ANOTHER LONG, LONG SHOT - There are occasions when the outcome of a scheduled boxing competition, even a big money, high profile bout that generates millions of dollars at the live gate and millions of viewers for the broadcast seems to have a result so obvious that it's not unreasonable to question why the fight was made in the first place.
Such seems to be the case in this Saturday's scheduled 12 round, consensus heavyweight engagement between champion Wladimir Klitschko and challenger Francesco Pianeta, 28-0-1 (15KO).
The most realistically accurate ways to define how Pianeta's chances shape up are either extremely slim or absolutely none at all. On paper, this is not the fight to revive the big boy division. We anticipate the word pinata will probably come to mind, but hopefully not reenacted by the bat in Wlad's right mitt.
The only good news for skeptics may be that there are always enough upsets to maintain the point about why the fights have to be fought. In the case of Klitschko-Pianeta there are two sides to the coin.
Will Pianeta fight the smart, heads-up defensive battle he needs or will he get ahead of himself and be flipped flat on his tail before everyone gets done at the beer line? Could we see another of those long shot upsets, the sort of which Klitschko was the loser of in debacles against Ross Puritty or Lamon Brewster.
28 year old Pianeta, a lefty from Cosenza, Italy who relocated to Germany,is generally listed around 6'3 to 6'5. Standing next to Klitschko, who's regularly listed at 6'6 and looks the part, Pianeta appears closer to 6'3. Since using his southpaw/right jab as both a range finding and combination-opening weapon,those few inches will be crucial (Klitschko's approximately 81" reach could be nearly half a foot longer than Pianeta's if Klitschko throws straight up the middle).
Having seen Pianeta live four times recently, including a sloppy ten round waltz against Frans Botha last September, I'd have to say a realistic proposition on the over/under distance is six full rounds. If both men show up in similar shape to their most recent appearances,I'd have to strongly recommend betting the under.
The best performance I've seen from Pianeta, a sturdy counter puncher,came against Albert Sosnowski, a tough mauler who came in with twice as many fights as Pianeta when they met for an EU belt in April 2009 and fought to a draw. Sosnowski subsequently showed good durability before being stopped by Vitali Klitschko.
Pianeta beat then undefeated Johan Dubhaupas in a hard fought brawl on the undercard of Nikolai Valuev - Evander Holyfield after he stopped hard headed Scott Gamer on the undercard of Valuev - John Ruiz II. Among recognizable names on his resume,Pianeta also had a harder than anticipated go against Oliver McCall in 2012.
McCall and Botha were once legitimate, world class heavyweights, maybe even top 5, during days when Holyfield, Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson were still ruling the heavyweight heap. Neither the Atomic Bull nor White Buffalo were real threats when Pianeta met them.
No one can question Pianeta's determination, or the likelihood he trained to the utmost of his ability. Pianeta is credited with successful cancer therapy, so he's used to daunting challenges. What he probably couldn't do is double his punching power and add footwork more resembling Tony Thompson than David Price.
As for Klitschko, it will be interesting to see how much longer he remains to rumble among the ranks of active pro fighters once older brother Vitali reties. Vitali's milestone day that may have already occurred,pending hindsight from future Ukrainian political events.
Pianeta has never faced a top flight fighter during their prime years. Wherever Klitschko is in terms of his overall, present day ability level, he's probably near top form or not far from it, making more and more progress in the public school of thought regarding his Hall of Fame qualifications.
Klitschko, quite likely,has not lost a single round since his last visit to SAP Arena in Dec 2008, when he scored a one sided TKO 7 over Hasim Rahman. Even back then the K2 brothers were so hard up for feasible foes that even Riddick Bowe, who appeared, thankfully one time only, got mentioned as a possible opponent.
Klitschko's amazing string of eight fights, or 72 rounds of duke-out domination, should make measuring specific probabilities a simple math. In our conking calculations the odds come out to way over 10 - 1. As in closer to 20-1.
This is what is most likely to unfold in Mannheim this weekend: Klitschko leads, Pianeta follows, both too slowly at first. What happens when Klitschko picks up the pace at the end of round 1 determines the rest of the fight. If Pianeta follows too fast, a la Thompson against Klitschko last summer, wave goodnight early. One overhand right will bounce Pianeta off the ropes, the other will bounce him off the canvas.
If Pianeta can stand his ground for a few rounds, moving side to side behind southpaw counters, he'll find his best chance at getting Klitschko open defensively, but the words slim and none echo.
Pianeta is a likable fellow who's battled cancer. That doesn't mean he can be considered a live underdog.
Klitschko may be trying to send some message regarding a much discussed fall fight in Moscow against Alexander Povetkin. The reality of Klitschko-Povetkin is that this fight is a preview, a measuring stick situation.
I can't get the image of Pianeta struggling in the last couple rounds with a faded and fattened Botha. There's always a chance Pianeta jolts everyone with a perfectly timed surprise flurry from inside, but realism dictates Klitschko scores the TKO well before the halfway point. I'll jump out of my seat as fast as anybody if it looks like the apple cart is tipping.
Klitschko TKO 5, with the lack of serious challengers squawked about more than Klitschko's power or permanence.
Fair or not, paychecks aside, by some measures Klitschko - Pianeta is an easy, no win circumstance for each participant.
Unless things get crazy, the media will be asking more about Povetkin than Pianeta.