With a performance like this, I can live with Vitali Klitschko. The elder brother of the Klitschko pair that rules the heavyweight division, Vitali once had been more aesthetically pleasing than his brother, but in recent years he had adopted some of Wladimir’s boring-but-effective tactics. In a decision win over Shannon Briggs Saturday on ESPN3, Vitali came out aggressive, actually threw combination punches and never held or ran.
That Briggs survived to the final bell makes him virtually unique among Vitali’s opponents; he was only the third of Vitali’s victims to do so. You have to admire the toughness. Less admirable is that his corner allowed the fight to continue so long, as did the referee. There were several rounds that could have been scored 10-8, with the 10th among them, as Briggs spent virtually the entire round wobbling from pillar to post and eating a disgusting number of hard right hands and left hooks all the while. Apparently, several were — one judge scored it 120-105, which still might not capture adequately the one-sided nature of the blowout. There was no point to letting this one out of the 10th round, none whatsoever, except maybe morbid curiosity about just how many years Vitali could take off Briggs’ life in one night.
There’s very little to analyze about Klitschko fights. They often look the same. It’s why I think people are deceived — still! — into thinking their opponents aren’t trying or are doing it wrong. Briggs attempted some things, landing the occasional counter right and trying to work in off the jab, although he made some mistakes by not moving his head enough and moving to his left. But the only uncertainty is when Klitschko’s opponents will realize that trying harder only gets them more punishment, and trying new things only leads to almost instant nullification. The brothers are too smart, too big, too athletic and too effective with their styles to let anyone take them out of their game. It’s demoralizing to every single one of their opponents. If all it took was effort and a good game plan, then somebody might have won more than a round or two against them since 2006.
Up next for Vitali, the ESPN3 commentating crew suggested, could be Tomasz Adamek. Alternately, the winner of the title eliminator between Odlanier Solis and Ray Austin could step to the plate. I like Vitali-Adamek and Vitali-Solis better than his recent caliber of opposition, which, again, is no fault of his own, as he and his brother have tried to or have beaten everyone they can get into the ring. Both Vitali-Adamek and Vitali-Solis sound like foregone conclusions to me, although I’d be intrigued to see what Solis’ speed and modicum of power could do to Vitali. But at least for today, the only thing boring about a Klitschko fight was the inevitability of the outcome, rather than the rote execution.