Why Wladimir Klitschko is Probably Much Better Than You Think

The first gloved heavyweight champion, the great John L. Sullivan, was a loudmouthed drunk who relied on brute strength to overwhelm his opponents. The first time he faced a real sweet scientist, one that hadn’t aged beyond his worth, he was beaten till he dropped.

His successor, dainty boxer and wannabe actor, James J. Corbett, was knocked to his knees by a single body blow from a middleweight.

That middleweight, Bob Fitzsimmons, was overwhelmed by a giant slugger who basically relied on wearing down his opponents through equal parts toughness and girth until they were too tired to defend themselves.

The giant slugger, James J. Jeffries, retired undefeated before racial prejudice brought him back to the ring to face a 5-loss, 7-draw boxer named Jack Johnson who toyed with and humiliated him until knocking him out in the fifteenth round.

Johnson was beaten up by a giant, slow-footed fighter who didn’t even really like boxing. After he was knocked out, he was so embarrassed by it that he claimed he let the other guy win.

That giant slug of a man, Jess Willard, was butchered by a tiny hobo in the most one-sided beat down in boxing history.

That hobo, Jack Dempsey, was easily out-boxed by a careful technician named Gene Tunney, who barely even wanted to be heavyweight champion.

Tunney was knocked out by that same hobo in the very next fight, but was saved by a referee’s long ten count. He held onto win by decision, fought once more then plumb quit.

Max Schmeling was a Nazi.

His successor, Jack Sharkey, lost to a mob-controlled fighter who looked and fought more like a professional wrestler than a boxer.

That big oaf, Primo Carnera, couldn’t throw a straight jab-cross to save his life.

The man who saved the world from Carnera’s title reign, Max Baer, hit like a mule. But he didn’t take boxing seriously and was defeated by maybe the worst heavyweight champion ever.

James J. Braddock was a dockworker who got lucky against Baer, then held onto the title as long as he could until he was whacked by Joe Louis in eight rounds.

Joe Louis held the heavyweight championship for 12 years, but he fought bums and palookas most of his career and managed to get himself knocked down by the likes of Braddock.

Ezzard Charles was a blown up light heavyweight who was most famous for beating up Louis when the former heavyweight champion had returned from retirement and was an old man.

Jersey Joe Walcott was an even older man who was barely good enough to defeat Charles twice in three fights and got knocked out by a crude slugger named Rocky Marciano.

Marciano retired undefeated but he was short, stocky and cut easily. Marciano had terrible footwork and relied mostly on power and gumption.

Floyd Patterson was such a weirdo that he would dress up in costumes after he got knocked out in fights, which was often.

Sonny Liston knocked Patterson down a bazillion times in their two fights but was a mob-controlled fighter who got whipped by a loudmouth kid from Louisville.

That kid, Cassius Clay, later changed his name to Muhammad Ali for political reasons. Ali was all about pushing political propaganda because it was the right thing to do, but he called his opponents every name in the book so he could make a few dollars more on fight night.

Joe Frazier was tough as nails, but he was dumb enough to stand in front of George Foreman like a heavy bag both times he fought him, and managed to lose two out of three against Ali, his biggest and meanest rival.

Foreman was great when guys would stand in front of him like Frazier did, but had trouble with fighters who used their brains for more than just animal instincts. Foreman got beat up by an old version of Ali and wasn’t mentally strong enough to come back from it until years later.

Leon Spinks couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag.

Larry Holmes was just a poor man’s Ali. He was slower, dumber and much more boring outside the ring than Ali and never nearly as popular. He almost eclipsed Marciano’s 49-0 record but then lost to a light heavyweight twice that Marciano would have crushed within three rounds.

That light heavyweight, Michael Spinks, was a better fighter than his brother, Leon, but was only good enough to outpoint the poor man’s Ali. The best thing you can say about Spinks is that he was dumb enough to fight a young Mike Tyson but smart enough to stay on the canvas when he was knocked down in Round 1.

Tyson, a convicted rapist, was great when people were scared of him. But when they weren’t, he was just like every other schoolyard bully who met his match: dead meat.

Buster Douglas fought one good fight. He beat Tyson like a red-headed stepchild but then ballooned up like a cow and got hammered by a spindly-legged cruiserweight named Evander Holyfield.

Holyfield tried to fight bigger guys by standing in front of them and slugging it out. That was fine against bums and fatties, but when he faced top-level fighters like Riddick Bowe and Lennox Lewis, he almost always lost.

Bowe had real talent but wasted it because he was an idiot.

Michael Moorer only became heavyweight champion because he was too afraid of his trainer to stop hitting Holyfield when the latter was suffering from heart palpitations. He then got knocked out by a 45-year-old Foreman.

Nobody cares about Shannon Briggs or Hasim Rahman.

Lennox Lewis was just bigger than everyone else. The first time he picked on someone his own size who could actually fight, Vitali Klitschko, he got lucky by winning on cuts, then retired so he’d never have to fight him again.

The truth can be twisted to whatever you want it to be so long as you choose to ignore whatever points you don’t feel like agreeing with. In reality, all these men were the heavyweight champion of the world at one time or another, an accomplishment unlike any other. There are only a handful of people in the history of the sport who were good enough to earn that distinction.

These men did it.

It’s easy to nitpick this or that about Wladimir Klitschko’s fighting style or his level of his competition. But Klitschko is king of the mountain and no one has been able to knock him off his perch. No one. And when someone does, or if he retires and someone else wears the crown because of it, he’ll certainly have done more in boxing than most.

Because, like the men listed above, Klitschko will have been the heavyweight champion of the world. So if you’re the type who buys into narratives like those presented above about anyone who has achieved such a lofty goal, you probably believe the same kinds of things about Klitschko, too. But you shouldn’t. Because like the rest of these guys, Klitschko is probably much better than you think.

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COMMENTS

-stormcentre :

Who, during his reign, has he fought that is a risk, not a foregone conclusion, and seriously dangerous? Just asking.


-Froggy :

Who, during his reign, has he fought that is a risk, not a foregone conclusion, and seriously dangerous? Just asking.
Just my opinion but Lamon Brewster stopped him so one would think a rematch could be dangerous ! Samuel Peter had an iron chin and obvious a big punch, or at least big enough to knock Klitschko down more than once so I would think he could be considered dangerous !


-The Commish :

I'm not sure who the author was of the lead article on this thread, but there's a few things here. You wrote "nobody cares about Shannon Briggs or Hasim Rahman." Or Tommy Burns. Or Oliver McCall. Or Tim Witherspoon, Or Bonecrusher Smith. Or Tony Tubbs. Or Greg Page. Or Michael Dokes. Or Gerrie Coetzee. Or John Tate. Or Mike Weaver. Or Or Fran Botha. Or Trevor Berbick. Or Ken Norton. Or Larry Holmes. Or Michael Spinks. Or Mike Tyson. Or Bermane Stiverne. You talked about what a great accomplishment it is to win the title, then omitted all guys above, and I am probably missing a few, as I took those names from the top of my head. Then, from John L. Sullivan, whom you called a "loudmouthed drunk" (he liked to drink and was louder than most when he drank, but so are a lot of guys I know, but that doesn't make them drunks!), you listed one champion after another (Dempsey was the "hobo"). The one which really irked me, though, were the only five words you spoke about one incredible human being--Max Schmeling. You wrote, "Max Schmeling was a Nazi." Really? Where did you get that information? Without knowing who you are, you are probably more of a Nazi than Schmeling was. I won't go into his life story. but Schmeling was a German, not a Nazi. Adolph Hitler used Schmeling to portray Schmeling as a big strong member of the Arian race, but there was nothing about Schmeling that was Nazi. He detested the Nazis. He detested and loathed. Hitler, Himmler, Eichmann and the rest of Hitler's staff. Schmeling also did something which would have earned him the firing squad had Hitler found out what he was doing. He harbored Jews in his home. Nazis did not do those kind of things. You owe the memory and family of Schemling an apology. Is Klitschko a Nazi. He lives in Germany. By your standards, that would make him a Nazi, correct? Five words pieced together by you. Five words which ruined your entire thread. We'll talk about Wladimir Klitschko in another thread, one where the author doesn't label a great human as a sadistic, cold-blooded, weak-minded, psycho killer. I had family members saved by Schmeling. I had others lost to the Nazis. How dare you call Schmeling a Nazi! -Randy G.


-The Shadow :

I'm not sure who the author was of the lead article on this thread, but there's a few things here. You wrote "nobody cares about Shannon Briggs or Hasim Rahman." Or Tommy Burns. Or Oliver McCall. Or Tim Witherspoon, Or Bonecrusher Smith. Or Tony Tubbs. Or Greg Page. Or Michael Dokes. Or Gerrie Coetzee. Or John Tate. Or Mike Weaver. Or Or Fran Botha. Or Trevor Berbick. Or Ken Norton. Or Larry Holmes. Or Michael Spinks. Or Mike Tyson. Or Bermane Stiverne. You talked about what a great accomplishment it is to win the title, then omitted all guys above, and I am probably missing a few, as I took those names from the top of my head. Then, from John L. Sullivan, whom you called a "loudmouthed drunk" (he liked to drink and was louder than most when he drank, but so are a lot of guys I know, but that doesn't make them drunks!), you listed one champion after another (Dempsey was the "hobo"). The one which really irked me, though, were the only five words you spoke about one incredible human being--Max Schmeling. You wrote, "Max Schmeling was a Nazi." Really? Where did you get that information? Without knowing who you are, you are probably more of a Nazi than Schmeling was. I won't go into his life story. but Schmeling was a German, not a Nazi. Adolph Hitler used Schmeling to portray Schmeling as a big strong member of the Arian race, but there was nothing about Schmeling that was Nazi. He detested the Nazis. He detested and loathed. Hitler, Himmler, Eichmann and the rest of Hitler's staff. Schmeling also did something which would have earned him the firing squad had Hitler found out what he was doing. He harbored Jews in his home. Nazis did not do those kind of things. You owe the memory and family of Schemling an apology. Is Klitschko a Nazi. He lives in Germany. By your standards, that would make him a Nazi, correct? Five words pieced together by you. Five words which ruined your entire thread. We'll talk about Wladimir Klitschko in another thread, one where the author doesn't label a great human as a sadistic, cold-blooded, weak-minded, psycho killer. I had family members saved by Schmeling. I had others lost to the Nazis. How dare you call Schmeling a Nazi! -Randy G.
Commish, I think he was being facetious by illustrating the popular criticisms that people often have of the champs during their reign to illustrate how little credit Klitschko is given (and the ignorance of the notions hurled his way). Also, he went through the legitimate lineage of the Heavyweight Championship, the one recognized at the time as the man. I doubt Kelsey, the author, actually meant those himself. When I first read some of the graphs, I thought the exact same thing because in isolation, some of the statements -- the narratives of the Zeitgeist -- can be offensive, especially in retrospect when they've worn off. But then I read the entire thing and caught what he was doing. And he summarizes it well into his kicker: ""So if you’re the type who buys into narratives like those presented above about anyone who has achieved such a lofty goal, you probably believe the same kinds of things about Klitschko, too. But you shouldn’t. Because like the rest of these guys, Klitschko is probably much better than you think.""


-kelseym :

Randy G., Perhaps you missed this part: "The truth can be twisted..." That was the entire point of this article: views can twist men's lives or accomplishments into something they are not or weren't. I know well Max Schmeling's history and that he really was not a Nazi. Anyways, everything leading up to the end is satirical hyperbole. I wouldn't believe a word of it if I were you. Oh, and as for not including everyone who won an alphabet belt, I stuck with who might be considered lineal champions (or thereabouts) by historians to keep things short and readable. Regards, Kelsey


-deepwater2 :

The number one thing You shouldn't believe is that W Klitschko is probably better then you think. Corrie Sanders came off a golf course to crush the gentleman known as Dr Steelhammer. Put WK in the 1980's and he would of had many losses.


-Froggy :

The number one thing You shouldn't believe is that W Klitschko is probably better then you think. Corrie Sanders came off a golf course to crush the gentleman known as Dr Steelhammer. Put WK in the 1980's and he would of had many losses.
I thought the 70 s was about as good as the heavyweight division ever was !


-Radam G :

Nice slick facetious scribing. I loved the way your of jumping and flowing. Some cool-arse scribing you were showing. It was like being on a rowboat out at sea, and a killa wind was blowing. Holla!


-deepwater2 :

I thought the 70 s was about as good as the heavyweight division ever was !
Right on . Put him in the 70's and he would have retired and went in a different career direction . The 80's was a bleak time for the heavies but compared to today they don't look to bad.


-The Commish :

Whew! I was reading from the top, then, when I got to tthe Nazi part, totally lost it...I skimmed over the rest, never taking in the tongue-in-cheek attitude of the article. My apology. Will re-read it after tonight's show. -Randy G.


-deepwater2 :

Speaking of truth Dino would enjoy this quote: "Fire is to represent truth because it destroys all sophistry and lies; and the mask is for lying and falsehood which conceal truth." Leonardo da Vinci


-brownsugar :

Whew! I was reading from the top, then, when I got to tthe Nazi part, totally lost it...I skimmed over the rest, never taking in the tongue-in-cheek attitude of the article. My apology. Will re-read it after tonight's show. -Randy G.
If my life had been directly affectef by that heinous regime I probably would have reacted the way. I carry some chips on my shoulder for life.


-stormcentre :

Right on . Put him in the 70's and he would have retired and went in a different career direction . The 80's was a bleak time for the heavies but compared to today they don't look to bad.
Put him in a contract that he doesn't write/control and one where there is meaningful testing in the 2000's, and there's also a good chance that his career would go in a different direction.


-Buzz Murdock :

I like Wladmir Klitchko as a person, and I tried to like him as a fighter, But he has this pathetic two by four path-finding jab, a great right hand that he occassionaly throws, a glass jaw, and the german juggernaught promotional team that hires celloists, and violinists for his ring walks. I'm sure that classical string section acts as sedative hypnotic for his nondescript opponents like Tony Thompson, eddie chambers, and ofcourse the terrified David Haye. Then he gets knocked out by an out of shape South African, Corey Sanders (I believe the guy's name is), and Lamont Brewster in rather frightening style. He holds like crazy because he CAN'T fight inside at all. He found a trainer that taught him a style that protected his fragile chin, but did not elicit any excitement from fans. He's always in shape, but he and his brother (who was much better) have avoided Bernard Stiverone for years, while gladly fighting Chris Arreola, or Povetikin...He's usually twice as big (almost like another division) as his opponents, but fights in this overly cautious manner that breeds contempt. I'll be glad when somebody beats him, and I never have to hear that cello music again.


-The Commish :

I remember Emanuel Steward telling me shortly before he began working with Klitschko, "I would love to get my hands on Wladimir. A few little adjustments and he will be unstoppable." Well, Steward did get his hands on Klitschko, and Wlad became, not just unstoppable, but unbeatable, too. He gets the job done. He outjabs guys. He overpowers guys. He grabs guys. He initiated 171 clinches in the most boring heavyweight title fight of all time when he faced Alexander Povetkin. He'll probably maul, jab and grab his way to another victory when he faces Kubrat Pulev later this year. Then, he'll most likely get the winner of the Bermane Stiverne-Deontay Wilder WBC Heavyweight Title fight, which, as of right now, has no date attached to it (let's look at January, as the purse bid has been delayed until October 1...thank you, Don King!). Now, either one of those fights will be terrific. Klitschko vs. Stiverne or Klitschko vs Wilder. In either of those battles, we'll find out just how much Klitschko has left, and whether he is really better than we give him credit for being. -Randy G.


-Froggy :

Marciano also was /is remembered as a heavyweight champ who faced poor opposition, history has been kind to him, as has this forum recently ! I think history will also be kind to both Klitschko's ! I agree Wlads [sic] clinching is sometimes unbearable to watch , but the first heavyweight I remember clinching exessivly [sic] was, you guessed it, Ali !


-Grimm :

Marciano deserves his praise. Currently, many seem to revaluate his standing among the greats - and even question if he belongs among them at all. I think he definitely does, without a doubt. Apart from beating all men who stood in front of him, and apart from not being guilty of operating in a period that wasn't the most competitive, he had a way of chopping his way to victory that embodies the soul of boxing. Beyond words, beyond flash, beyond everything else, boxing is, when it comes down to it, about what Warren Zevon sang in "Boom Boom Mancini": "If you can't take the punches, it don't mean a thing." Marciano not only could take the punches. He was harder to hit than given credit for, using his size - or lack of size - to his advantage, and wearing his opponents down with relentless stamina, strength and power. His greatest feat, in my opinion, was winning the title from JJW. JJW, at his best, was creme de la creme, a boxer per se, with a great and varied arsenal. JJW boxed Marcianos pants off in their first fight, and almost any other fighter in that situation, in that very fight, would have been stopped or had their heart and courage broken. Not Marciano. With a unique ability to take his power with him throughout the fights, he ended matters with a shot that in itself earns him his place in history. Comparing Marciano with the giants of today is pointless, in the same way its pointless in almost all sports. The difference isn't the technique or the skill. The difference is in the breeding via food and, well, other stuff. Any bull from the 50's would be dwarfed by a Belgian Bull from the 00's. That doesn't mean the Belgian Bull tastes any better.


-stormcentre :

Imagine (if you will then) unleashing Marciano on Wladamir. Even as a surprise - late sub - opponent to replace what was one of his usual "predictables". Talk about turning Wladamir's bowels to water. Marciano would close the distance, unleash his fists onto Wladamir, and slice into him like a hot knife through butter.


-Froggy :

Imagine (if you will then) unleashing Marciano on Wladamir. Even as a surprise - late sub - opponent to replace what was one of his usual "predictables". Talk about turning Wladamir's bowels to water. Marciano would close the distance, unleash his fists onto Wladamir, and slice into him like a hot knife through butter.
Unfortunately thats all we can do is imagine , so what I think might happen doesn't mean very much ! But wouldn't it be great if you could match them up, there would be many opposing views on the outcome of what would be an interesting fight, to say the least !


-gibola :

Put Wlad in a ring in San Diego in 1973 with Norton or Frazier and he'll be DQ'd for excessive holding and not wanting to fight. It may only take 3/4 rounds. If he can't hold and wrestle he gets Ko'd by either and I think he rather get DQ'd when it came to the crunch. Put Frazier or Norton in a ring in Munich in 2014 and Wlad leans all over them, pushes them on the floor a few times, pulls them off balance with that extended left arm whenever they get aggressive, wears them out with jab and grab and beats both convincingly. Wlad is what he is. He's found a place and time where he can do what he does, where he can get away with what he does and where people actually pay money to watch what he does. He's not a great fighter, he's just very difficult to beat (if that isn't a contradiction).


-mortcola :

Wladimir is the rare kind of fighter who accepted the unpleasant truth about his weaknesses and allowed a true mentor to re-design him to emphasize strengths and guard against natural weakness. Even technically he is utterly unlike the fighter who lost to Sanders. Wlad’s main weakness is/was anxiety. He’s been tagged, not a lot, but some - a flush bomb from a roided-up Wach - much bigger than Wlad himself, clean shots from Thompson, Peter, Brewster, two or three from Povetkin. Damn good defense, but everyone gets hit. And his knees haven’t even buckled a millimeter. When Wach tagged him he BOBBED AND WEAVED, turned Wach, and regained the upper hand. Annoying clinching yes, but it works, though I wish he would cut it out. Point is, we stopped basing our opinion of Larry Holmes on the fact that he crawled to escape Duane Bobick; we never rag on Roger Mayweather for going to sleep when his opponent THINKS about landing a right hand....Tommy Hearns got bombed out by guys not remotely in his league. Hagler hid under a car to avoid a street fight with Bobby Watts (and then destroyed him in the ring a few years later). Point is not that you can’t criticize a guy’s technique, even his character - but beating your demons is task #2, #1 is being aware and honest about them - and no one has even been remotely competitive against Wlad since the Steward Reformation. Barely a round. And, criticize his cellos or the current competition all you want (those Eastern Europeans do keep beating our guys, though, those no-name doofuses) - but he has ducked NO ONE, he has large bad-asses for sparring who WILL get their mandatory like everyone else, if not an optional, and most importantly, no one has dominated his division so thoroughly in boxing history,much less after public humiliation, fighting everyone available, whether you know about them or not. You don’t know about them because they make their living beating people elsewhere. Fast Eddie Chambers, though an underachiever who has lost to others, couldn’t land a single clean punch, and there wasn’t much clinching in that fight. Peter landed in the rematch, but WLad didnt blink. Inner peace is good for the chin. No one has been so dominant, as I say, except his brother, who is not better, only mentally tougher then almost anyone. Wlad is/was faster and technically more sound than his brother, who mangled Sanders (one of the fastest, pain-in-the-butt southpaws w/one punch KO power of that era, or any, but who COULD be shut down by smart boxing); I say Wlad shuts him down in the rematch (RIP, Corrie), more decisively than he did Peter or Brewster - who were DESTROYED in the rematches. A young, untested Wlad walked right to Sanders, got tagged, and panicked, forgot how to fight. In over his head, man-to-boy style. Only the boy grew up, to get up three times against Peter and still dominate every other minute of the fight till closing the show. Overcoming adversity is one of the key criteria for judging fighters. Wlad has done so with more decisiveness and class than most flawed human beings could dream of. Hate, bait, and speculate all you want, but the dude makes every opponent look like he picked the wrong sport.


-Froggy :

Very well said motor cola ! Wish I could have said it !


-Froggy :

Sorry about my spelling mortcola !


-mortcola :

?fraggin? spellcheck! Can?t trust it.


-gibola :

Great guy (as is his brother) and he has perfected a winning formula. His record on retirement will demand respect. He's always in shape. He ducks nobody (except Valuev possibly). His conduct and perseverance deserve respect. He should also have been DQ'd on numerous occasions and he gets away with murder with tame referees in front of his home crowds. I watch some of his fights and ask 'Did I just see that?' If somebody resisted his clinches the way Rios did against Chaves, d'you think Wlad would get DQ'd the way Chaves did? If Ricky Hatton pushed PBF out the ring Joe Cortez would have DQ'd him in a flash. You know it and I know it. Wlad pushed Haye and Mormeck clean out of the ring and nothing happens. Wlad is effective because he is good, but the 2014 interpretation of the rules in Germany make him nigh on impossible to beat. Other fighters in other rings would be DQ'd and forced to change how they fight.


-stormcentre :

For me though, Wlad is not much better than I think. He is a very good, reasonably protected, rather unexciting, softly matched (for whatever reason) heavyweight fighter controlling the shots/belt from his hometown. And yes, he has perfected a (well used) winning formula.