Vitali Klitschko finished off Tomasz Adamek in the 10th round of a prolonged pounding Saturday when the referee called off the assault, also known as “a Klitschko fight.” That one went exactly as I anticipated: There was no way for Adamek, the #3 heavyweight in the world, to beat Vitali. So he didn’t.
There’s not much to report about what actually happened. Instead, I want to once more address this notion that persists that the Klitschkos’ opponents aren’t trying hard enough, or they’re doing it wrong.
They are usually trying. Adamek was, too. Sometimes, they give up trying as the fight goes on, frustrated by their inability to do anything whatsoever or simply sick of getting slapped around.
All through the broadcast, HBO’s team talked about how Adamek should have been doing this, should have been doing that. He should’ve bumrushed Klitschko, according to Max Kellerman. He should’ve thrown the overhand right, according to Harold Lederman.
The first thing is impossible. The second thing wouldn’t work.
Everything about the Klitschkos’ style is meant to counter the bumrush. They are too tall and their footwork too good; if you charge at them winging shots, they’ll step back or step to the side and you’re standing there in no man’s land, your punch whiffing. If you somehow get a step closer, they will grab you, or hold your head down and step away, or push you back. Then you’re back on the outside, trying to bumrush again, and this just repeats over and over again until you get knocked out by a counterpunch, which will be coming because by now they’ve timed your bumrush.
An overhand right by a much smaller opponent without excellent speed — i.e., Adamek — isn’t going to get you a thing. There’s a problem similar to all those I just mentioned. But the Klitschkos also get more done defensively just by the way they hold their arms and position their shoulders than anyone else in boxing other than maybe Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Wlad has that fake jab, where he leaves his arm extended and responds to punches by moving it to dull incoming blows. Vitali relies a bit more on his reflexes, but he still ultimately sticks his arms up and hunches up his shoulders and very little clean connects.
This isn’t me saying the Klitschkos are unbeatable. There might be tactics that would work on them, like Odlanier Solis’ in-the-pocket counterpunching, or a Joe Frazier-like bob and weave. There might be certain assets that a fighter could have that would be really useful to a strategy that could beat the Klitschkos, like great speed or tremendous power or comparable size or a granite chin. But there’s no one out there today who has all the assets you need to employ in service of the right tactics toward the winning strategy. There was nothing a fighter like Adamek could do, except lose.
There is no hope, not until one of the two of them get far, far too old — a Vitali trip in the fight offered the possibility that he’d injured his leg, which was Adamek’s best hope for even winning a round. Maybe if Robert Helenius gets better at boxing and being in shape, he poses a challenge to a Klitschko in the coming years. These conditions suck the drama out of the division, which the Klitschko brothers rule with an Ironfist and a Steelhammer. On Saturday, at least, Vitali was a modest bit less boring than the brothers usually are, smashing Adamek’s face up and really going for the kill late. And it was cool that 45,000 people attended a fight live in Poland, right?