by Cliff Rold
It looks to most, comparing the build into the fights, to hold the promise of more excitement heading in than the July’s massive Wladimir Klitschko-David Haye did. So why does it feel, outside of Poland at least, like there really isn’t much going on this weekend at Heavyweight?
It might have something to do with the odds. No, not those set in casinos; the odds that are set in the mind’s eye of fight fans. It can be almost taken for granted that the challenger will show up, fight hard, and give a good show.
It is also seemingly taken for granted he probably can’t win. Everyone loves the underdog, but against someone as professional, as consistent, as the titlist defending this weekend, it’s difficult to imagine an upset when he sees the underdog coming.
Stranger things have happened and this fight merits every bit the build the previous Heavyweight Blockbuster-that-sure-as-hell-wasn’t.
Let’s go to the report card.
Title: WBC Heavyweight (2008-Present, 6 Defenses)
Previous Titles: WBO Heavyweight (1999-2000, 2 Defenses); WBC/Ring Magazine Heavyweight (2004-05, 1 Defense, Retired)
Height: 6’7 ½
Weight: 242.9 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 248.9 lbs.
Hails from: Kiev, Ukraine
Record: 42-2, 39 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #1 at Heavyweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 12-2, 10 KO, 2 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 6 (Herbie Hide, Orlin Norris, Corrie Sanders, Samuel Peter, Juan Carlos Gomez, Shannon Briggs)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 3 (Chris Byrd, Lennox Lewis)
Previous Titles: WBC Light Heavyweight (2005-07, 2 Defenses); Lineal/Ring/IBF Cruiserweight (2008-10, 2 Defenses, Vacated)
Height: 6’1 ½
Weight: 216.1 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 217.2 lbs.
Hails from: Jersey City, New Jersey (Born in Poland)
Record: 44-1, 28 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #2 at Heavyweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 6-1, 3 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 6 (O’Neil Bell, Steve Cunningham)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 1 (Chad Dawson)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Klitschko B; Adamek B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Klitschko B+; Adamek C+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Klitschko B+; Adamek B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Klitschko A; Adamek A
In order to genuinely get excited about this fight, one has to ask a simple question: Does Adamek really have a chance?
There are a lot of factors that say no. Adamek might be a wee bit faster, but getting it there is an issue. Klitschko, with his weird up-jab and leading club hooks, is a master of distance and keeps men on the outside well after initial fire and contact in early rounds. Klitschko lacks the sort of precise, nuclear snap his younger brother has in his power shots, but he doesn’t need it as much. He takes a good shot and is better to the body. He might be scoring first all night and who care’s if Adamek’s hands would clock faster at that point?
For Adamek to have a chance, he’ll have to strike while Vitali’s leads are in the air, let go 1-2’s, and go left or right. He’ll have to do that over and over. The crowd, which will be wildly pro-Adamek in his native Poland, should give him a boost in fighting fatigue. However, even if he can bank some rounds early, at 34 his legs will begin to wear. His power is probably not enough to win this, but accurate punches in bunches could potentially open a cut and give him the chance at a blood stoppage.
It’s a long shot, but it exists.
There could be a question of whether a 2010 struggle with faded former contender Michael Grant, who has Klitschko size if not ability, is a bad sign for Adamek. It’s a fair question but probably not fully conducive to Saturday’s action. Grant, for all his flaws, is a little more orthodox and fluid than Vitali, his punches a bit straighter. That Adamek couldn’t hurt him meant Grant had nothing to fear and could fight harder. Even then, he won merely moments of a fight Adamek controlled. Adamek is sure to be more focused for Klitschko.
Klitschko knows steady wins the race. He has never been robbed on a scorecard so he has no reason to fear the visiting turf disadvantage (though it could well be there). He can let Adamek burn energy early and work his way in around the third or fourth with time to spare. When he gets going, Vitali is a nasty force to reckon with and smart in the ring. Adamek has been in some savage battles, at Light Heavyweight with Paul Briggs and at Cruiserweight with Steve Cunningham. His Heavyweight battle with Chris Arreola was fun as well.
For Klitschko, that’s a sign that Adamek is willing to war. With an almost thirty-pound weight advantage, and the edge in power and reach, a war might be just what Vitali is waiting for if and when Adamek slows down.
So, again to the original question, does Adamek have a chance?
Klitschko is forty years old and hasn’t fought a fighter above B-quality, who showed up in top shape, since…Chris Byrd? That might seem too harsh, but it’s worth noting that, outside of avenging his little brother’s loss to Corrie Sanders, the Vitali aura is largely built on the scraps Wladimir didn’t chew up, guys who showed up gutty, and losses against the two best opponents of his paid tenure. He’s managed to win belts and look good doing it but in terms of opposition, he is lacking.
Where he does not lack is in preparation. He shows up, every time, and in Adamek meets a foe that does the same. He has an A-quality foe, even if Adamek may ultimately not be an A-quality Heavyweight. Adamek has lost only once, to Light Heavyweight Chad Dawson, and he isn’t as outmatched in overall skill and athletic talent here as he was there. Where Adamek is outmatched is covered and that’s why, no matter how exciting, it’s just not logical to pick Adamek here.
Fans should get a good show. Vitali should get arguably the highest quality win of his career by a stoppage sometime after eight or a close but clear decision win.
Report Card Picks 2011: 27-11
Cliff’s Notes… For those wondering why HBO’s other fight didn’t get a report card treatment, It’s hard to shake the feeling that Yuriorkis Gamboa is a blowout, spotlight show disguised as a real fight. De Leon is good but, for the most part, whenever he’s been matched with a real ace talent at championship peak he’s been made to look insignificant. Gamboa should go through De Leon in two or three rounds. Good fights are always preferred and here’s hoping I’m wrong.
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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]