by Cliff Rold
At opposite ends of the so-called ‘original eight’ weight scale, two dominant figures went to scratch against opponents given little chance of defeating them.
One of them still reigns.
World Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko did what he was expected to do. World Flyweight Champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam did not. As noted in the pre-fight report card for Klitschko-Jean Marc Mormeck, Sonny Boy Jaro’s sixth round stoppage of Wonjongkam has opened a huge early lead for Upset of the Year.
Let’s go the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Klitschko B+; Mormeck B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Klitschko A; Mormeck B-/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Klitschko B+; Mormeck B-/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Klitschko B+; Mormeck B-/Post: B+; F
As evident, there was no pre-fight report card for Jaro-Wonjongkam. It was that far off the boards. There was one for Klitschko despite similar long odds because, well, it was Klitschko.
Despite two knockdowns, and a sizzling final knockout salvo, it wasn’t Klitschko’s finest hour. He could have ended things whenever he wanted but his risk aversion meant waiting for perfect spots instead of creating them. The amount of clinching and leaning he did for four rounds was excessive and unnecessary but spoke to part of why he’s so good now. He doesn’t let anyone have a chance at a Sunday shot, doesn’t ever open up early like he sometimes did when he was younger. He just wins.
That has its merits.
That said, it wasn’t really Klitschko’s fault that even a four-round blow seemed at times tedious. Everyone knew it was a mismatch going in. Mormeck fought like he was part of ‘everyone.’
The way he fought was the bout’s great shame.
He was not, historically, the first undeserving fighter to get a crack at the Heavyweight crown. He was not the first to enter his challenge viewed as having no chance to win. However, there are respectable ways to embrace doom.
Mormeck did not choose one of those. He waded forward from the opening bell, got inside, and did nothing. There was no effort to throw body shots. There was no more than a couple middling attempts at a headshot. There was never an instance of saying ‘what the hell’ and going for broke.
He didn’t come to fight. At all.
It doesn’t take away from all the fighting spirit and great moments he gave years ago at Cruiserweight. It simply implies he doesn’t have that spirit in him in 2012. Seeing as how he was getting a check for his services, the least he could have done is pretend at effort.
Mike Tyson once had the sort of aura of invincibility the Klitschko’s have right now on the current Heavyweight scene. There were men who knew they were heading for the gallows and gave honest effort anyways. Tony Tubbs, Pinklon Thomas, Frank Bruno (the first time), Carl Williams, and Carl Williams all knew what was coming.
They went out on their shields giving the best effort they could muster for 2, 6, 5 and 1 round respectively. Klitschko has had men in front of him during his fifteen-fight win streak who could say the same. Tony Thompson left what he had in the ring en route to a ninth round loss. Eddie Chambers tried to keep up in the early rounds.
There was, in consolation for their defeats, honor in their arrival at the inevitable.
What Mormeck did was closer to Bruce Seldon’s infamous non-effort against Tyson in 1996. At least, to Mormeck’s credit, he went down solely from landed shots. In both cases, the defeated couldn’t really hold their head high and say they went out on their shield because they never really showed up for battle.
They just went out.
Thailand’s Wonjongkam? He went out on his shield. He tried to get into the fight and fought to stay afoot as the end came. He just couldn’t.
The brutal salvo that finished him along the ropes in the sixth was quite a few punches too many but perhaps the referee got sucked into the feelings of the crowd. The eerie hush that fell over the assembled was an uncommon moment in boxing. Referee Yuji Fukuchi appeared just as overwhelmed by the moment.
It was a shocking upset but, in the context of Flyweight history, not that surprising. Wonjongkam is 34 years old. That’s ancient for the division. Some of the notable champions of the past, men like Yuri Arbachakov, Sot Chitalda, and Miguel Canto, were all washed up at closer to 30 years of age. Wonjongkam’s late career renaissance, after a record setting first title reign, a renaissance which saw him recapture the crown from Koki Kameda in 2010, was more exception than rule.
On Friday, while he still was able to get off some nice combinations in spots, his feet looked glued into the floor, his legs were never firm after a first round knockdown, his jab was pushing, and his defensive reflexes were absent.
In short, he looked like an old fighter. It happens to most eventually. It would be a bigger surprise than the upset result if Wonjongkam emerged to avenge the loss or capture more belts. There will be more on Wonjongkam, and the debates about his overall merits, later in the week.
For now, the victor deserves to shine.
That takes nothing from the wonderful story that is the Jaro win. The Philippines has another champion in its midst. Jaro has never been a particularly good fighter and that isn’t likely to change. He’s lost ten times and been stopped seven. In previous clashes with championship level fighters, some of them men Wonjongkam has defeated, he’s been badly outclassed.
Past was no prelude and Jaro’s is a career fulfilled.
He’s always given honest effort and now has the sort of great win few get to live a lifetime bragging to their friends and family about. Not many men could bounce back from all those losses, all those bad days, and believe in themselves enough to pull off the upset he did. Jaro was said to have sparred a high volume of rounds before his title shot. It showed in the ring.
He pulled everything together, every ounce of learning he’d done in a career of almost fifty fights, to make his mark on the rich history of the 112 lb. weight division. What’s the Filipino word for ‘Rocky?’
Can the answer be anything but Jaro?
Report Card Picks 2012: 9-2
Flyweight: Jaro enters as champion. Given his age, overall performance in comparison to his past best, and the brutality of the stoppage, Wonjongkam slips to fourth. Jaro’s looming mandatory, Toshiyuki Igarashi (15-1-1, 10 KO), was previously rated tenth and slips out for now. Igarashi could well be back as the Flyweight Champion of the World in short order.
The full ratings update is a click away.
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]