With the recent announcement of former WBC heavyweight title holder Vitali Klitschko's retirement, it's been reported that his 5 years-younger brother Wladimir wants to gain the WBC title to add to his IBF/WBA/WBO compilation of belts. And if Wladimir does go on to capture the WBC version he'll become the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis circa 1999.
With the current landscape of the heavyweight division and the WBC's top five contenders being 1. Bermane Stiverne 23-1-1 (20), 2. Chris Arreola 36-3 (31), 3. Deontay Wilder 30-0 (30), 4. Bryant Jennings 17-0 (9), 5. Mike Perez 20-0 (12) is there any boxing observer alive who doesn't think Wladimir's goal won't be realized?
For years we've been told and read about how Wladimir either doesn't have a chin or how he fights scared. In regards to his chin, I'm not sure. Wladimir has never been counted out, unlike Lennox Lewis, who suffered that fate twice. Yes, I know he was on his feet at the end of the first Oliver McCall fight, but he was out. Referee Jose G. Garcia could've knocked him down with a feather as he reached the count of 10. Actually, Wladimir's confidence is more unstable than his chin. It's true, he does whatever he can to avoid exchanges and looks to cut loose only when he deems it to be the most safe. When he's been confronted by an opponent who tries to take his head off with big shots, he looks to not get hit before he looks to punch. The problem is, not many of his opponents go after him with the 'kill or be killed' mindset. A lot of that is because they're not built or good enough to deliver that type of attack. Often they've been limited by their lack of size and power, let alone the the style and class to deliver it, again, if they had it.
If you look at three of the WBC's top five contenders, Deontay Wilder, Bryant Jennings and Mike Perez are undefeated. However, if you examine their records, you won't find anything there to indicate that they've been in with a single fighter half as experienced or formidable as Wladimir. Sure, Klitschko is 37 and isn't quite the fighter he was a few years ago, but he still has too much range, size, power and experience for any of the three of them. If they were to meet, they could get lucky and catch him on the right night and maybe exploit his shaky confidence, but you know they'd be a considerable underdog going in.
The top two contenders for the newly vacated WBC title are Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola. Stiverne looked good beating Arreola and has excited some in the boxing world a bit. He's a decent boxer and can punch a little bit too. But he lacks the class, speed and fineness to deliver anything of consequence without Wladimir doing something stupid or making a mistake. That leaves Arreola. We've seen Chris in with three upper-tier heavyweights, Vitali Klitschko, Tomasz Adamek and Stiverne. In all three bouts he came up short. He was completely out-boxed by Adamek and Stiverne and was worked over pretty good by Vitali Klitschko before he was stopped. Chris is the exact same fighter every time out. He pushes the fight and tries to land looping lefts and rights, and sometimes he'll try to set them up with his jab. He lacks good head and upper-body movement and is pretty easy to hit. Add to that he's a sitting duck for straight lefts and rights, which are Wladimir's specialty; so it's hard to see a case for him turning back the younger Klitschko if they were to meet. That said, his aggression and semi wildness has a better chance to unnerve Wladimir than it did Vitali.
So with the news that broke late last week that Stiverne and Arreola, the top two WBC contenders, are going to meet early next year for Vitali Klitschko's vacated title, l don't think that it's much of a reach, call it a hunch, that somehow Wladimir Klitschko will get a shot at the winner in his first defense. And if that's the case, Wladimir will be an overwhelming favorite to become the undisputed heavyweight boxing champion sometime in 2014. And if Wladimir does accomplish that, it'll be another layer of proof that he has been an outstanding and dominant heavyweight fighter circa 2005-2014. Yes, he may be boring and his fights usually lack drama, but that said, he's been incredibly successful.
Since defeating Chris Byrd in 2006 for the vacant IBF title, Wladimir has gone 15-0 (11). Granted, it's hard to remember the names of five of his opponents without checking the record, the bottom line is, he hasn't come close to losing once. In fact he's been dominant and has gone fights without losing a single round. The thing about Wladimir is, the way he touches foes early in a fight causes most of his opponents to not want to go near him. Sure, they'll take a chance here and there, but seldom do you ever see anyone put any sustained heat and pressure on him. Wladimir can box and he can punch, which is a pretty tough combination for his opponents to have to cope with.
If Wladimir Klitschko becomes the undisputed heavyweight champion at age 38, that's some kind of feat. And remember, we can complain and cry all that we want about his level of opposition and safety first ring strategy, the fact is he never struggles with any of the low level opposition that he's been forced to face. It'll be interesting to see if when Wladimir follows Vitali into retirement if the title changes hands every time it's up for grabs.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV