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and http://www.eastsideboxing.com/news.php?p=9251&more=1 on 12/16/06
Wladimir Klitschko’s Potential Matchups For 2007 – February 1, 2007
Going into 2007, IBF titleholder Wladimir Klitschko is clearly the man to beat in the heavyweight division. He is on a hot streak, having won against three straight top-five contenders. Klitschko has a tremendous upside, being a relatively young 30, and having the best combination of speed, power, and skill in the division. Not to mention having one of the greatest trainers of this generation in his corner. However, no discussion of Wlad seems to be complete without the usual caveat regarding his chin. Klitschko is indeed vulnerable to a strong puncher, and always will be. He does seem to have improved in responding to pressure, and is obviously now better equipped to deal with tough situations. In any case, Wlad has the most options of any heavyweight right now. All roads lead to him. Every heavyweight in the top 50 seems to be calling him out these days. While we may laugh at Brian Minto or Audley Harrison’s interest in taking him on, there are plenty of interesting matchups available for Klitschko. I have listed some of the more likely matchups for Klitschko this year, and a prediction for how each fight might turn out.
Wladimir Klitschko vs. Ray Austin
This fight has ”mismatch” written all over it. Ray Austin is a tough, reasonably skilled fighter who has enjoyed a certain amount of success fairly late in his career. He gave top 15 contender Sultan Ibragimov a tough fight and has made his way onto some top 20 lists. But, despite his size and decent skills, this fight will probably end up looking like Klitschko – McCline from a couple years back. Despite being about even in the size department, Klitschko enjoyed every measurable advantage over McCline. Power, speed, overall boxing ability, you name it. Ray Austin is no better than the 2003 version of Jameel McCline. Sad part is, this might be the most likely fight for Klitschko at this point. Ray can stay back for a while, try to use his size and box Wlad, while building up a deficit on the scorecards, or he can just take it to Wlad and hope to catch him early. A few years ago, that bombs-away style might have given Ray Austin a chance against Klitschko. But, these days, Wladimir adjusts much better to pressure, and would just tie Austin up if he gets too close. Ray Austin simply has nothing to beat Klitschko with, and would likely lose by late knockout.
Wladimir Klitschko vs. Shannon Briggs
This could be an exciting fight. For a while, anyway. Both fighters have excellent power and fast hands. Both men have weak chins and stamina issues. The big difference is in fundamentals. Briggs is an okay boxer with decent counterpunching ability. Klitschko is a highly skilled boxer with a superb jab. In fact, he has a completely full repertoire of punches. Briggs has his trademark ”swarm.” Except for his fight against Lennox Lewis, he hasn’t utilized that type of aggression against his better opponents. If he tries to stay back and counter, like he did against Liakhovich, he’ll get picked apart easily. His only real chance is to take it to Klitschko and hope he can drop him in a round or two. Expect to see Klitschko survive the early onslaught and begin to find his rhythm as soon as Briggs starts tiring out. That will probably only take two, three rounds at the most. Shannon might rock Wladimir, but judicious clinching and a steady jab should get Klitschko past the danger zone. Then Klitschko breaks Briggs down with the jab. As soon as he realizes Briggs is too tired to be much of a threat, he’ll start bringing the right cross into play. Expect the fight to end shortly after that. Five to eight rounds and the party’s over. I guarantee, however, that Shannon will provide the better post-fight quotes. He’s always had the edge in mouth.
Wladimir Klitschko vs. Oleg Maskaev
Oleg might like the payday involved, but he might not like the risk. Maskaev is like Briggs in that he has more than enough power to knock out Klitschko, he just doesn’t have the tools to apply that power. It is conceivable that Maskaev could come out swinging and catch Klitschko unprepared. More likely though, is Klitschko completely outclassing his tough but limited opponent. The difference in hand speed will be apparent from the beginning. Maskaev will eat jab after jab from the first round on. He has a strong cross, and has recently added a decent hook to his arsenal, but if he can’t get the punches off first, it won’t matter. Plan on watching Klitschko dominate Maskaev a lot easier than anyone will want to admit. The referee will step in while a game Maskaev takes a bad beating on the ropes in the fourth.
Wladimir Klitschko vs. Nicolay Valuev
This fight could be big. These two giants fighting might sell out any venue in the world. The fact that Don King controls Valuev makes this fight unlikely, but if enough money was involved, it could happen. Valuev is obviously limited in the skill department. He is slow of hand and foot, and has trouble putting much power into his punches, simply because of the awkward angles involved. Punching a target a foot lower isn’t that easy. However, he appears to be willing to learn the trade. He has a grasp of the fundamentals, and while that doesn’t sound like much, his sheer size makes it enough against most of the division. He also has amazingly good stamina, considering his size, and a solid chin. Valuev is not an all-time great, but he’s a tough match for almost anyone. This is a hard fight for me to call. While Klitschko is unquestionably the superior fighter, he has never had to deal with an opponent THAT much bigger. Klitschko may take a few rounds just to try and figure out how to get inside and land. I can see this being a slow, awkward fight at first, until maybe the fifth or sixth round. Klitschko will start to land with increasing regularity, and the difference in hand speed will be apparent. Valuev will try and wear Klitschko down with frequent clinches, but Klitschko is a pretty strong guy, and should be able to handle it. Valuev has slow hands and Wlad will be able to see most of the punches coming. Valuev appears to have a pretty hard head, and his mass will make Wlad hesitant to go all out. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see Valuev still standing at the final bell, but Klitschko will be the clear winner, maybe winning 10 or 11 rounds.
Wladimir Klitschko vs. Sultan Ibragimov
If Sultan Ibragimov gets past Shannon Briggs for the WBO trinket, then that might make things a little more interesting for the prospects of unification. Ibragimov only managed a draw against Ray Austin because of relatively poor conditioning and a tendency to fight in spurts, but he has undeniable talent. Ibragimov has power, quick hands, and a sturdy chin. However, somewhat like Calvin Brock, his fairly impressive physical tools are a step below Klitschko’s. The only edge Ibragimov seems to have is his chin, but it is also easier to hit. The fight would most likely be a replay of Klitschko – Brock, with Ibragimov making things awkward in the early rounds. Eventually, though, Wlad will figure out his shorter, more limited opponent and begin landing those left jab-right cross combinations that finished off Brock. Klitschko should end matters by TKO before the tenth round.
Wladimir Klitschko vs. James Toney
Another opponent who can dominate Wlad in the sound-bite department. Should Toney get past Samuel Peter, he will be Oleg Maskaev’s mandatory challenger. If Klitschko gets to Maskaev first and wins, then that opens up the possibility of Toney-Klitschko. And if Toney does get Maskaev first, and manages to win, then unification would still require a Toney-Klitschko match. Either way, this fight could happen in 2007. If it does, expect to see Klitschko retire James Toney. Toney’s strength is infighting, but against a 6’6” opponent with an excellent jab, quick hands, good movement, and huge power, getting inside will be a challenge. Toney is 5’9” and will have a considerable reach disadvantage. I see Klitschko keeping Toney at arm’s length all night with stiff jabs. Toney’s own impressive array of boxing skills and his hard head will most likely allow him to see the final bell. His defense is still excellent and he should be able to avoid many of Klitschko’s punches. The problem for Toney is that he won’t be able to land with any frequency. Expect a one-sided unanimous decision for the Ukrainian.
Wladimir Klitschko vs. Samuel Peter II
Should Samuel Peter prevail against James Toney, then a Peter-Klitschko rematch could conceivably happen before the end of the year. This is the fight that might be the biggest danger for Wladimir. Peter is still a raw and somewhat undisciplined boxer. However, he also possesses enormous power and a granite chin. In their last meeting, Klitschko gave Peter a boxing lesson, keeping him at the end of his jab, and tying him up inside. Sam Peter did have some success, though, and managed to drop Klitschko three times. If Peter has improved his technique since their last encounter, then this would be a major challenge for Klitschko. Sam Peter is tough, determined, relentless, and more than willing to fight dirty. I could envision Sam being able to overwhelm Klitschko with a barrage of hooks, crosses, and his favorite weapon, rabbit punches. The problem is, Klitschko isn’t that easy to overwhelm at this point. Should he remain composed, I can easily picture Wlad giving Sam another boxing lesson. Maybe even a late stoppage, considering how Klitschko was able to wobble Peter in the 12th round of their first fight.
I have heard Peter being called ”raw” after every fight for the past couple years. If Sam Peter is still being called raw after having fought the likes of Klitschko and Toney, he may not ever get much better. For his sake I hope he does, but at this point, expect Klitschko to win a rematch.
It’s obvious that Klitschko is in the driver’s seat in the heavyweight division and has the most options. There are many other potential opponents for him. Lamon Brewster, Sergei Liakhovich, and Ruslan Chagaev all come to mind. However, the above list highlights the most likely options for Wladimir Klitschko in 2007. Based on all the evidence at hand, Klitschko should be able to win all of these fights. It would not be wise, however, to count out any of these potential opponents. Determination and a hard punch has been enough to defeat Klitschko before, and may still be enough once again.