By Jake Donovan
The concept behind EPIX getting involved in heavyweight title fights in three straight weekend was the hopes of developing future rivalries (or in this case, Alexander Povetkin one day facing either of the Klitschko brothers) and fingers crossed that compelling action would come of the triple play.
So far, the premium cable network is two-for-two, relatively speaking anyway. Vitali Klitschko was never in danger of losing his fight against Dereck Chisora two weeks ago, but was arguably his most competitive bout since returning to the ring more than three years ago. Last weekend saw Marco Huck arguably robbed of a heavyweight belt in being dealt a majority decision loss against Povetkin.
Most fans and media members believe this weekend to be when the good fortunes end. The massive gulf in size, talent and overall freshness between reigning lineal heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko and former cruiserweight champ Jean Marc-Mormeck is too large to ignore, most insist and that it will become evident once they meet in the ring this Saturday in Dusseldorf, Germany.
Klitschko and his handlers vehemently disagree with that theory.
“It’s a tough job to fight shorter guys,” Klitschko noted when reminded of the significant advantages he holds in height, weight and reach against the 5’10” Mormeck. “It’s a lot of energy for bigger guys. People say the weight is the advantage, but it’s not that much of an advantage. It’s a smaller target to hit, so you have to be precise, like surgery. Bigger targets are easier to hit, they’re slower and I can work with bigger guys.”
Klitschko has become accustomed to forcing bigger fighters out of their element primarily by serving as the bigger fighter himself in most of his fights. There have been few styles with which the hulking Ukrainian has been unable to solve over the course of a 14-fight win streak that extends back to late ’04.
However, he believes Mormeck presents a different look for which he will have to be at his sharpest in order to contend and remain patient.
“Jean-Marc will keep coming forward and throwing punches,” Klitschko believes of his squat and heavily muscled foe. “He is a great athlete in tremendous shape. I’m not going to wait too long to get my attack off the ground.”
Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward – who has guided Klitschko’s career for the past eight years - believes those who write off this weekend’s bout as a complete mismatch that should end very early haven’t been paying close enough attention the careers of either fighter.
“We’re fighting a style unlike anything Wladimir has had to face. Mormeck has a bob-and-weave style, one of the most difficult styles to prepare for. One of the biggest problems I’ve always had with my tall fighters is the head movement.
“I understand the fans’ opinion but style wise it’s not going to be that type of fight (a mismatch). According to all of the experts, if the fight goes more than three or four rounds it was a terrible performance. If Wladimir knocks him out in a minute, it was expected. We’re going in to this fight facing a no-win situation.”
Some will argue that every Klitschko bout in recent years has been dealt a similar fight. Both Wladimir and Vitali are among the most dominant in heavyweight history, which makes every fight one in which they are supposed to emerge victorious.
However, Steward is quick to remind the masses that not everything plays out as it suggests on paper.
“Wlad can recall his fight with Ross Purrity, Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster,” notes Steward of the three men who managed to get the best of the younger Klitschko brother. “In my own experience, there is Hasim Rahman’s one punch knockout of Lennox Lewis. Based on my memories, we’re prepared for anything this weekend. It’s not going to be a quick fight.”
Klitschko prepares himself in the gym to be able to handle any style. Given his work ethic and ring knowledge, it goes a long way in describing the dominance of both he and his brother. It’s his great pride in his ring preparation that leaves the defending champion unapologetic over the level of dominance he has enjoyed through the years, even if such bouts lack sustained entertainment value.
“Of course if our fights were sloppy and we were getting punched in the face and needed a shoehorn to put our hat on, it would be exciting for the fans. I have the fights, and know what to expect from my challengers. When you’re well-prepared there is nothing that surprises you.”
The only thing surprising at this point would be Mormeck offering heavyweight success of any kind.
The stocky has struggled in the land of the big boys. He has won three straight since conceding his cruiserweight crown to David Haye in 2007, but has hardly established himself as a heavyweight threat. One of the wins was a disputed decision over Fres Oquendo and this weekend marks his first fight in 15 months.
Despite those glaring sidebars, the Klitschko side has learned long ago to always expect the unexpected.
“The experience I’ve had in upsets always leaves me on pins and needles,” Steward insists.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]