The Last Title Never Won By A Klitschko
HAMBURG, Germany -- On Saturday night in Hamburg, Germany, Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye will contend in what is arguably the most significant heavyweight bout since Lennox Lewis beat Mike Tyson in June, 2002.
For over a decade, brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko have harbored the exotic dream of sharing the undisputed heavyweight title.
At age 35, Wladimir holds the IBO, IBF, and WBO belts while 39-year-old Vitali wears the WBC crown.
If Wladimir beats Haye, the current champion of the WBA, the brothers will realize their dream of owning the titles from every sanctioning body.
The result could be something of a nightmare for boxing.
Years ago, the brothers promised their mother they would never fight one another—and a title divided between champions who won't compete can't help shore up the wobbly heavyweight division.
European boxing fans couldn't care less.
They're enthralled with this long-percolating fight (4:45 p.m. on HBO), which may draw a capacity crowd of 50,000 to Imtech Arena.
American fans, on the other hand, are either indifferent to the outcome or ecstatic that the explosive Haye might finally blow up the career of the 6-foot-6 1/2-inch Ukrainian.
The Klitschkos, who assist in each other's corners, shatter every American boxing stereotype.
They both hold doctorates in sports science from the University of Kiev.
They speak four languages (German, English, Ukrainian, and Russian) and are elite-level chess players.
Wladimir (55-3, 49 KOs) packs a right-hand wallop second to none.
Almost 85% of his fights have ended in knockout wins.
Still, both he and his elder brother Vitali (who boasts the highest knockout percentage of any heavyweight champion in history at 88.6%) proceed cautiously, taking the time to soften up their rivals with thumping left jabs before delivering power shots.
In the U.S., boxing fans prefer heavyweights like Mike Tyson who takee risks by boring in quickly for a knockout.
In Europe, there's an appreciation for boxers like the Klitschkos who play chess with their punches.
A 1996 Olympic gold medalist, Wladimir ran up an impressive record of 40-1 before suffering a brutal knockout loss to Corrie Sanders.
A year later, he was trouncing the American heavyweight Lamon Brewster when he suddenly ran out of gas in the fifth round.
After this defeat, the legendary trainer Emanuel Steward helped the NFL-sized Wladimir learn to improve his balance, control the distance and calm down in the ring.
In 2005, he got up from three knockdowns to earn a unanimous decision over Samuel Peter, and has since barely lost a round in rolling up 10 consecutive victories.
Though most believe Vitali (42-2, 39 KOs) to be the tougher of the two, all agree Wladimir has more speed, power and pure boxing ability.
Because of his size and strength, Wladimir has been able to keep all of his recent challengers outside and on the end of his punches.
But some think Haye, who has the quickness of a middleweight and the punch of a heavyweight, will be the one who can slip Klitschko's jab, get inside and test Wladimir's less-than-iron chin.
Haye, 30, claimed his belt in 2009 when he beat the 7-foot Nikolay Valuev in a majority decision and has defended his title twice.
"Haye is fast and can really bang with both hands," said Hall-of-Fame trainer Angelo Dundee. "He is a serious threat to Klitschko and any heavyweight on the scene."
Haye has been dismissive to downright disrespectful about both the fighting heart and skills of the siblings and has pledged to put both Goliaths down for the count.
Wladimir ordinarily ducks the verbal sparring that attends big fights, but not this time.
"I'm going to take care of business," he said.
Source: The Wall Street Journal