Sunday, July 06, 2008

Klitschko - Thompson Prediction

By JE Grant

Wladimir Klitschko is boxing’s closest thing to a real heavyweight champion.  Entering the Color Line Arena in Hamburg, Germany Saturday he will face the top American heavyweight fighter. While boxing history suggests that means he’s fighting the best of the best, all is not as it seems.

It’s true, Tony Thompson, 31-1 (19 KOs), Washington DC, represents the best among American campaigners. But in reviewing the “Tiger’s” record there's a clear hint of the changed tide of modern heavyweight boxing. His most significant victories have come against German Luan Krasniqi and Uzbeki Timor Ibragimov. His best victory over a fellow American came against Dominck Guinn. It certainly doesn't conjure images of the heavyweight scene of 20 years ago.

Today’s top heavyweights, including Klitschko, are decidedly not American: Sam Peter (Nigeria), Nikolay Valuev (Russia), Ruslan Chagaev (Uzbekistan), Alexander Povetkin (Russia), Sultan Ibragimov (Russia)...and the list goes on. 

That’s not to say Thompson does not belong among that group. He does. From his southpaw stance, the 6’5” Thompson works behind a steady jab. He usually stands tall and ably uses height and reach advantage to keep opponents at bay.  His strong chin and confidence have served him well, and he achieved a top rating despite the lack of a glittery amateur pedigree. He earned his position fighting on the road -- including at the Color Line Arena (vs. Krasniqi).

Against Krasniqi and Ibragimov, he pounded away with a sharp right jab, but his use of his left hand revealed a flaw that appears to play into Klitschko’s decided strength. On almost every occasion he threw a left hand he dropped the hand nearly to his hip following the punch. He also rarely turns over the left hand making it an arm-punch, perhaps explaining his lack of explosive power.

Klitschko, 50-3 (44 KOs), and his brain-trust, Emanuel Steward, undoubtedly plan to exploit Thompson at every turn.

Klitschko’s own sharp jab has been key to his recent major wins against S. Ibragimov, Lamon Brewster, Chris Byrd and Peter. 

He will likely seek to negate the southpaw Thompson’s right jab by doubling his own. If Thompson resorts to his straight left, Klitschko’s booming right hand may prove the retaliatory weapon that ends the night early.

The Klitschko of the four years since the first Brewster bout, if at times hyper-cautious, has dominated. 

Thompson's mission will likely be that same as all Klitschko opponents -- taking him late into the fight in the hopes for another meltdown. Thompson knows only one way to fight, jab, jab, jab, and occasionally lay in with an often-ponderous left hand and in that strategy he will invest is efforts.

It's a long-shot but that's what he is left with. One thing that Klitschko has conclusively proved in his career is that if you can't hurt him you can't beat him. No one has ever out-boxed him.


Klitschko carries almost all the advantages into this fight. Though he his the younger of the two, Klitschko, (32 to Thompson's 36), is far more experienced. Thompson’s usual height-reach advantages are zeroed out -- Klitschko is slightly taller and his reach essentially matches Thompson’s. Thompson usually fights at a heavier weight than Klitschko but it leaves him looking a bit pudgy. Klitschko is always rock-solid. Power decidedly tilts to Klitschko with either hand. Stamina may prove Thompson’s strong suit. He rarely appears flustered and his relaxed manner (okay sometimes he appears to sleep in parts of rounds) may help him carry Klitschko into the later rounds.

Wladimir Klitschko will start cautiously, throwing jabs non-stop. The jab will begin to deteriorate Thompson’s ability to mount any successful attacks. In an attempt to land hard shots, Thompson will throw his left hand only to be met with hard rights in return. Although he has never been stopped, Thompson’s streak will end on this night as is pummeled by the younger, stronger, and more experienced champion.

Klitschko by KO in 7.


Editor's Post-Fight Note: Though Thompson proved awkward and rugged, Klitschko dominated the bout. He also did something no one else had done previously, he knocked out Thompson. Still, as usual now, Klitschko was criticized for not being even more dominant and crushing. I'm sure he now recognizes that for some boxing scribes and fans alike he will never gain a full measure of respect as a champion. Despite a record that is filled with the era's top fighters, his country of origin and his three losses by stoppage will not allow a cold look at the facts. Klitschko is a talented fighter who gained not only an Olympic Gold Medal but also thoroughly respectable heavyweight title reign equalled by few. He does not need a unification bout to prove that he is this era's one true champion (just as Larry Holmes did not need the WBA belt in his). Wladimir Klitschko is the one.

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