THREE PUNCH COMBO — In December, the International Boxing Hall of Fame class of 2018 will be unveiled. One of the most heavily debated names on this year’s ballot is Vitali Klitschko (45-2, 41 KO’s) who will appear on the ballot for the first time. While at first he seemed a lock for enshrinement, the case against Vitali’s induction has grown in recent weeks to the point where his being included in this year’s class is in serious question.
Vitali was a two-time heavyweight champion and one of the era’s most dominant heavyweights. The other dominant heavyweight of the era was Vitali’s brother Wladimir. The word dominant, though, does not appropriately describe what Vitali did with his competition. He annihilated and routinely outclassed the top heavyweights of the era.
Vitali first won a heavyweight title with a two round destruction of Herbie Hyde whose only prior defeat was to Hall of Famer Riddick Bowe. Vitali would go on to score knockout victories against the likes of Kirk Johnson, Corrie Sanders, Samuel Peter, Juan Carlos Gomez, Chris Arreola and Tomasz Adamek. When Vitali fought these opponents, they came in hot on winning streaks and often times at the peak of their careers. In other words, they were top contenders fighting at a high level.
There is an amazing statistic that helps show just how great Vitali was. In the course of his 47 fight career, Vitali only lost a handful of rounds. In his two losses, he was ahead on the cards when the fight was stopped.
So what is the case against Vitali going into the Hall of Fame? Well, for starters he lost by stoppage to arguably the two best fighters he faced in Chris Byrd and Lennox Lewis. In addition, those against Vitali’s induction argue that the competition he faced does not match Hall of Fame standards. Furthermore, they argue that there just isn’t that signature win that stands out on his resume. The two best wins for Vitali may be against Kirk Johnson and Corrie Sanders. While solid fighters, neither Johnson nor Sanders were exactly feared fighters.
Where do I fall on this debate? Vitali could not control who were the contenders of his era and could not realistically be expected to face the only legitimate threat of his time because that was his brother. Vitali faced the best of his era and for the most part outclassed these very competent fighters. Moreover, he holds one of the highest KO percentages among heavyweight champions. Vitali’s two losses were fights that he was winning and though he was stopped in those fights it was either due to injury or a cut. The fact that in 47 fights he rarely lost a round has to also be taken into consideration as that is an amazing overall accomplishment. Given these facts, Vitali Klitschko is unquestionably a Hall of Famer and should be enshrined in the class of 2018.
This coming week, Deontay Wilder (38-0, 37 KO’s) defends his portion of the heavyweight crown against Bermane Stiverne (25-2-1, 21 KO’s) in a rematch of their 2015 contest. In that fight, Wilder easily out-boxed Stiverne in winning a wide unanimous decision. The fight was rather lackluster and completely one-sided in favor of Wilder. Since then, Wilder has made five defenses of his title while Stiverne has had one fight in which he struggled mightily in barely escaping with a win against journeyman Derric Rossy. Somehow, the sanctioning body involved has lifted Stiverne back to mandatory position and now we get the rematch that frankly seems totally pointless. With this fight in mind, here is a look at some other recent pointless rematches in boxing.
William Joppy vs. Julio Cesar Green III, 09/24/1999
William Joppy and Julio Cesar Green first met in August of 1997. Joppy had a belt at 160 and Green had worked himself into being a fringe contender in that division. The fight was pretty good with Green dropping Joppy in the second and then Joppy coming back to put Green down a couple times in the third. But for the most part, Joppy controlled the fight with his jab and superior hand speed, continually beating Green to the punch. Most folks who watched the fight had Joppy winning handily. However Green was awarded a shocking and nearly criminal unanimous decision. So there had to be a rematch and Joppy righted the ship easily, out-boxing Green on route to a unanimous decision win a few months later.
It appeared all set for the two as twice Joppy had basically dominated Green. However, Joppy sustained injuries in a car accident early in 1999, forcing a layoff, and this allowed the sanctioning body in which Joppy held a belt the opportunity to sanction an interim title while he was on the mend. Green would win that interim title and thus position himself for a third fight with Joppy which would take place in September of 1999. Again, Joppy easily out-boxed Green in an even more dominant performance than the first two fights and the bout was stopped in round seven due to a severe cut over Green’s left eye.
Wladimir Klitschko vs Tony Thompson II, 07/07/2012
Wladimir Klitschko pretty much dominated all challengers to his heavyweight belt, but in 2008 one fighter gave him some small problems and that was Tony Thompson, a slick southpaw whose style did not allow Klitschko to be as dominant as in most of his defenses. Still, it was a relatively one-sided fight and Klitschko solved the puzzle late, knocking out Thompson in round 11.
Four years later, as Klitschko continued to be dominant, Thompson maneuvered himself back into a mandatory position to fight Klitschko. The rematch was made though few in the sport saw any point to it. And as expected, Klitschko was never in any danger as he easily controlled Thompson before stopping him in round six of a totally one-sided fight.
Chad Dawson vs Antonio Tarver II, 05/09/2009
In October of 2008, Chad Dawson met Antonio Tarver in Las Vegas for a title belt at 175. That night, Dawson used his speed and higher work rate to easily outpoint Tarver. Tarver held a rematch clause and decided to give it another go against Dawson in May of 2009. Though Tarver performed a little better the second time around, it was still the speed and activity of Dawson that predictably carried the day in winning another wide decision victory.
Remembering a Bizarre Forgotten Moment in Boxing
Boxing is full of bizarre moments. On Thursday, October 20th, we saw another very strange moment when Joseph Coats decided not to participate in his scheduled heavyweight bout against Hasim Rahman Jr. in North Carolina. After some initial delay, Coats was actually in the ring for the scheduled four round contest and then made the decision to leave, not wanting to fight. For many folks involved in the sport, this was the first time they could recall such an incident. This got me thinking about some other strange moments in the sport, including one very bizarre incident that took place on a nationally televised card.
On November 11th, 1997 Israel “Pito” Cardona faced David Sample in a bout scheduled for 10 rounds in the 135-pound weight division. Televised on the popular Tuesday Night Fight series on USA, this was a classic crossroads type bout, evenly matched on paper.
Through five rounds, it was a good crisp competitive fight with nothing out of the ordinary occurring. And then about 30 seconds into round six, the lights in the arena went out. The place went pitch black and there was quite a bit of confusion for a few seconds. Thankfully, the fighters stopped fighting and both found their way to neutral corners. After more than a five minute delay, enough ringside lights were up and running for the fight to resume, albeit in three quarters darkness. It was definitely a unique scene, even for boxing, and as the fight progressed little by little lighting came back.
The fight would make it the full ten rounds and Cardona would be awarded the victory by a unanimous decision. For those of us who watched that November evening 20 years ago, it is one of those fights that truly showed why boxing has been called “the theater of the unexpected.”
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