NEW YORK CITY — For almost every second of 12 straight rounds, Vladimir Klitschko looked like he was single-handedly trying to ruin boxing by throwing no punch other than a jab. Or maybe he’s an obsessive-compulsive. Or maybe he’s a performance artist who wanted to prove a point about the beauty of only winning a fight with jabs. Or maybe “Bad Klitschko,” the one whose fragile psyche has destroyed portions of his career, returned.
Whatever was going on in there, this was the single most frustrating fight I’ve ever witnessed in my life. Was it the worst? Believe it or not, no. But every other fight I’ve ever seen that sucked harder wasn’t as important. This was a heavyweight unification fight. This was a fight that drew people back to boxing, not in droves, but they were at least trickling. For that reason, this fight was a disaster for the sport.
That Klitschko won easily, seemingly making him THE heavyweight, doesn’t matter to me at all. I gave Ibragimov one round. The judges saw it 119-110, 117-111 and 118-110. So dominant was the jab, and so unable to do anything was Ibragimov. I haven’t seen the Compubox numbers, but I think I can count the number of punches Klitschko threw that weren’t jabs on all my hands and toes. When he did, lo and behold, he landed big shots, even having Ibragimov in trouble at times.
Ibragimov shoulders less of the blame for the fight blowing, but he didn’t do too much, either. He waited to counter, and never initiated. By the eighth, Ibragimov was clearly discouraged at Klitschko swatting his jab down and landing his own, and he was discouraged that he could land only the occasional left to the body or lunging right hook. When the crowd gets excited about one fighter wrestling the other to the ground, as Ibragimov did Klitschko in the 10th, that’s a bad sign. The fans were desperate for contact, and this was about as good as it got in a contact sport. Almost the entire rest of the fight was booed.
Klitschko said recently, and I don’t have the exact quote handy, that the heavyweight champ needs to be a symbol outside the ring, and a great performer inside it. Sometimes, Klitschko is. At the most important moment of his career, and at a time when boxing had been on something of a rise, he was not.
I’ll come back with more thoughts on the fight later. Right now, I’m simply too depressed to think about or care about what Klitschko, Ibragimov or the heavyweights do next.