by David P. Greisman
Jack chopped the giant down from the beanstalk. David slew Goliath. Max Baer toppled Primo Carnera.
Fictional. Biblical. Historical. The morals match. The little guy triumphs.
It’s true what they say – it’s not just the size that matters. It’s also how you use it.
Vitali Klitschko (6-foot-7) and Wladimir Klitschko (6-foot-6) use their size well. Michael Grant (6-foot-7) and Kevin McBride (6-foot-6) did not.
Tomasz Adamek, billed generously at 6-foot-2 and a half, was a smaller man with tremendous ambition. He was formerly a light heavyweight, weighing in the day before the fight at no more than 175 pounds. He had moved up to cruiserweight, a division with a limit of 200 pounds. Now he wanted the heavyweight championship. The Klitschko brothers tip the scales at more than 240 pounds.
Adamek’s campaign to become a contender in boxing’s marquee division began two years ago in his native Poland, where Adamek beat up Andrew Golota and their countrymen passed their allegiance from old Polish heavyweight to new.
Adamek’s campaign ended Saturday. The morals contained in the fictional fairy tales, biblical passages and historical episodes are meaningful because they are unexpected and, as a result, inspiring. Not every ending is happy. Sometimes Goliath slays David.
Adamek, lean at light heavyweight, had been a titleholder. He added mass and muscle, carrying power at cruiserweight and capturing that division’s championship. Heavyweight, however, would require some acclimation before any acclaim.
Adamek followed the Golota victory with wins over Jason Estrada and Chris Arreola, former prospects who’d reached their own limits but who would allow Adamek to find the right style and strategy against naturally heavier opponents.
He wasn’t ready for the Klitschkos yet.
A fighter will often bring sparring partners into his training camps who resemble his opponents’ physical attributes, who can mimic styles and ready him for what he might see in the ring.
Adamek needed to test himself against tall fighters. He started with Grant, who was about a decade removed from challenging for the heavyweight championship but who would have to do.
Adamek won a clear decision. The problem was that while Adamek was easily beating Grant for the majority of the fight when Grant’s style didn’t resemble that of the Klitschkos, Grant was beating up Adamek in those rare moments when the big man began to fight somewhat as the Klitschkos would’ve done.
When Grant wasn’t working behind a jab nor throwing a heavy right hand, Adamek strafed him with three-punch flurries. Later in the fight, however, Adamek’s activity dropped, perhaps the result of a man, once a 175-pound fighter, now carrying an additional 40 pounds on his frame. He began to move backward, and Grant began to lead with jabs and follow with right hands.
Adamek has shown his toughness in wars with Paul Briggs at light heavyweight and a battle with Steve Cunningham at cruiserweight. He would survive getting hurt against Grant. Yet he was getting hurt off shots that shouldn’t have rattled a regular heavyweight.
None of this boded well for an eventual fight with either Klitschko.
Two fights after beating Grant, Adamek defeated Kevin McBride. Yet these surrogates didn’t represent the imposing impossibility that winning against Wladimir and Vitali has become.
It’s not just about size, but about shape, too.
The Klitschkos are always in excellent condition. Despite their height, they move around much faster and with much more finesse than a worn Grant and a flabby McBride.
Adamek ended up with the elder Klitschko, Vitali, a 40-year-old who’d returned to fighting just three years ago after being sidelined by injury from 2005 to 2008. They would fight in front of an estimated 45,000 people rooting primarily for their compatriot.
Adamek would soon learn that Klitschko still had all of the advantages.
Klitschko’s previous fight had come against Odlanier Solis. Theirs was a bizarre one-round bout in which Solis was winning until the final seconds of the stanza, sending out quick counters when Klitschko either leaned down or brought himself too close. Then Klitschko landed a short right hook high on Solis’ head. One of Solis’ legs went stiff, and as he tried to back away, the other leg gave out on him, the result of a torn ligament and meniscus and damage to the cartilage.
It seemed possible that Adamek could attempt the same strategy, rushing Klitschko with flurries in a similar fashion to how he’d attacked Grant.
From the outset, everything about Klitschko wasn’t just too big for Adamek, but too fast. His jab flung from below his waist to the front of Adamek’s face. His feet cut off the ring, then brought him backward just far enough for the taller man to lean away from the shorter man’s shots.
A right hand from Klitschko sent Adamek stumbling backward to the ropes just a little bit more than two minutes into the first round.
Adamek would rarely be able to reach Klitschko with anything of significance. Klitschko either moved away when Adamek tried to get inside or flung him away, effortlessly manhandling him. From the outside Adamek would hit air or Klitschko’s shoulders. The smaller man didn’t have the power to out-brawl Klitschko. And though Adamek was 27 pounds lighter than his opponent, he was too slow as a heavyweight to try to out-box him.
Adamek averaged just 30 punches a round, about half what Klitschko threw. Adamek landed just 89 total, about nine per round. The jabs landed almost entirely in single digits: 6, 7, 10, 5, 3, 3, 7, 5, 5 and 3, a total of 54, which was still more than the 35 landed power shots. Adamek hit Klitschko with two power punches in the first round, then 6, 3, 4, 6, 1, 5, 3, 4 and 1.
That left Klitschko with the freedom to toy with Adamek, to search for his openings and opportunities and then to exploit them. Klitschko landed a right hand toward the end of the second round that left Adamek needing the ropes to keep him standing. The referee failed to rule it a knockdown. The third man in the ring would get it right in the sixth round, though, when Adamek again went from receiving a right hand to reeling against the ropes.
Though the right hand was having a visual impact on Adamek, Klitschko didn’t throw too many crosses or left hooks, sending out just 194 power shots compared to his 414 jabs.
Everything came behind the jab. Sometimes it was a chopping right targeting where Adamek’s head was moving. Sometimes it was an uppercut. Sometimes it was another jab or two.
Since coming out of retirement, only two of Klitschko’s seven fights had lasted the 12-round distance. One of those had been against Kevin Johnson, who fought solely as if he were there to survive. The other had been on the other end of the spectrum, against Shannon Briggs, who took a brutal beating that should’ve been stopped before the final bell.
Klitschko, like his brother, beats down natural heavyweights until they can’t take any more punishment, though he doesn’t end fights with one-punch knockouts in the manner Wladimir can.
Adamek is not a natural heavyweight, but his toughness kept him in there to take the toll. Klitschko’s aggression got greater as Adamek’s resistance lessened. In the two minutes and 20 seconds that was the 10th round, Adamek sent out a mere 11 punches, landing four. Three of those were jabs. Klitschko had his highest connect rate of the night, 59 percent, hitting Adamek with 34 of 59 punches.
Klitschko was 17 of 36 with his jabs in the 10th, landing nearly one of every two, and he was 17 of 23 with his power shots, landing nearly three out of every four.
David had felled Goliath with stones from a slingshot. Jack chopped down the beanstalk to bring the giant down. Klitschko crushed Adamek with a sledgehammer in his left hand and a boulder in his right.
The 10 Count
1. “We’re a minute into the fight, and it has been, so far, another Vitali Klitschko whitewash.”
Normally it’d be silly to make such a declaration after just 60 seconds of action. So much can change over the course of a fight. Jim Lampley wasn’t just ballsy – he remained right.
2. Floyd Mayweather Jr. is scheduled to appear Monday night (Sept. 12) on Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk show.
If that pairing doesn’t raise your eyebrows, please note that the episode will also have Howie Mandel.
One hour of that unholy trinity of obnoxiousness? I’d rather watch the trio of Khloe, Kim and Kourtney Kardashian.
3. Here’s hoping officials with the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board meet soon with referee Sparkle Lee.
Lee was assigned to two fights in Atlantic City on the Sept. 10 undercard to Yuriorkis Gamboa vs. Daniel Ponce De Leon.
She made notable errors in both bouts.
First, Lee stopped a battle between Wale “Lucky Boy” Omotoso and Calvin Odom too early. Omotoso had taken control of the fight in the fourth round and had Odom on the ropes early in the fifth. Omotoso landed a clean right hand, and Lee stepped in while Odom was still throwing back.
Referees make early stoppages. It’s a judgment call, and unfortunately some referees don’t always have the best judgment on when to call a halt to the bout. I’d still rather a referee do this instead of stopping a fight too late.
Bad judgment calls are one thing. Not knowing the rules is another.
The fight between Jorge Diaz and Rafael Lora is officially in the record books as a third-round technical knockout win for Diaz. That’s not what it should be.
Diaz-Lora ended after Diaz landed a blatant right hand to the back of Lora’s head. Lee must have seen the foul, because she allowed Lora time to recover.
Yet as Lora recuperated on the canvas, Lee waved the fight off. Making matters worse was that Lora ended up losing after being fouled.
The only way such a result would be justified is if Lee thought Lora was acting, amplifying his injury beyond what such a blow should have brought. Otherwise, the result of a fight ending because of such a foul depends on what kind of foul the referee rules it to be.
If Lee ruled it an intentional foul, Diaz should’ve been disqualified. If Lee somehow ruled it an accidental foul, the fight, not yet past four rounds, would’ve been a “no decision.
4. When judges turn in unjustifiable scorecards – such as with the judges in Paul Williams’ win over Erislandy Lara – we ask for an explanation, for the offending parties to be brought forth, for wrongs to be righted. We do the same when referees make egregious mistakes, as with Russell Mora’s performance in the Abner Mares-Joseph Agbeko fight.
We already do this for major fights that air on television. We should seek the same for those of lesser importance, too.
I doubt that Lora’s team will put forth a protest – he is now an 11-7 fighter, those seven losses all coming in his past seven fights. The state athletic commission should nevertheless strive to correct what happened Saturday.
5. Years after we first wanted to see it, Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland could end up fighting each other in November in Mexico, according to numerous reports.
Both have since suffered losses, but both are now under the same promotional banner and in need of a big fight. The two explosive punchers could also make a great fight, which is, of course, why we’ve long wanted them to meet.
A great match-up, yes, and also a weird match-up, legal-wise: Angulo can’t come into America, while Kirkland needs permission to leave the states.
6. Why hasn’t “24/7 Mayweather-Ortiz” tracked down Floyd Mayweather Sr. to talk about his confrontation with his son in the first episode?
7. “Alfonso Gomez sparring session” ~ headline, Fightnews.com, Sept. 6, some 11 days prior to Gomez’s fight with Saul Alvarez on Sept. 17.
Anticipated headline, Fightnews.com, Sept. 18: “Saul Alvarez sparring session.”
8. Gilberto J. Mendoza, vice president of the World Boxing Association, responded last week to criticism about his sanctioning body placing Hasim Rahman at No. 1 in its heavyweight rankings.
Mendoza’s explanation, posted on Facebook, began by noting Rahman’s record and history as a former heavyweight champion and titleholder. Rahman, he said, had fought four times in 2010, winning all by knockout or technical knockout, and had fought once in 2011 and won that time by TKO.
Rahman was “the most active heavyweight contender [in] the year 2010,” Mendoza wrote, and had entered the WBA rankings in August 2010 at No. 14, “taking into consideration his record and activity.”
He was then moved up to No. 6, “[taking] into consideration his activity and caliber,” Mendoza wrote. Rahman moved up to No. 5 in November 2010 after Nicolay Valuev was moved down in the rakings. Rahman was moved up to No. 4 in June 2011 “due to activity,” then moved up to No. 3 in July 2011 when Denis Boytsov was moved down due to his own inactivity.
Rahman was moved up to No. 1 in August when Alexander Povetkin became the so-called regular heavyweight champion (Wladimir Klitschko is the WBA’s so-called super champion). Ruslan Chagaev, who lost to Povetkin, was moved down in the rankings.
In essence, Hasim Rahman is being rewarded based on what he did a long, long time ago – his last time with a world title was more than five years back ¬– and due to what other fighters aren’t doing (winning, or even fighting at all).
9. Mendoza subsequently put up another explanation when ESPN.com scribe Dan Rafael pointed out how Rahman is far less deserving than any of the heavyweights on Rafael’s own rankings.
Among the gems in Mendoza’s second explanation: Chris Arreola’s “last four wins do not necessarily put him above former champ Rahman, do they?” and Robert Helenius is a “very good prospect yet that status does not necessarily make him better than Rahman, not at least in [an] undisputable fashion.”
Here’s a reminder of Rahman’s resume of late: He offered absolutely nothing in terms of resistance against Wladimir Klitschko in 2008, didn’t fight at all in 2009, and since then has beaten journeymen and designated opponents named Clinton Boldridge (whose record was 9-15-1), Shannon Miller (16-4), Damon Reed (46-13), Marcus McGee (22-17) and Galen Brown (35-16-1).
Rahman is 42 years old and weighed 284 pounds against Brown.
Something tells me that if Rocky Marciano were still alive, he’d be the WBA’s No. 1 guy based on his stellar 49-0 record and status as returning former heavyweight champion.
10. Being rewarded via attrition rather than qualifications, eh? Sounds an awful lot like how Jim Zorn once became the head coach of the Washington Redskins…
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com.
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