by Cliff Rold
Take nothing for granted.
Friday morning, fight fans eyes were opened by a headline few expected. Longtime Flyweight stalwart Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, reigning for the second time as the lineal king of the division, was stopped in six rounds by journeyman Sonny Boy Jaro in six rounds. The 2012 race for Upset of the Year will have more candidates.
Jaro-Wonjongkam just opened a massive lead.
When signed, the fight had been largely derided as time wasted by a potential Hall of Famer in his twilight. It turned out twilight had already passed him by.
It’s an intriguing result when contrasted with what is to come on Saturday. Almost 36, Wladimir Klitschko reigns as the lineal Heavyweight king. Given his age and entering his sixtieth professional contest, Klitschko’s best days may soon be behind him.
Across the ring, he has a former Cruiserweight king no one is giving a chance. Can lightning strike twice on the same weekend?
Let’s go to the report card.
Title: IBF (2006-Present, 10 Defenses); WBO (2008-Present, 6 Defenses); Lineal/Ring World Heavyweight (2009-Present, 3 Defenses); WBA Super (2011-Present, 1st Attempted Defense)
Previous Titles: WBO (2000-03, 5 Defenses)
Weight: 246.7 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 243.85 lbs.
Hails from: Kiev, Ukraine
Record: 56-3, 49 KO, 3 KOBY
BoxingScene Rank: World Champion
Record in Title Fights: 17-2, 14 KO, 2 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 8 (Chris Byrd, Ray Mercer, Sam Peter, Lamon Brewster, Sultan Ibragimov, Hasim Rahman, Ruslan Chagaev, David Haye)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 2 (Corrie Sanders, Lamon Brewster)
Jean Marc Mormeck
Current Title: None
Previous Title: WBA Cruiserweight (2002-06, 4 Defenses); Lineal/Ring/WBC/WBA Cruiserweight (2007)
Height: 5’11 ½
Weight: 217.4 lbs.
Average Weight - Five Most Recent Fights: 209 lbs.
Hails from: Pantin, Seine-Saint-Denis, France
Record: 36-4, 22 KO, 2 KOBY
BoxingScene Rank: Unrated
Record in Title Fights: 6-2, 2 KO, 2 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 3 (Virgil Hill, Wayne Braithwaite, O’Neil Bell)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 2 (O’Neil Bell, David Haye)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Klitschko B+; Mormeck B
Pre-Fight: Power – Klitschko A; Mormeck B-
Pre-Fight: Defense – Klitschko B+; Mormeck B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Klitschko B+; Mormeck B-
Mormeck, at his best, was excellent at Cruiserweight. His two wars with Bell were memorable affairs, as was a loss to Haye where he scored an early knockdown. Mormeck steamed past Braithwaite and Hill early in his title days.
That was all a long time ago.
The loss to Haye came in 2007 and Mormeck has fought only three times since. He enters his shot at Klitschko having not fought since December 2010, a split decision win over the average Timur Ibragimov his last conquest. He reportedly was flagging badly late in the fight, no surprise to those who saw his late round struggles with Bell in defeat and victory.
Unlike Jaro, who had five years more youth on his side, Mormeck is the elder man. He will soon be forty. In two of his last three title fights, he was stopped with authority. With his chin and stamina in question, one would assume his best hope is the ol’ ‘puncher’s chance.’
Mormeck has not come close to scoring a knockout in any of his three Heavyweight fights over the last four years.
The big question for this fight may then be: what does Klitschko do with what looks like a dead man walking?
Klitschko, despite winning 14 in a row, has scored only one early knockout, a second round blasting of the hapless Ray Austin in 2007. Klitschko has been criticized for something Lennox Lewis also got flak for. Given past knockout losses, Klitschko is seen by some as overly patient and often tentative.
Lewis, when presented with foes who could be taken early, answered the criticism against the likes of Michael Grant and Frans Botha. Klitschko has a chance for a similar display here. His telephone pole jab, one of the best Heavyweight has ever seen, works as both a power punch and, in recent years, as a range setter. With over six inches of height to his favor, the jab will be a key against Mormeck.
The Frenchman has a good jab himself, using it to help him crowd taller men. Mormeck holds his hands high and makes himself smaller while looking to work the body. If Klitschko controls him, keeps him outside, he makes Mormeck a target for both his long right hand and underrated left hook. Klitschko isn’t a good inside fighter, but he is prone to copious amounts of holding to make up for it.
Referee Luis Pabon, one week after a terrible performance in the Alexander Povetkin-Marco Huck fight, will be worth watching here. Will be break the fighters every time they get close to each other? If so, he’ll make what looks like easy work for Klitschko even easier. Conversely, if Mormeck’s height and willingness to get even smaller lead to Klitschko landing behind the head, whom will he hold responsible? Last week, it was Huck, the man landing at a Povetkin falling repeatedly into his waist.
Klitschko could choose to open up and go for the early stop but, given Mormeck’s problems in the past with stamina, he could also choose the safest path and just wait for Mormeck to gas.
Ultimately, that’s the sole point of drama in the fight. How will Klitschko win? Will Klitschko, given an opponent who could make him look like a beast, choose to roar? The chance for an upset here is negligible to the point of humor. On paper, this is the worst fight for the real Heavyweight title in decades.
It sold 50,000 tickets anyways.
Klitschko is a rock star in Germany. The pick here is for the champion to do what he’s supposed to do and give the fans the sort of drum solo he hasn’t in a long time. With only two first round knockouts in the 21st century, Klitschko picks up an elusive third on Saturday.
Report Card Picks 2012: 8-2
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]