Heavyweight Unification News Conference And Afterthoughts

NEW YORK CITY — Both sides blamed the other for Vladimir Klitschko-Sultan Ibragimov turning into a terrible fight. But they were “unified” on the fact that it was terrible.
That and other thoughts from the news conference, where there was some actual news — John Duddy-Kelly Pavlik is off — and I had a brief talk with the colorful junior welterweight (140 lbs.) Paulie Malignaggi, more colorful in this case than I would’ve liked:

Before the fight, a number of boxing writers gathered around Thomas Hauser — the guy I think is the greatest active boxing writer — and he did some on-the-record interviewing. He was significantly less harsh about the main event than I was, but acknowledged that it wasn’t a great night for boxing. Klitschko, he said, fought a safety-first fight, and Ibragimov was “gutty,” he just “didn’t have the tools. Of the crowd, he said: “They came here wanting to cheer, to explode, for Vladimir, and they ended up booing him.” Hauser wondered whether Klitschko’s downward swatting move was legal. I suspect he’s right — my understanding was that you can’t slap down at another fighter.
Leon Margules, the boss at Warriors Boxing, the promoter of Ibragimov, started things off at the mikes by saying “the fight wasn’t as compelling as we would have liked.” Both men “probably showed too much respect for one another.” He hinted that Klitschko was to blame, but begged off, saying instead, “I have my own thoughts on that.”
Ibragimov said he hurt his left hand in training, and later, another member of the Ibragimov team said he broke his finger. But that wasn’t the only explanation he offered. “I wait for his right hand but he did not throw the right hand.” He also said Klitschko was “more faster” than he had expected from watching footage of his fights, because he had come in around 10 pounds lighter than in previous bouts. Asked, for some reason, about the chances for a rematch, he greeted the question with the kind of befuddled grin it deserved. “Not very good.” I’m not sure where Ibragimov goes from here. He’s not a bad fighter, he really isn’t, he just isn’t all that good.
Tom Loeffler, part of Klitschko’s promotional/management team, said his man fought “a very intelligence fight” and “Sultan fought a defensive fight.”
Klitschko said “I was definitely going into this fight to win as impressively as possible… It was not as impressive a fight as we had wished.” He said he didn’t throw his right because Ibragimov stayed at a safe distance, and Klitschko said he could tell Ibragimov was waiting for him to throw his right hand from too far away and fall off balance, then counter. He said he would like to pick up more heavyweight title belts, but his only option there is Ruslan Chagaev, because the winner of Oleg Maskaev-Sam Peter next month has to fight his brother, Vitali Klitschko. Chagaev has one of the belts, and the winner of Maskaev-Peter will have the other.
Klitschko trainer Emmanuel Steward looked like the most decimated kind of exasperated man. He had his hand over his face for most of the news conference. He’s been telling everyone Klitschko’s an all-time great heavyweight. He said the same thing about Ibragimov that Klitschko did, about him being at a safe distance, but candidly said Klitschko’s performance “was not satisfying to him or anyone else.” “It’s just one of those nights,” he said. “Move on and let it go.”
Compubox, by the way, listed Klitschko as throwing 245 jabs and 103 power punches. Maybe I don’t understand the definition of “power punches,” but I would have said that of the 348 punches Klitschko threw, about 20 were power punches. His jabs are powerful, sure, but they are jabs, not “power punches.”
Having calmed down from my initial disappointment, I see no reason to change much of what I said or mitigate it. Ibragimov was brave, as Hauser said, but I don’t think he tried hard enough. Klitschko, I’m now convinced, was just trying to avoid any risk whatsoever of losing — as Mick postulated in the comments section of the most recent post and I hinted at in said most recent post. So “Bad Klitschko” took over, in other words. Maybe Klitschko was doing mathematical calculations in his big brain and decided this was the best equation, or maybe it’s just that his fragile psyche wouldn’t let him get in harm’s way. Hauser would like to see Klitschko in against seven-footer Nicolay Valuev, which I guess would have a certain freak show appeal since Klitschko is 6’6″, but I doubt I’ll ever watch him again. And after getting “up” for a heavyweight fight, I doubt I’ll ever be so foolish in the future; the lower weight classes are way more interesting and loaded. Klitschko remains the best the heavyweights have to offer, but he appears hopelessly flawed, mentally.
In other news…
I asked Bob Arum, Pavlik’s promoter, about whether there would be any announcement on Pavlik-Duddy, as originally planned. “We did make a deal for Duddy, but I understand the cuts are pretty deep so we’ll have to forget about that,” he said.
The cut, if I didn’t describe it in grisly enough fashion, was one of the worst I’ve ever seen. It was like a flap of raw meat dangling off his face. Duddy’s opponent Saturday night, Walid Smichet, didn’t pull off the upset win, but he definitely did upset the apple cart by cutting Duddy up so bad and making a Pavlik fight impossible. It’s not clear to me whether Arum was using the cut as an excuse, because a lot of people who saw Duddy tonight will almost certainly conclude he shouldn’t get anywhere near the power punching Pavlik. “We’ll have to explore who’s available,” Arum said, mentioning Giovanni Lorenzo, but he added, “Duddy could fight Kelly down the road.”
Duddy himself said on MSG Network about the fight: “Professionals box with their brain and not with their heart. I started out with my heart and went to my brain.”
Lemme say this: After Smichet almost beat Duddy and cut him up, and after Herman Ngoudjo nearly beat Malignaggi and cut him up, under no circumstances should anyone underestimate or consider as a heavy underdog any Howard Grant-trained, transplanted Canadians (Smichet is originally from Tunisia; Ngoudjo, Cameroon). Grant is making a case as an excellent, excellent trainer.
Speaking of Malignaggi and cuts, it was no surprise to see Malignaggi around a New York fight. He was hanging out after the press conference. The kid lives and breathes boxing. I said hi to him and asked him how his cut was healing — he was still all stitched up from his January win — and he said they’d taken out the scar tissue and it was getting better. Then, he added — and I’ll close on this note (weak stomachs should end their read of this blog entry here) — “When they took it out, it looked like a piece of sushi.” I expect it looked better than Klitschko-Ibragimov.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.