By JE Grant
Vitali Klitschko, the elder of the increasingly fabled Klitschko brothers, continues to defy odds as he creeps ever so close to 40 in a sport in which that age is considered ancient. Nevertheless, when he meets 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Olanier Solis Saturday in Cologne, he enters as a decided favorite.
When one considers the drubbing a 38-year-old Muhammad Ali took from Larry Holmes in 1980 or the crushing stoppage of 40-year-old Evander Holyfield by James Toney in 2003, one has to wonder when Klitschko will meet his inevitable fade.
Of course Klitschko has something that only a few great heavyweights possess: Immense power.
Power is the last asset in the inventor of a fighter to fade. While Klitschko is the not a one-punch killer like Earnie Shavers or George Foreman, he punches with what boxing insiders would call heavy hands.
Every punch he throws --- though they appear to be arm punches --- lands with a thud, taking a toll on the body and spirit of his opponents. Even his fights that have gone the distance, his opponents have chosen to either go into survival mode (Kevin Johnson), or have incurred tremendous damage as the price for a willingness to trade blows to the final bell (Shannon Briggs).
Solis, with history as a vague guide, should be the man to come along who can dethrone the aging titlist. Talented, as accomplished as almost any amateur in history, and as comfortable in the ring as any veteran fighter, he will enter the ring Saturday not in awe but with the expectation of victory.
He also enters with a puzzling professional history. He’s beaten the usual suspects, but not brilliantly. Victories over faded fringe contenders Ray Austin and Monte Barrett represent the only bouts that come close to separating him from the crowd.
He also has the habit of showing up with a decided spare tire around the mid-section. Solis weighed in yesterday at 246 ½, his lowest weight as a professional, yet the thickness remains obvious. Is it simply his natural body type? Or is it indicative of a less-than-vigorous training regime. Surely Klitschko will test Solis’ resolve.
Solis exhibits heavyweight power, and, at 30, is likely in his prime. If ever it is his moment, now is the time.
Unfortunately for Solis, Klitschko has one more weapon. His chin. Unlike his brother Wladimir, no one can dispute Vitali’s ability and willingness to take punishment. Big hitters such as Corrie Sanders and Lennox Lewis landed big but Klitschko did not go down. In fact as a professional he has never been on the canvas.
PREDICTION: Solis will come to Klitschko with combinations, something the big guy has not endured in a while. Solis will also pay the price for staying too close. Klitschko’s jab will work overtime on the charging Cuban. The giant height and reach advantage will require Solis to take large amounts of punishment to get to Klitschko often enough to win rounds --- (and when is the last time Klitschko actually lost a round?). Look for Solis’ conditioning begin to haunt him in the middle rounds and Klitschko to keep up a pace that Solis has never seen. Heavy hands will prevail.
Klitschko by KO 9.