A Compendium Of People Saying The Klitschko Brothers’ Opponents Aren’t Trying

By putting this all in one place, I hoped it would illustrate the goofiness: With a quick search of the ‘net, I found writers or broadcasters claiming that 10 of the 11 opponents of Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko since 2008 weren’t trying to win. You can read it all after the jump.

I’ve always maintained that such a massive failure of effort is unlikely. Here those guys are, in the biggest fights of their lives, knowing that an upset win would turn them into overnight sensations in line for massive paydays after toppling one of the two best heavyweights in the world. Yet every one of them — except Albert Sosnowski, per my quick web search — has been accused of not even wanting that.

More likely? The Klitschkos are so good they make everyone LOOK LIKE they’re not trying. Their finely-honed styles are simple — jab, big right hand, little else — and maybe that’s deceptive. Maybe it creates the illusion that if someone just gave it a little more “oomph,” that boxer could beat one of the Klitschkos. Furthermore, the key element of what they do is to neutralize people. You can try one thing, or you can try another, or you can try another, but none of it has worked for the past nearly three years. Nothing like getting neutralized to make one look like he doesn’t want it bad enough.

So you’ll see people say, as they did about Shannon Briggs this past weekend, that if only he had jabbed more, he might have had a chance against Vitali. But he was trying to jab. It’s arguably the main thing he did. He just couldn’t land the jab, and in the meantime, he was getting pounded in return.

(Klitschko/not Klitschko/Klitschko. via)

The Klitschkos are simply too good compared to everyone else out there right now, and there’s no one on the horizon who poses much of a threat. There’s no real other explanation. Maybe some of their opponents have tried harder than others, but no way 10 of them didn’t try at all.

The Klitschkos are tall, but some of their opponents have been tall, too; they just know how to use it better than everyone else. They knock almost everyone out (together, 87 knockouts in 96 wins), and while they do it more by wearing their victims down than via one-punch shots, you don’t knock almost everyone out unless you can really punch. They are almost always faster than their opponents. Defensively, their reflexes are tremendous, Vitali a bit more so than Wladimir, who relies on illegal tactics like holding out his left hand in a stiffarm move or clinching, but hey, he gets away with it, so it works. Their timing is uncanny — you can try to jab with them, but their jab will get their first, and more frequently, and end up making yours evaporate.

And if somehow you come up with something that gets past that, they’ll adjust immediately, so they’re smarter than everyone else, too. Some pretty good trainers have gone head-to-head with the Klitschkos and their trainers Emmanuel Steward and the unsung Fritz Sdunek: Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Orlando Cuellar, etc. None of them have figured out a way to beat the Klitschkos yet.

One of the Klitshkos may be beaten someday, although it’s hard to imagine how. But whoever manages it won’t have been the first one to bother trying.

Now, your compendium of mostly wrong-headed claims of inadequate effort:

We start with Briggs and work in reverse order for Vitali’s opponents, then Wladimir. At the beating made its way into the late rounds, people began to appreciate his heart for hanging in there. But early on, his effort level faced criticism. I could point you to Twitter for numerous examples, but I already attacked Twitter enough this week. So I’ll let heavyweight Dereck Chirosa stand in for the savaging this time:

He’s a letdown to boxing. He’s an embarrassment to boxing. He should hang up his gloves. If I saw him myself I would have slapped his face. He’s an embarrassment to boxing. For him to take that fight and to come in there and have a sparring session with your brother. That is not a fight for heavyweight boxers. He didn’t take any risks.

Sosnowski didn’t face any criticism about his effort that I could find easily. He did, of all the Klitschko opponents since 2008, appear to try the hardest. I’d rank them, for their effort, in this approximate order: Sosnowski; Cristobal Arreola; Tony Thompson; Briggs; Samuel Peter, against Wladimir; Chambers; Juan Carlos Gomez; Ruslan Chagaev; Peter, against Vitali; Sultan Ibragimov; Hasim Rahman; Kevin Johnson.

Speaking of Johnson:

Johnson looked overawed, and intimidated from the early rounds, and frankly looked as if he had settled for finishing second in the contest well before the final bell sounded. He did not have the tools to challenge the champion, and was a long way out of his depth.

Arreola, from the Fanhouse round by round:

If Arreola is waiting for Klitschko to make a mistake, he is continuing to pay and simply allowing the champion to pocket too many early rounds. Klitschko opens the fourth by landing about 10 pounches before the fighters fall into a clinch. Klitschko takes about four body shots while cornered and in a clinch. A right and two more jabs by Klitschko all jolt back Arreola’s head. Arreola takes them well, but the point is, he still isn’t firing back. Klitschko continues to pepper Arreola, only now, with an up-jab. Klitchko exhibits signs of simply pushing his jab. If he is taking a breather, Arreola still not taking advantage.

Gomez, from a Fight Game Blog round by round:

Color commentator Teddy Atlas is all over Gomez for coming inside and trying to clinch. He thinks he’s not fighting to win.

Peter, against Vitali:

How could Sam Peter travel all the way to Germany, go through everything he has in terms of being side-stepped, coming off the canvas to win against a journeyman fighter and then ultimately wining the belt from an aging fighter, and then seem like he was not prepared to fight? How can this happen? How does a fighter, who is known for his power quit on his stool because he feels he can’t win? Does this sound like a World Champion? What about his “team”? Did they help prepare him for this fight? They all knew that he would be fighting a bigger guy. They all knew he had to get in there and bang the body and try to land his powerful right hand. Ultimately, don’t you think they all knew that at some point, Peter would have to fight with urgency? Am I Right? Am I missing something? Does this sound like a World Champion fighter?

(P.S. Most reviews of Peter’s second effort against Wladimir were positive, but at one point, his corner wasn’t convinced: “You look like you don’t want to fight,” his trainer said.)

Chambers, against Wladimir:

Klitschko caught Chambers with a big right that nearly floored him late in the second round. Chambers staggered but survived the round by clinging onto Klitschko. Otherwise, Klitschko jabbed his way through a largely dull fight, with Chambers mainly trying to limit the damage.


Chagaev, a former two-time world amateur champion from Uzbekistan known as “White Tyson,” bore only a resemblance to the post-millennial Iron Mike with his one-dimensional approach and inability to adjust to his opponent’s fight plan. Unable to parry and roughhouse his way inside Klitschko’s range to inflict damage, Chagaev seemed content to absorb hundreds of straight punches — including dozens of clean shots — before Cotton’s intervention.

Rahman, from a round by round:

Klitschko is just completely dominating this fight, and Rahman isn’t doing anything. It’s an embarrassing showing for Rahman.


For the remainder of the fight, Thompson appeared to be a sparring partner and look to survive the fight, rather than mount any type of attack or even throw meaningful punches.

And Ibragimov, from yours truly — before I recognized this pattern developing, keeping in mind he was on the low end of effort of the Klitschko opponents:

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.

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.