It’s not Vitali Klitschko’s fault that he’s as good as he is and the division he’s in is as bad as it is. The most complete package at heavyweight barely worked up a sweat Saturday demolishing a fellow top-10 heavy, Juan Carlos Gomez, with the only trouble he endured being a couple decent lefts and a trickle of blood from a head butt.
I’m not saying Vitali blew me away. No sir. It’s more a matter of scale, since his division is terrible. His brother, Wladimir, may hold the #1 ranking, but he’s a disappointing entertainer. David Haye and Chris Arreola are more fun than Vitali, but less proven. If you want a respectable mix of quality fighter and good television among the biggest of the big men, Vitali’s it, is all I’m getting at.
Vitali did to Gomez what he does to everyone. They all come in looking confident, but a couple rounds later, they’re frustrated by trying and failing to get through the big man’s defense, and tired and on their way to being knocked out from all the heavy blows. His face said at around three he didn’t want to be there. That he lasted as long as he did and kept trying, even after a jolting right hybrid hook-uppercut in the 7th, demonstrated his fighting pride. But that he didn’t even come close to winning, losing via referee stoppage in the 9th after a couple more knockdowns/near knockdowns, demonstrated the gulf between Vitali and the rest of the division (and to a lesser extent, the gulf between he and his brother and the rest of the division, too, although I think Wladimir’s going to be a lot more vulnerable against Haye than Vitali likely ever will if Wladimir-Haye happens this summer).
You can hate on Vitali if you want, or you can recognize he’s the “best available.” Me personally, I’m more pro-Vitali than not, and performances like the one he put on Saturday — a dominant, mostly aggressive, power-punching display — are the reason why. The only thing I see beating Klitschko is his injury history and a sudden onset of age that, at 37, hasn’t happened yet.