by Cliff Rold
Fans complaining about a lack of entertainment in Heavyweight title fights were hushed over a rugged twelve rounds on Saturday at Olympiahalle in Munich, Germany. 40-year old Vitali Klitschko (44-2, 40 KO) of Kiev, Ukraine, weathered some big shots and dished out his own in a spirited distance affair with 28-year old Dereck Chisora (15-3, 9 KO) of London, United Kingdom.
The fight wasn’t expected to live up to the theatrics surrounding it, in particular Chisora slapping Klitschko in the face at the weigh-in on Friday. It did, Klitschko given his most competitive affair since returning from an almost four-year retirement in 2008 and emerging a unanimous decision victor.
Both men showed solid condition on the scales, Klitschko at 243.6 lbs. and Chisora at 241.2 lbs. Klitschko’s weight was his lowest since his first WBC title victory, an eight round knockout of Corrie Sanders in 2004. The work paid off in a fight that demanded peak form from both men.
The referee was Guido Cavalleri.
The start of the fight was significantly delayed with the U.S. announcing crew reporting issues ranging from Chisora being unhappy with his walkout music to a wrap issue to an argument about the gloves.
After close to fifty minutes, the sounds of LL Cool J’s classic “Mama Said Knock You Out” announced Chisora finally ready to enter the ring. A cascade of boos followed him through each long step down the aisle.
The boos continued with echoing affect until announcer Michael Buffer switched gears and announced the arrival of the reigning titlist. “Hell’s Bells” boomed over the audio system and a Klitschko chant began to break out. The German fans reached fever pitch as the scowling Klitschko walked with purpose into the ring. Almost immediately, both men engaged in a stare down, Chisora walking towards the corner of Klitschko, their camps standing between them to allow the formalities to conclude.
While the strands of Britain’s national anthem, “God Save the Queen,” played for Chisora, the challenger knelt in his corner and said a quick prayer. Across the ring, Klitschko stood stern next to his younger brother, World Heavyweight Champion Wladimir, swaying back and forth while the national anthem of the Ukraine played out.
Klitschko never took his eyes off the corner of Chisora. He remained in death stare mode as Buffer let loose his classic, “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble,” and announced both combatants.
At the opening bell, Chisora came forward bobbing and weaving. Klitschko tested him with a left and Chisora lobbed a right. In the second minute, Klitschko landed a touching right and added a pair to the body while avoiding some Chisora rights. Chisora managed a grazing left hook as Klitschko leaned back. Two stiff rights landed for Klitschko in the final minute and Chisora was reduced to lunging, his jab absent.
Chisora charged again to start the second, popping the jab to try to get inside. Chisora landed a hard shot to the body but missed upstairs. Chisora snuck in a right and drew a clinch. Klitschko continued using the clinch when Chisora got close. Chisora landed left jab to the chest, missed a right, and then landed a right to the body before Klitschko clinched again. Klitschko slipped in a right uppercut but struggled to get full extension on his right for much of the round, though the punch was still landing. At the bell, Chisora suckered in a quick right as Klitschko reached to hold.
In round three, Klitschko was waiting at mid-ring when the bell sounded, immediately digging in a right to the body. His volume of offense and movement and Chisora was reduced to lunging when Klitschko got near the ropes. Finding his range, the Klitschko right was landing with pop. Chisora, who has shown a solid beard so far in his career, was taking the shots well. What he wasn’t doing much of in the third was moving his hands.
Needing a jab, Chisora was finding it early in the fourth, aiming at the torso and following with rights to the body. Clinched at the midway point, Chisora winged in some contact shots to the flanks. Klitschko nailed Chisora with a solid right in the final minute and again Chisora took the shot and came forward. Klitschko added another grazing right in the final ten seconds of a close round.
Having performed better in the odd numbered rounds to then, Klitschko found Chisora again jabbing to the chest and stomach to start the fifth. As had been the case in rounds one and three, Chisora quickly resorted to covering and pushing forward, his jab vanishing. Klitschko landed rights where he could and threw more, eating only a notable Chisora uppercut. In a clinch, Chisora landed a stiff right to the body and a clipping right to the face. Not much landed for either man consistently but Chisora worked in some good body shots in the closing seconds before missing on a hook upstairs.
Chisora put the first round of the fight clearly in his column in the sixth. While Klitschko set the pace, it was Chisora landing hard to the body and pasting Klitschko with a right hand just past the halfway mark. He continued to have success on the first half of the seventh, a big right landing early as he pressed hard. A bit winded, Chisora slowed in the final minute and Klitschko took the opportunity to land his right hand. Both men went to their corners with a case for claiming the frame as their own.
Having predicted an eighth round knockout win, it was Chisora tasting a right to the body and head early in the round. Undeterred, Chisora kept plugging forward, landing a right to the body and slapping left upstairs inside the second minute. This time, it was Chisora coming on strong in the second half of the round, Klitschko clinching repeatedly to limit Chisora’s chances to throw.
Depending on how the second and fourth were scored, the fight could appear close to even heading into the ninth round. Klitschko seized advantage firmly in the final minute, his right hand measuring Chisora.
Klitschko, showing a little fatigue, rose slowly from the stool to start the tenth and clinched for most of the first twenty seconds. The air served him well, able to amp up his offense near the midway mark and landing a big right hand. Chisora stayed aggressive but struggled to land upstairs.
Entering the championship rounds, Klitschko used his right hand to further his lead and clinches to stifle a Chisora whose jab has completely vanished. Chisora was no longer working to the body in the clinch either, a sign that a long, hard fight was wearing on him. With three minutes to go, it looked like he needed a knockout to win.
They begrudgingly touched gloves to start the twelfth. Chisora pressed and took a stiff right hand. He answered with a right and Vitali locked him up. Chisora returned to cracking at the body while held. With Klitschko content mainly to hold, he gave away the twelfth to a Chisora able to land two stiff rights in the closing seconds.
The scores turned in were no surprise at the end, though the drama continued while they were tabulated with Wladimir and Chisora jawing at each other. Klitschko was ultimately announced the victor at 119-111 once and 118-110 twice. BoxingScene scored the contest 116-112 for Klitschko. Chisora, still defiant, was seen talking trash to both brothers after the announcement.
Vitali smiled, victory granting the last laugh.
Chisora left having proven his performance against rising contender Robert Helenius last year was no fluke and marked himself someone to continue to follow going forward. He’s proving to be one of the more dependable big men on the scene in terms of action. Given the drama before, during, and after the contest, it would be no surprise to see the big talking and marketable Chisora matched with Wladimir somewhere down the road.
Chisora acknowledged some tactical errors in the televised post-fight interview. “I forgot to jab. Experience beat me.” While reaching back to injury cancellations with Wladimir in the past as a source of his aggravation in the build to the fight, Chisora was humble in defeat while interviewed and gave Vitali credit for being the better man on the night.
Vitali, with now eight defenses in his second reign as WBC titlist, found a real opponent for the first time in years, taken the distance for only the fourth time. The fans, the sport, and the fighter were the better for it on Saturday.
Klitschko noted after the fight that he was limited to using his right hand most of the night but wouldn’t plainly claim an injury to his left. He also stated the speed of Chisora wasn’t enough to keep him from seeing the incoming but, had Chisora been quicker, he may have had more trouble. Always professional, Klitschko gave a nod to Chisora’s effort, calling it a “great performance.”
Vitali’s was greater.
The card was televised in the U.S. on Epix and webcast on EpixHD.com, promoted by K2 Promotions.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]