You see what Wladimir Klitschko is capable of with the kind of knockout he delivered to Eddie Chambers’ brain in the final five seconds of the 12th round Saturday and it only makes him all the more frustrating. His monotonous, safety-first style is a product of necessity, to mask the weakness of poor punch resistance, but it clearly doesn’t need to be as monotonous as it is and so safety-all-the-time. When he finally turned it on after even his trainer Manny Steward was pissed off between the final rounds, Klitschko produced a highlight reel finish.
Chambers, the highest-ranked American heavyweight at #3, did better for longer without giving up than anyone had in years against Klitschko. That’s not to say he was great, or all that good, or it resulted in any meaningful success; he missed opportunities he created, but at least he created some opportunities. As late as the 6th round, I could see him still trying new tactics out, setting traps and pumping the left hook when earlier tactics — jabbing, moving, covering up, countering, stepping around — before finally looking discouraged, and, increasingly, tired. Discouragement usually sets in as early as the 2nd round against Klitschko, whereas in the 2nd round Chambers was making a go at imposing himself, picking up Klitschko and body slamming him. Klitschko’s strategy of using his height to control range and working two punches — his jab and straight right hand — doesn’t seem so formidable because it’s so basic. Everyone watches a Klitschko fight and thinks the other guy isn’t trying. He always starts off trying. He rarely tries for much longer, because he realizes that there’s nothing he can do. Chambers tried longer, and he landed more than most. But he didn’t have the pop to test Klitschko’s chin, which while a vulnerability isn’t made of glass.
So Klitschko did what he does, both before and after Chambers went into survival mode, and I can’t bring myself to even really admire the efficiency of it anymore. It’s like staring at a factory line. Any enthusiasm ends really quickly. (Also, Klitschko cheats like a mofo by leaving his left arm out that way, but he gets away with it because he doesn’t leave it out there for long enough stretches to draw a warning from the ref; oh, and it’s a German ref, and Germany loves Klitschko.) Which is why Steward was killing him. After a busted glove gave Chambers a long rest following the 9th, Steward began a tongue-lashing of Klitschko the next round. It’s going to be “another Ibragimov,” he said, referring to the infamously bad Klitschko-Sultan Ibragimov fight. Steward wanted Klitschko to finish Eddie, who was elusive and good on D but not so elusive Klitschko shouldn’t have been able to get to him by stepping on the gas a bit more. He told Klitschko: “We don’t need another bullshit decision.” Klitschko looked at him, annoyed. After the 11th, Steward was getting on Klitschko’s nerves so much he actually said, “Relax, Manny, I will try.” I’m betting Klitschko’s glad Manny yelled at him, because the crowd came alive, and the left hook Klitschko threw had Chambers out before he hit the ground.
I wish I hadn’t had to pay $15 for a webcast of this fight, but if I was HBO I still wouldn’t have picked it up, highlight reel KO or no. Am I supposed to be thrilled that I sat through nearly an hour of that before anything exciting happened? Why would HBO waste its money on such a thing? Klitschko’s defeat of Chambers is yet another very considerable addition to Klitschko’s legacy, and he’ll rank very highly next time I do a pound-for-pound list; this was one of his best wins, if you think about it. But after every Klitschko bout, all I can think about is how irritating it was to see Klitschko fight that way. He could be so much more interesting. He really could. Mostly, it’s up to his opponents. If David Haye is up next (Alexander Povetkin, a mandatory challenger, may be instead), he presents the best hope of making a Klitschko fight interesting, with his speed and power. Klitschko’s the heavyweight champion of the world. It’d be great, therefore, if a Klitschko fight could be something to celebrate unreservedly just once. Just once.