Most – including myself – view today’s heavyweight division with a sense of apathy. Standing atop the mountain of mediocrity that is today’s behemoths is Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko. After being written off following a devastating loss to Lamon Brewster in 2004, Klitschko has rebounded going undefeated since that loss.
Thought many consider Wladimir to be the numero uno heavy in the game, the official designation of heavyweight world champion cannot be bestowed upon him until he bests the generally considered number two fighter in the division. Unfortunately for those of us demanding such clarification, the number two rated fighter is none other than Wladimir’s brother, Vitali. The Brothers Klitschko have already made it abundantly clear that they will never fight each other so for now fight fans will have to concede to the thought that a recognized heavyweight champion will sit vacant a little while longer. But for the sake of argument, let us go with the thought that Wladimir is “the man” in the division.
Conversely, former heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman is considered to be on the down turn of his career. Once a feared and respected fighter in the division, in recent years Rahman’s stock has fallen considerably since being stopped by Oleg Maskaev back in 2006 to lose his WBC title. Since that loss Rahman has been on a tour of obscurity, beating Taurus Sykes in a fight that should be banned from the airwaves, then blowing out over matched opponents in Dicky Ryan, Cerrone Fox, and Zuri Lawrence. But while Rahman defended this run of “bums-of-the-month” as a way to get his swagger back, there were those out there who wondered aloud if such swagger would ever return to him. This criticism appeared to be warranted in Rahman’s last fight, a no-contest decision with James Toney this past July.
In the Toney fight, Rahman clearly looked to be a shell of his former self as Toney had his way with the much bigger Rahman. Rahman looked befuddled by Toney and when a clash of heads opened up a nasty cut above Rahman’s eye, his team capitialized on the foul, declaring that they would be unfit to continue with the fight. To most observers it looked as if Rahman clearly quit on his stool. The backlash was quick, fight fans were vocal about Rahman’s poor performance, citing that his heart and desire seem to be completely gone. By most accounts, Rahman’s days as a title contender were over.
Funny how this sport of boxing works. After balking at a rematch with James Toney, a move that panned by most everyone, Rahman has landed a shot at the Wladimir Klitschko. The two will meet this Saturday in Germany and while many question how Rahman deserves a title shot, the fact remains that K2 Promotions needed a name opponent to sell to HBO and thus here we are.
Prediction: Wladimir Klitschko by unanimous decision. It’s hard to bet against a man who posses as many physical tools as Klitschko. His jab is always firing and his straight right hand is a like a telephone pole set endways, you blend that with an innate ability to avoid punishment and the end product is a fighter not built to lose. It’s often said that the last thing a fighter looses is his power and in the case of Rahman, that may very well be his only shot at defeating Klitschko. Rahman is big, strong, and has a right hand that could fell an elephant. If he where to have a shot at dethroning the champion Rahman will have to find a way to land that big right hand on the not-so-iron clad chin of Klitschko. Unfortunately, Klitschko seems to fight in a safety first type manner ever since Brewster knocked him senseless. Expect a long night of Rahman plodding forward hesitant to throw anything with Klitschko content to jab from the outside, mixing in a few rights and then shuffling outside. It won’t be pretty but in the end it will be a dominating performance by Klitschko.
Confidence: 80%. With so many weapons in his arsenal it’s hard to imagine Klitschko not coming out on top Saturday night. The only concern that I have is Klitschko’s chin. In recent fights he has not been hurt or wobbled but that was against softer hitting opposition. But Rahman has a helluva right hand and should it land flush, the result could be disastrous for Klitschko. The thing is, I just don’t see Rahman being able to get into position to land that right hand.
Allegiance: Admittedly, I have been very critical of Rahman over the years. He just seemed to have the tools to be greater than he is. At his best Rahman is a devastating puncher, the problem is we rarely see such an effort from him. But I have always liked me some Klitschko. So I’m rooting for him.