Saturday, October 23, 2010

Vitali Klitschko -- At 39 Still A Force

Vitali Klitschko's clinical destruction of iron-chinned Shannon Briggs last Saturday provides mounting evidence of his and his brother's case for more than just a little respect.

Klitschko, 41-2 (38 KOs), won every round and virtually every moment of every round. For his part, Briggs came with the idea he could win and he tried every moment of every round. What he found and what much of the boxing world is finally recognizing is that not only is it ultra difficult to move inside of Klitschko's mammoth reach it is virtually impossible for most to fight him at all from the outside.

His power is not the one-punch variety, he has what we may see as heavy hands. Every punch has something on it and his ability and willingness to throw often and accurately disrupts his opponent's ability to mount an offense.

Vitali and his brother Wladimir will not likely change the minds of American fans who suddenly believe the heavyweight division is in decline simply because there are no American fighters dominating the scene. Nevertheless the stadiums they fill (with as many as 61,000 fans) and European TV contracts they possess as both fighters and often as the promoters, certainly fills the void.

What is lost in the argument is the fact that after the Berlin Wall fell, it took a number of years for amateur programs in eastern Europe to make the adjustment to the professional game. Add in the great promotional teams in Germany and England and you see a rejuvenation of boxing in the European markets.

Some claim that top American athletes now are in American football, hockey, basketball etc... and have moved away from boxing. Of course those same sports had thriving business in the eras of Ali, Holmes, Tyson etc... The primary difference is now fighters from places such as Ukraine, Russian, Poland, Romania, and others are fully vested in the professional ranks. They are willing to suffer to win.

We'll see another major adjustment if or when Cuba opens itself up to the professional game. We already see hints at such a future as some of the fighters who have defected in recent years have found their way into the championship ranks.

Vitali Klitschko is the real thing and has real talent that would have enabled him to be effective in virtually any era.

Now is the time to come to terms with the changing of the guard.
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