Klitschkos hold heavyweight boxing in their iron fists... is there anyone else out there?
From the lofty vantage point of his training camp here in the Austrian Tyrol, Wladimir Klitschko is king of all he surveys.
As the wearer of the WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO and Ring magazine belts, this giant Ukrainian is lord of the heavyweight ring.
By way of keeping every element of boxing’s ultimate world championship in the family, his even bigger elder brother Vitali holds the WBC title.
Putting the training in: Wladimir Klitschko trains for his fight with Mormeck in the Austrian mountains
Ready to rumble: Wladimir Klitschko counts down to his latest fight
Guidance: Wladimir is taped up by veteran Emanuel Steward
This is an exercise in concussive domination, unprecedented since boxing’s most glittering prize was partitioned among so many letters of the alphabet. It is worth a considerable fortune. Yet the Klitschkos receive little recognition outside their own land and their adoptive Germany.
Wider acknowledgement of their right to places in the heavyweight pantheon is withheld, largely through no fault of their own. The problem is they cannot silence the quibble that they are more manufactured automatons than natural talents.
This is because an otherwise turgid heavyweight division is unable to supply them with validating opponents. Britain’s David Haye included, thus far.
Best in the division: Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko hold all the heavyweight belts between them, but said they will never fight each other
Haye is contemplating coming back from humiliation by Wladimir to try his luck against Vitali, but the younger Klitschko says: ‘It’s David’s call but he has no chance to beat Vitali. Haye has been around us for two years. We never know what he wants and neither does he. In reality I closed this chapter by winning virtually every round against him.
‘But he is in a difficult situation. After so much trash talk it is embarrassing now for him to walk down the streets in his own city because he let down so many of his countrymen. He is a diva who became a chicken for 12 rounds against me. He didn’t come to fight and he embarrassed himself. But he has an ego so he will come back out of retirement.
‘But he should remember what everyone tells me, that Vitali is the harder and stronger brother. For sure, Vitali will knock him out. My bro was in the best form of his life, at 40, against Tomasz Adamek in his last fight, which is so impressive. But even I am curious to see what he is going to say and do.’
The challenger: Former cruiserweight champion Jean-Marc Mormeck is next for Wladimir Klitschko
So bereft are the Klitschkos of authentic challengers that Haye may get his second chance, and Wladimir’s next fight, on December 10, is against Jean-Marc Mormeck, who was beaten in a cruiserweight title fight by Haye and who is being offered the opportunity to redeem himself against Vitali after being trounced by the younger Klitschko.
Hello, is anybody else out there?
If not, it is left to the rest of us to determine how tall the near-7ft Klitschkos stand among the best heavyweights of all time. And the answer is not as simple as some say — that they would have been hopelessly outclassed during any of boxing’s golden ages.
The Greatest: But both Klitschkos would have given Ali a tough time
The unsteady appearance of a frail Muhammad Ali at the funeral of his arch-rival Joe Frazier has revived those invidious comparisons with the less celebrated champions of today.
Yet, while we would have expected Ali in his pomp to defeat both Klitschkos, even The Greatest would have found himself in tough fights against them.
Likewise Jack Johnson from an earlier, sepia age. Of the other big men of the Ali era — although not quite as large as the Klitschkos — George Foreman and the chronically under-rated Larry Holmes would have started as favourites against them. Although I am not so sure about Sonny Liston.
Curiously, many subscribers to the ring maxim that a good big ’un always beats a good little ’un would give Wladimir no chance against such members of the smaller heavyweight brethren as Frazier, Rocky Marciano and Joe Louis — and not much better odds on Vitali.
On the evidence of recent fights it requires the speed of Mike Tyson in his explosive first incarnation to hurry Wladimir out of his protective rhythm, while nothing less than the thunderous punching power of Iron Mike is likely to shake Vitali.
Test? Mike Tyson in his prime could have given the Klitschko brothers a decent fight
Frankly, it sells these men short to suggest that had they met any of our heroes from yesteryear the fights would have been anything less than competitive. And if you don’t believe me, then listen to Emanuel Steward.
Wladimir’s American master-trainer says: ‘My man is one of the finest athletic specimens ever to pull on the gloves and one of the fastest of all the big men, with his hands and on his feet. And Vitali is as tough and heavy-punching as anyone we’ve seen.’
In support of that argument, Steward recalls being in Lennox Lewis’s corner for what proved to be the last fight in the formidable career of Britain’s first world heavyweight champion for 100 years.
Big puncher: But Lennox Lewis could not wobble Vitali, but he did eventually stop him and win the fight (below)
Vitali was the challenger that night in Los Angeles and such a mighty one that Steward says: ‘At the end of the fourth I told Lennox that Vitali had won every round so far and that we were losing the world title. Lennox was a great champion but I told him he had to go back out and fight like never before. He responded by winning the fifth and sixth and inflicting those deep cuts around Vitali’s eyes which forced the stoppage.
‘But even though Lennox was a huge puncher and landed some of his biggest shots, he couldn’t wobble Vitali. How many of Lennox’s opponents could claim that? These guys deserve their proper respect.’
What they need are opponents to help them get it. Mormeck is unlikely to inconvenience Wladimir unduly, even though the multiple champion is training as assiduously as always since Steward was brought in to quicken his footwork, sharpen his balance, maximise his hitting power... and remind him there is no place for complacency in a division in which, more than any other, one punch can shock the world
Boxing needs more realistic threats of such heavyweight surprises.
Wladimir does not put it past the ‘badly under-rated’ Mormeck stretching him. He reasons: ‘Although there is all this talk about my brother and me fighting bigger men, the truth is that it’s more awkward for us to nail smaller, faster guys like Jean-Marc.
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‘He has nothing to lose and this is a no-win situation for me because the critics think this is an easy fight. But at least he won’t run like Haye just to survive.
‘The only slight disappointment for me against David was that I couldn’t knock him out in the 12th round. I promised that because I thought that even he, when he had no chance of winning on points, would come out swinging his Hayemakers in the 12th and open up the opportunity for me to floor him. If Mormeck gives me the opening I will take it.’
Several other divisions are alive with thrills. Carl Froch, the Nottingham Cobra, and Andre Ward, America’s Olympic gold medallist, have fought their way past a galaxy of brilliant super-middleweights to reach next month’s mouth-watering final of the Super Six title-unifying tournament, with the gifted Lucian Bute awaiting the winner.
Best of British: Super Middleweight Carl Froch faces Andre Ward next month for the right to be called the best in their division
Floyd Mayweather Jnr and Manny Pacquiao, multi-division world champions both, stand at the welterweight apex as Hall of Fame icons in waiting, even if they never meet in that potential Fight of the Century.
Britain’s own Olympic silver medallist, Amir Khan, is ready to move up to challenge them, having imposed himself as the pick of the light-welter champions.
Sergio Martinez, Saul Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr face rising British threats in a revival of the classic middleweight tradition.
Getting better: Under the eye of trainer Freddie Roach Britain's Amir Khan is almost ready to challenge the likes of Mayweather and Pacquiao
But heavyweight is the flagship division and it desperately needs to find real challengers for the Klitschkos. Britain has not been alone in hoping that Haye could raise that standard.
A flicker of that expectation still survives the unhappy hesitancy of his thrashing by Wladimir, which is one reason why he is evaluating the financial incentive of coming almost instantly out of early retirement to fight Vitali next spring.
Steward does not think Haye deserves a second chance after his dismal performance in the Hamburg rain but he does say: ‘Vitali’s is a totally different style from Wladimir’s and his oncoming approach gives David a better shot at landing his Hayemakers.
Belterweights: The impressive records of Vitali (left) and Wladimir Klitschko should not be taken lightly
In the zone: Wladimir prepares at his Austrian training camp
‘This should be a tough fight for both of them but it is only being considered because Vitali wants to knock him out, where Wladimir beat him on points. Haye would have a better chance in this one — but only if he really comes to fight.’
If not, then the Klitschkos — as they edge nearer their own retirements with Vitali aged 40 and Wladimir 35 — may have to wait for history to judge them more kindly than the doubters of today.
As I expect it will.
By Jeff Powell
Wladimir Klitschko v Jean-MarcMormeck will be live on December 10 on Sky Sports HD.
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