In July 2008, Wladimir Klitschko was given a stiffer-than-usual challenge by a most unusual challenger. At 6-5, Tony Thompson was just one inch shorter and his 81 1/2-inch reach was a half-inch longer. Also, his southpaw stance allowed his blows to come in at unfamiliar angles, which surely contributed to his success.
Still, Klitschko's power slowly wore Thompson down and resulted in a 11th round knockout. Saturday on EPIX TV, they meet again, this time in Berne, Switzerland. Will the 40 year-old Thompson become the oldest first-time heavyweight titlist (supplanting 37-year-old Jersey Joe Walcott) or will "Dr. Steelhammer" maintain the Klitschko brothers' iron grip? Their CompuBox histories offer the following clues:
Act One: Their first fight was not action-packed, for Klitschko averaged 39 punches per round to Thompson's 38.7 (the division average is 42.4). However, Thompson swept Klitschko in connects (150-121 overall, 57-36 jabs, 93-85 power) and was the more accurate puncher (36.8%-29.4% overall, 30.4%-21.8% jabs, 42%-34.8% power). But Klitschko landed the harder punches all fight and his one-punch power eventually left Thompson flat on his back. Many of Thompson’s connects were pitty-pat shots that landed while the fighters were in a clinch.
Better at Re-takes: Klitschko has fought four rematches and improved the result each time (Carlos Monroe: WDQ 6, KO 6; Chris Byrd: W 12, KO 7; Samuel Peter: W 12, KO 10 and Lamon Brewster: KO by 5, KO 6). Of those, CompuBox tracked three of them and when one considers the percentage of total connects, Klitschko's dominance grew from fight to fight.
Against Chris Byrd in 2000, Klitschko logged 65.73% of the connects (234-122) but in the 2006 rematch it was 69.65% (117-51). Despite losing to Brewster, Klitschko landed 73.61% of the blows (120-43) but in the rematch he landed 76.25% (199-70). Finally, Klitschko boasted 67.1% of the connects against Peter in fight one (204-100) and 80.22% in the rematch (142-35).
In beating Thompson, Klitschko's share of the total connects was just 44.65%. History says he'll do much better on Saturday.
COMPUBOX ANALYSIS – WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO vs. TONY THOMPSON II
Thompson's Latest: "The Tiger" earned this rematch on the strength of his three-round TKO over Maurice Harris in an IBF eliminator. Thompson was in control throughout, overwhelming the listless 244-pound Harris with volume and scoring knockdowns in rounds two and three before a follow-up barrage prompted referee Vic Darkulich to intervene at the 1:51 mark of the third.
Averaging 93.4 punches per round -- more than twice the heavyweight average -- Thompson built connect leads of 72-16 (overall), 17-5 (jabs) and 55-11 (power) and was the more precise puncher overall (29.5%-24.6%) and in power shots (39.3%-24.5%). Harris only led in jab percentage (24.9%-16.3%) but Thompson's 104 jabs overshadowed Harris' 20.
Prediction: As was the case in fight one, Thompson's frame, volume and left-handedness will present a far different picture than Klitschko is accustomed to and thus will take time to solve. But solve it he will. Don't be surprised if Klitschko duplicates his TKO victory, and it may come slightly sooner.