By Lyle Fitzsimmons
A partially torn left biceps muscle typically won’t get a guy pondering the future.
But when the ace assistant to International Boxing Organization president Ed Levine sent an email saying that Wladimir Klitschko’s Sept. 6 title defense had been scrubbed, that’s precisely what I did.
Of course, last I checked, such an injury is not at all life-threatening.
And when you’re in the sort of condition that the mammoth 38-year-old typically keeps himself in, even the short end of a three- to six-week recovery period suggested by the healthy folks over at CorePerformance.com seems about right.
So don’t fret, Klitschko fans, chances are very good that the match with unbeaten Bulgarian contender Kubrat Pulev – ranked No. 1 by the IBF and IBO, sixth by the WBO and not at all by the WBA – will ultimately go on, most likely within a couple months of the originally planned date.
However, as anyone who’s lived through age 38 will testify, one torn something often begets another.
And even a colossus like “Dr. Steelhammer,” whether by injury, upset or sheer boredom at the prolonged state of competition in the heavyweight division, will one day reach the end of the line.
When he does, though, it’s still a crapshoot as to how he’ll be remembered.
Now that he’s been the IBF/IBO champion for better than eight years and has reached a number of title defenses – 16 – that only guys named Holmes and Louis had previously managed, it’s a natural inclination to start sizing up exactly where such a prodigious reign deserves to be ranked all time.
Some will instantly dismiss him from such a lofty stage, while choosing to dwell more heavily on the state of the heavyweight game during his era and conjuring images of dreadful stoppage losses to guys named Puritty, Sanders and Brewster – not exactly the Ali, Frazier and Foreman of days gone by.
It’s a tough volley to sidestep, but it’s not as if he comes to the discussion totally bereft.
While it’s true that he did fail to reach the final bell in those three fights, it’s no less true that the most recent of that ugly trio came more than 10 years ago – and was violently avenged three years later.
He’s won 20 in a row since the Brewster I, in fact, and aside from a winning a three-knockdown fright-fest against Sam Peter in 2005 – a result he essentially erased with a less-dramatic bludgeoning in 2010 – it’s hard to recall him losing too many rounds, let alone finding himself on the brink of defeat.
That’s an impressive stretch of work, regardless of what you’re in there with.
Lest we forget, seven-year champion Holmes found himself on the deck against the likes of Earnie Shavers and Renaldo Snipes, and more than a few people would testify under oath that he deserved worse than the narrow decisions he picked up against Tim Witherspoon and Carl Williams.
And as for “contenders” like Scott Frank, Marvis Frazier and Leroy Jones… well, never mind.
As for Louis, while his is the gold standard for title reigns for both duration and victories, his resume is no less suspect when it comes to dominance. He was dropped in four separate title matches – twice by the iffy likes of Tony Galento and Buddy Bear – and spent a sizable chunk of his belt-wearing energy engaging the sort of “Bum of the Month” opposition that would inspire a modern-day Twitter revolt.
Say what you will about the resumes of David Haye, Tony Thompson and Alexander Povetkin, but they’re a far cry from laughingstocks. Which means if decisiveness against even moderately credible foes is a judging criteria of choice, you’d be hard-pressed not to give Klitschko a fair historical shake.
Perhaps suggesting he’s beaten nine “world champions” in title fights (Byrd, Brewster, Ibragimov, Rahman, Chagaev, Peter, Haye, Mormeck and Povetkin) is a bit much given 21st century belt saturation, but if he was good enough for a guy like Emanuel Steward – who worked with a Canastota-worthy heavyweight or two in his day – he’s good enough for me.
“Wladimir not being an American is not what has kept his popularity down in the U.S.,” said Randy Gordon, boxing host on SiriusXM and former chair of the New York State Athletic Commission. “What has hurt him has been his lack of visibility on U.S. television and the one-sidedness of his fights.
“Emanuel Steward told me a long time ago that Wladimir Klitschko is a great fighter. Steward said that Wladimir possesses more offensive tools than any fighter he has ever worked with.”
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
WBO junior heavyweight title – Halle, Germany
Marco Huck (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Mirko Larghetti (No. 12 contender/No. 37 IWBR)
Huck (37-2-1, 26 KO): Thirteenth title defense; Unbeaten in weight class since 2007 (18-0-1, 12 KO)
Larghetti (21-0, 13 KO): First title fight; First fight outside of Italy
Fitzbitz says: I’m not sure what the 200-pound ranks look like in Italy, but something tells me that what Larghetti has seen so far won’t have prepared him for what he’s about to see. Huck in 9
Last week's picks: 1-0 (WIN: George)
2014 picks record: 59-16 (78.6 percent)
Overall picks record: 606-210 (74.2 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.