. im going to watch a few of spinks fights right now, but anybody out there wanna play a little what-if with me? how do you guys feel about a light heavy spinks vs michael moorer? i remember him being pretty fierce at light heavy...what do you guys think?

-Radam G :

Five inches shorter and three shot sizes smaller, the K-bros/docs may would be truthfully competitive or great. In boksing it is weight, not height. [No boxer worth his salt is razzled and dazzled by height.] Tallies are not at the top of the mountain of being GREAT in this legal mayhem hurt bitnezz. Height is a basketball thing, not a kicka$$ boksing one. Only one usual tally -- Sandy Sadler -- for his weight division is at the top of the change of pound-for-pound greats. Nowadays too many people is believing in height hype and jive-ology. WTF! Holla!

-undisputed34 :

@ radam.. i see the logic in the weight argument..but i also doubt that if they were both 5 inches shorter that they would still weigh in at 250lbs. Also i think its their height moreso than the weight because its harder to get the same leverage on a punch when youre throwing it higher than your head, and thats against someone with moderate skill. if the guy has any inkling of how to control that space, then it takes a champions heart to be able to commit to what it takes to negate that height. especially if the guys record proves he has enough power to keep you honest. you don't agree? also, i do think they would still be skilled heavy's but if you took them both down to 6'3, 220 i think they would have more than the four losses between them.

-Radam G :

Wow 250lbs is too heavy for all elite athletes. Even in American football 30 and 40 years ago, they did not weight that much. Fidge Perry got kicked off the Chicago Bears for being over 275lbs -- this was the weight that his contract called for. Fat has become fashion, but it didn't use to be. Besides it is dangerous and is alway the downfall for these fatties. They die of diabetes and cancers and other ailments at such a young age. Prime B-ball players Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Wilt "Silk" Chamberlain never were over 230 while in their prime. KAJ is still not fat. Just imagine GOAT Muhammad Ali at 215lbs and Silk at 227lbs almost got it on. But Silk's pops forced Lil' Silk to come to his darn senses. Holla!