***Fight postponed due to Wladimir injury reported alternately as a hamstring pull or left bicep tear. Sad but true perhaps this warning shot across the bow of the aging Klitschko juggernaut as he dragged Shannon Briggs across the landscape that left him shaking his right hand. Not much else in the story, but link here for confirmation:
Wladimir Klitschko is back in action to defend his myriad collection of world title belts against IBF mandatory Kubrat Pulev at O2 World Arena in Hamburg, Germany on Saturday, September 6th. He is coming off a successful defense against his WBO mandatory Alex Leapai who was well tenderized before being knocked out in the 6th round, but there’s much more at stake than just this upcoming title defense.
Klitschko is currently 23-2, 17 KOs in title fights coming into his his 26th title fight. Only the immortal Joe Louis was in more heavyweight title fights, sporting a 26-1 record with the 26 all consecutive wins, one record heavyweights will likely never break. A win against Pulev puts Wladimir within two title fights of tying Joe’s 26 title wins record and breaking his 27 total title fights record.
Records are fascinating reflections of the eras in which they occur and most will eventually be broken as the rules and culture changes, but boxing has a history of pulling the plug on modern fighters approaching Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 heavyweight record. The Joe Louis records may be even more revered as we may discover once Wlad tries to cross that threshold. This is the first recorded instance of a modern heavyweight champion also simultaneously approaching the Joe Louis final record of 66-3, 52 KO, dead square within his sights with Wlad currently at 62-3, 52 KO and still on top of his game. There will be much moaning and wringing of limp hands about this heavy division being soft by the grandsons of the same moaning critics of previous eras who were never satisfied with the greats who do pass through their eras, always preferring the good old days of their misguided besotted youth when the biggest impressions are made on the soft clay of their memory.
The perfect modern era example of that misanthropic thinking is the stellar record of two division champ Dariusz Michalczweski who was the long time “lineal” lightheavyweight champ according to the varied arcane claims kept by persnickety purist “boxing experts” as he waged one of the best title runs in history. He approached the Rocky Marciano career mark of 49-0 as he also made a bid to tie the Joe Louis record of 26 consecutive title wins. During his span of 9 years the aptly monikered “Tiger” defended his WBO lightheavy title while adding the WBO cruiserweight title that he never defended and the IBF, WBA, and “lineal” titles when he beat HOFer Virgil Hill.
The Fates could not have arranged for a more eventful challenge to boxing history, but being such fastidiously fickle sisters, they upped their ante on this poor Polish boy by booting him into Germany where he became a huge star with the expected accumulating hubris as he played out his preordained destiny before adoring fans.
They also made sure that Michalczweski was to be infamously and quite immediately stripped of his hard won WBA and IBF baubles that Roy Jones Jr then moved up to claim to much more acclaim that in turn secured his own lock as a first ballot International Boxing Hall of Famer that Dariusz currently remains locked out of. Roy fought many of the same fighters Dariusz fought, often after Dariusz had already taken care of business in advance. As Dariusz approached those legendary boxing milestones, he and his team obviously developed a sense of history and wanted affirmation from American media that historically define prevailing boxing media content. They flew to America for an HBO televised Jones title match where he publicly lobbies for a Jones unification fight to no avail. Jones and his HBO paymasters blithely snubbed what would have been the biggest money purse in Roy’s career. You could ask them why, but I doubt there will be any truth forthcoming. You see, all that big money was only if the fight were held in Germany with a German broadcaster that HBO either could not or would not match in a home setting for Roy. Nor would Roy travel abroad for a big fight much like the the current crop of acclaimed undefeated American P4Pers whose names are already forgotten in the span of time.
Instead Roy settled for the much touted Don King canned WBA heavyweight challenge against John Ruiz with King contractually keeping that title “in house” for well over a decade before his own inevitable decline finally saw him lose his grip. So King held the WBA heavy option on Roy for one year to no avail when Roy simply refused to defend, instead holding a King’s Court as suitors supplicated themselves before him with a dozen heavyweight and cruiserweight big fight offers before vacating the heavyweight title which, cough, cough, immediately reverted back to the justly maligned John Ruiz. Roy did finally return and beat Antonio Tarver to an unexpected savaging by critics who finally saw their estimation of his otherworldly talents and career dashed on the rocks of their own misguided expectations of Roy cleaning out the heavyweight division.
‘T’ain’t ever easy being the best ever in the best of times when the times savagely turn on you.
The discouraged Dariusz instead held his historic bout against the light swatting Julio Gonzalez whom Roy had previously beaten in 12 lackluster rounds. Gonzalez was the best Dariusz could find under the circumstances, yet a poor substitute that showed in his own lackluster performance where he looked to be sleep walking underwater for the first half of the fight as the gentle pitty-pattering rain of Gonzalez racked up the points. Then the switch gets turns on as Dariusz finds his timing and desire to chase and pound on Gonzalez down the stretch. I thought Dariusz showed the heart of a champ under adverse conditions to win those rounds, but instead the judges denied him that fight and his place in history with a razor thin split decision loss.
Dariusz record here: Dariusz Michalczewski
The modestly equipped Gonzalez could do nothing with the belt but to promptly drop it to talented undefeated Hungarian Zsolt Erdei who had his own problems making big fights with Americans. So the great Roy Jones thus became something of arcane anomaly after all his storied dozens of title fights in never having once held the “Lineal” belt holder in any of the four divisions he held the belt.
So the extensive history of the above/\ is the backdrop setting in this upcoming international fistic play as we get back to the robust upcoming challenge ahead to Wlad’s own considerable legacy.
The 33 year old Bulgarian Pulev is a rugged 6-5, 250 lbs who doesn’t give away any size or strength worth noting. He has recently beat 3 “giant” heavyweights in a row, knocking out top 20 contenders Alexander Dimitrenko and Alexander Ustinov and then beating top 10 Tony Thompson by decision. Though his record pales compared to Wlad, only 20-0, 11 KO, he seems like the type of fighter who fights up or down to the importance of the fight and this his biggest fight ever.
The Klitschko brothers’ K2 Promotions won the IBF mandatory purse bid over Pulev promoter Saureland promotions which was the only way this fight could have been made since both are big German promotional rivals who seldom work with each other unless circumstances force them.
Pulev has managed to go a bit further in the prefight than previous Wlad opponents, claiming he, Pulev, is drug tested 6x per year and demanding Wlad take his same tests. Wlad only undergoes post fight drug testing under the auspices of the German Boxing Federation, approximately 2-3x per year dependent on his fight schedule, so no Olympic drug testing controversy this one. The recent Felix Sturm/Sam Soliman bombardment of vicious charges and counter charges over the legality of a nominal compound used in vitamins and supplements highlights the shameless incompetence of cartels and commissions who crudely rule over this untidy sport. If the illicit cartels and commishes ever establish themselves to be as well tested and competently trained as the fighters that they attempt to pass judgement on, then some day the public might take these clowns seriously. Yeah, fat chance that, but such is the way life is everywhere, so we the people of the world adjust to modern prefight and prework drug testing posturing the best we can.
The Cannon Iced!
And speaking of going further than normal in prefight posturing, a special mention must be made for the grotesquely abnormal pre-prefight posturing of Shannon Briggs in a frothing, rabid state of hysteria during the weeks to the lead up to this fight. He had been stalking Klitschko in his Florida training regimen with what looked like staged video setups, the first of which showed him taking off a shoe to throw at Wlad who was having his hands taped. OK, just some harmless goofy stuff that gets the usual suspects all riled up, but five weeks away from the Pulev fight Briggs stormed a restaurant Klitscko was dining at, screaming hysterically before grabbing his plate to wolf down Wlad’s meal. Wlad blithely joked around before pouring ice water over his bald noggin which flashed Briggs to sweep the table clear in a shattering violent explosion before a bodyguard wrapped him up to cart off outside where Briggs fled to the local hospital with cut hands and feet. Wlad may have cut or broken his right hand as well as he was looking at the palm and shaking something off.
So, Wlad has to effectively negotiate through Shannon “The Loose Cannon” Briggs first who may well be stalking him in his return to Germany as he has done in the past before Wlad can fight Pulev. We shall see soon enough if these were publicity set ups if and when Wlad schedules the desperate Briggs for his next fight. Video here:
At the very least the best heavyweight champion of this era will meet yet another of his main rivals, something that seldom happens in the US at the lesser weights they represent these days.
It should be noted that Wladimir’s brother Vitali was recently elected mayor of Kiev in Ukraine which is currently engaged in a tragically escalating border war against Russia. Hard to say how those political and war distractions add up, but Wlad should be the betting favorite by a good margin over Pulev who looks like he’s durable enough to be dangerous over all 12 rounds.
The usual anti social media monkeys male bonded in a fury of vitriol over Klitschko’s excessive holding against Russian Alexander Povetkin last year and then piled on over the quality of Alex Leapai as a fighter. Wlad looked like a proctologist grown weary of his profession as he gazed down upon Povetkin in a reflective pause before donning the rubber gloves for the perfunctory examination, but look a little closer and you can almost see a return to the original London Prize Ring Rules with 3 hard knockdowns and otherwise manhandling the surprisingly game Povetkin to toss him about the ring old school style into the ropes and onto the canvas like a rag doll. This Pulev fellow looks too strong and densely built for that, but at the end of the day, Wlad has been executing his various mandatory defenses by the textbook, meaning Pulev is likely well pulped by the end of their session however the means.
Is Pulev made of greater stuff than just another lumped up, lopsided heavybag twisting on the chains for Wladimir? Been much bigger upsets than this one which could be interesting on many fronts. Just you watch and wait and see history in the making…