CHARRBROILED IN COLOGNE : We all know about the snowball's chance.
Manuel Charr figures to be in for that type of pounding, proverbial inferno come September 8, when he faces Vitali Klitschko for a WBC belt that is far second to the established reputation Klitschko, the accessory's present holder, enjoys.
No big deal for Charr, who pursued the opportunity and jumped when it was presented. For the challenger, a current Koln transplant from Lebanon, the situation is far more danke than Dante.
“I am happy and grateful about getting this chance,” says Charr, 21-0 (11). “Some people do not think I am ready, but we will all see.”
Sometimes you have to go for it, ready or not. From what we've seen of Charr, he's definitely the type to go for it, even if he goes down in flames.
Klitschko is the mountain. Charr gets to play Sisyphus, with Klitschko's mitts playing the boulders. This is a fight with an over/under around two rounds. But there is also a very attractive up side in Charr's duking dilemma. If Charr manages a good showing, win or lose, he solidifies himself as a foundational attraction for his fledgling promotional endeavors.
Whether or not Charr is capable of such a showing remains a challenging question mark for the sloppy but sturdy slugger.
Skeptics assume Charr got the shot through a lack of perceived danger from K2 Promotions rather than mauling merit, a perfect, strong looking foil for what could be Klitschko's final fight. The real cause probably has to do with divisional attrition.
Charr's greatest asset seems to be self-confidence, the type esteem forged by honest hours in the gym. He has evolved from being a big plodder to a big attraction, with careful calculation in his strides.
So far in his career, the 27 year old Charr has done just about everything right in terms of advancing as a heavyweight since his 2005 debut. Only trouble is, when the call from K2 came, Charr was just arriving at the next step up stage of his career, the stage of facing experienced, “A” level fighters that would prepare him for a Klitschko fight.
The first time this observer saw Charr fight was on a June '09 Universum card in a city called Oberhausen. Charr scored a TKO 3 against overmatched Ramon Hayes, who came into the fight with a record of 15-27-1. I remember wondering just how many huge, ex-pat Eastern Euro heavyweight hopefuls there were in Germany, and if any of them were any good.
Charr was 11-0 at the time, unimpressive with victories coming over literal debutants like Nandor Kovacs or Radovan Kuca. Another heavyweight on the card, Denis Boytsov, blasted out very durable Taras Bydenko in six sessions. Boytsov looked like the heavyweight to watch in the future, but Charr has overtaken him as a potential contender.
The next time I saw Charr live was a couple summers later in June '11, when he scored a decent looking TKO 7 over worn but willing Danny Williams, who may not have much left in the tank, but remains a tough out. Charr had definitely improved, while other, more hyped heavyweights like Boytsov or Alexander Ustinov had stalled through injury, inactivity or both.
Probably the most noticeable improvement in Charr was his demeanor. He still has a long way to go with technique, but his confident mental state looks to be peaking. Following the very solid example of Felix Sturm, whose undercards Charr appeared on, Charr became the figurehead of his own “Diamond Boy” promotional company.
Charr's most recent fight, against Bydenko, was March 30th in Koln. Charr's first class promotion went down much smoother than his bruising, twelve round waltz with Bydenko. Charr's team put on a primo affair, in a luxury hotel ballroom with all tickets for a gourmet dinner show at around a three hundred dollar exchange rate. The main course was better than the main event, but Charr apparently injured his hand in the early going.
“I apologize that I could not give you a better show and a knockout,” a humbly engaging Charr said to the post fight crowd of around 440, many of whom seemed to be friends and family. “I can only promise to keep working hard and to earn a title fight for you.”
Koln has a sizeable and wealthy Mediterranean demographic so it seemed likely Charr would continue to build his promotional group with lucrative local shows while improving his skill set. Instead, he is making the big jump already.
Odds are heavily against the 6' 3 1/2 challenger, who is probably at least a 7 to 1 underdog, perhaps even 10 to 1 or more.
While its hard to imagine Charr toppling a K2 pillar, it isn't hard to believe he'll show up ready to give his all in the effort. Charr hasn't yet shown enough raw power to be given a “puncher's” chance, but he has demonstrated enough determination to have what we'll call a “chipper's” chance.
In other words, Charr will chip away at Klitschko little by little. Charr will keep coming at Klitschko, slowly, surely. The attack will not be furious or heavy handed. What it will be is steady, and how successful Charr's pressure will be should be clear quite quickly. If Charr is immediately forced to back up, the most likely probability, the bout won't go five frames.
But if Charr chugs through the initial danger zone and manages to land a solid combination in the early going, we could have a real fight.
Klitschko will be Klitschko, towering over Charr from a height around 6'7 to Charr's listed 6'3 1/2. Klitschko will fire straight-armed shots from underneath, long range uppercuts that have proved very effective as both a primary weapon and a positioning set up for Klitschko's booming right hands.
Charr has not really shown anything that defines championship potential except that he can push similar sized boxers around with his strength, and that he is durable.
Charr's square chin has never really been tested. It will be in Moscow.
“I know Vitali is a real champion and I have great respect for him. But I am going to make my fans proud and anyone who thinks I will give up easily will be very surprised. I know people think I do not have a chance, but what matters is what I believe.”
Charr seems more relaxed now that he's secured the Klitschko fight than he did before it was announced. Maybe the end of the rumbling rainbow is in sight.
Based on recent form, Klitschko looks like a lock for a quick KO, as the Kbros appear to be reaching extraordinary career zeniths around the same time.
Did Charr take the fight too early? Probably.
Does he have anything going for himself beside the often crucial intangibles of desire and belief? Probably not.
I don't like his chances, but I like him for that.