By Jake Donovan
The Klitschko brothers have worked hard to get their hands on nearly every major title in the heavyweight division. Wladimir in particular owns a considerable amount of hardware these days, while also serving as the recognized lineal champion.
Given his position, it should be easy for the younger Klitschko to pick and choose his opponents, belts be damned. That’s in theory, anyway. The truth is that the pickings remain slim in today’s heavyweight division. The longer that the Klitschkos remain at the top, the sooner they will run out fresh challenges.
Wladimir Klitschko (57-3, 50KO) appears to have already reached that point. The long-reigning heavyweight king prepares for a July 7 rematch with Tony Thompson, which takes place at Stade de Suisse in Berne, Switzerland.
The bout – which airs live on EPIX and will also be available online (EpixHD.com), on the Jumbotron at Times Square and also available via streaming on X-Box - is the latest in a string of events for Klitschko, who continues to serve as the biggest draw in the sport. While fans continue to come in droves, a formidable challenge continues to serve as the most elusive aspect of his reign.
It’s believed that Thompson (36-2, 24KO) will improve on their first fight almost four years ago to the day come fight night. Klitschko just wishes that his upcoming night of work came against someone who hadn’t yet had their turn at the plate.
“I would rather fight someone that I haven’t fought,” Klitschko admits. “But I have no choice. I have to defend my titles. I think that to fight Tony Thompson is not an easy job. It’s not a vacation fight, it’s going to be challenging and tough. If you ask me if I’d rather fight Tony Thompson or someone else, I’d choose the fighter I haven’t yet fought. But I have a job to do.”
No fighter in the sport has been as dominant in their chosen profession as have been the Klitschko brothers over the past six or so years. Wladimir makes the 12th defense of the alphabet title he acquired in an April ’06 win over Chris Byrd, one of four rematches to grace his latest reign once the July 7 return go with Thompson is in the books.
Klitschko has scored knockouts in each of his previous three repeat fights. Stoppages over Byrd (TKO7), Lamon Brewster (TKO6 in July ’07) and Samuel Peter (KO10, Sept. ’10) have come after failing to do so the first time facing each of the aforementioned fighters. Klitschko beat Byrd and Peter by decisions in their respective first fights with him. Brewster is the last to hang a loss on him, forcing Klitschko to punch himself into exhaustion before stopping him in five rounds back in April ’04.
What has followed for the younger Klitschko is a 15-fight win streak and the distinction as one of the most dominant heavyweights in boxing history. What hasn’t surfaced along the way is a worthy adversary.
The majority of Klitschko’s wins have been so dominant that his fights have been labeled as monotonous or even downright boring. The first fight with Thompson is no different, though in retrospect is viewed as the closest he’s come to struggling in any aspect of this current reign.
A big part of Klitschko hopes that the press clippings are right and that Thompson has improved in the four years that have passed since that night. At the very least, the 1996 Olympic Gold medalist and multi-belted champion is thankful that any heavyweight at all these days is not only willing to fight him, but put in the leg work to earn the title shot.
“It’s always a tough job to win the title but even tougher to defend the title. But it’s my job and I’m actually looking forward to the challenge,” Klitschko insists. “I’m really looking forward to this challenge because he’s the man that came running to me, I didn’t have to go running behind people chasing after them. I didn’t choose Tony Thompson. He fought his way back to mandatory challenger.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox