By Mark Workman
Now that boxing fans around the world have shelled out their money for the boring Hasim Rahman/Monte Barrett fight, we stand ready and waiting for the real superfight looming in the distance: Don King vs Vitali Klitschko.
In his never-ending quest to completely control the heavyweight division again and all four of its champions, promoter Don King could be one step away from accomplishing that goal again should the WBC mandated fight between the new “Interim” heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman (41-5, 33 KOs) and the real WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko (35-2, 34 KOs) actually become a reality and Rahman wins, a possibility that is doubtful although certainly possible, giving Rahman the puncher’s chance that has panned out for him before.
I’m very curious to find out how many people actually bought the Rahman/Barrett fight when the final pay-per-view numbers are soon released, if they even are released. It’s boxing cards like this one that have so many casual fight fans reluctant to follow boxing more closely, many of them having just given up on it, plain and simple. I don’t completely blame Don King for Saturday night’s listless and over-priced pay-per-view extravaganza. Having postponed his fight with the WBC #1 contender Hasim Rahman 3 times due to continuing problems with a “thigh injury,” WBC champion Vitali Klitschko certainly deserves some of the blame.
Winning the WBC belt in a bout for the vacant title against Corrie Sanders 16 months ago—vacated by heavyweight kingpin Lennox Lewis after he retired—Vitali Klitschko must now face the new WBC “Interim” heavyweight champ Hasim Rahman in 120 days or be stripped of his title. You can be sure of three things in this life: taxes, death and the fact that Vitali Klitschko will lose his WBC belt in 4 months if he doesn’t fight Don King’s new WBC temporary “champ.” Only in America…and boxing.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that any champion should be stripped of his belt if he refuses to fight the legitimate #1 contender in a timely manner; but will there ever come a day when the #1 contender is a bona fide #1 contender who obtained that coveted position by fighting legitimate contenders below him from one sanctioning body in a fair and organized fashion, witnessed by the eyes of the world? We can only dream.
I’m not totally bashing Hasim Rahman. When the man decides he’s going to come into the ring in shape, he can sometimes be a force to be reckoned with; but numerous times before he’s chosen to slip through the ropes looking as if he’s just come from an extra-extended lunch at Burger King, such as the time he weighed in at a whopping 259 pounds against Kiwi underachiever David Tua, a fighter I’ve always followed and had high hopes for, yet who has also a few times in the past needed a padlock on his refrigerator.
Rahman said of himself before the Barrett fight, “Fight fans will see a better version than you've ever seen before." What happened? Monte Barrett fell far short of his pre-fight personal hype and did nothing more than run for 12 rounds. And this was a pay-per-view event. Please.
Yes, Rahman did drop heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis like a bag of bricks in the 5th round of their first meeting, a fight Ring Magazine named “2001 Upset of the Year,” but then came back in their rematch and viciously had his time card clocked out by Lewis in the 4th round—Lennox finally waking up and realizing what he’d allowed to happen by taking “The Rock” too lightly in their first fight.
This wasn’t the first time that this has happened to Lennox Lewis, as I’m sure we all remember a similar incident when Lewis was stunningly dropped in his first fight against Oliver McCall, another fighter who just happened to be on Don King’s Rahman/Barrett card. McCall, with a few exceptions, has fought mostly bums since his last title fight, the rematch with Lennox Lewis in 1997, a fight in which he had a mental breakdown during the fight, forcing referee Mills Lane to call a halt to the bout in the 5th round when McCall refused to fight.
Oliver McCall certainly deserves a chance at a new start, as any man does, but a long string of wins against stiff corpses is not my idea of justification in paying to see him fight when there are more deserving fighters who could’ve replaced the injured Andrew Golota. Don King just loves to pull Oliver McCall out of his hat at the most opportune times.
Not that any of the more deserving fighters would want to be a last-minute sub in a fight like that; but that’s part of the disease that infects and gnaws away at boxing. We need a new system that doesn’t allow for this kind of thing. A string of bona fide contenders need to be fighting each other in fights leading to one champion or the fight itself shouldn’t even exist. Otherwise, it’s nothing more than an exhibition and shouldn’t count for anything more than that. I’ll say this until I’m blue-in-the-face; but I look great in blue, I’m told, so I’m happy to continue on with it. Please indulge me.
If Vitali Klitschko does end up fighting Hasim Rahman and wins, what happens next? Will the WBC champ start acting like a true champion and decide to start putting his belt on the line to unify the title against the other 3 champs? We can only hope.
Klitschko has already lost to Chris Byrd, the IBF champ, so I wonder if he’ll truly want to try and avenge that loss on his record; a fight in which he quit due to a shoulder injury that occurred during the fight, despite being ahead on all 3 judge’s scorecards. I hope he does. But will Chris Byrd even want to fight him again, risking the loss of his closely-guarded belt.
Will Vitali Klitschko be willing to fight the new WBO belt-holder Lamon Brewster and take home the WBO belt, avenging the crushing defeat of his brother, Wladimir, who Brewster stopped to win the WBO belt in a bout for that vacant title? Again, hopes and dreams floating through my mind.
I applaud Wladimir Klitschko for taking the upcoming fight against Samuel Peter; but I have no doubt that his decision is going to prove to be one of the biggest mistakes he’s ever made. The fight will end in defeat at the hands of the Nigerian knockout artist in the same fashion as the loss suffered against Lamon Brewster. Keep in mind that Samuel Peter has been brought along safely, having fought no one of real note thus far in his short career. But there’s a starving fire in his eye that is undeniable.
Will brother Wladimir have any hope of defeating Samuel Peter and continue to move up the rankings, quite possibly to the bizarre position of a title shot one day against his own brother? If you believe that will happen, I have some oceanfront property in Richmond, VA I’d like to sell you right away. The thought of having 2 Klitschkos holding championship belts and refusing to fight who they’re supposed to fight is exhausting just thinking about it. That’s a lock on the heavyweight title that even Don King couldn’t create.
Does Vitali Klitschko have the desire to get into the ring with WBA champ John Ruiz to unify that part of the fragmented title? That fight, against the unexciting Puerto Rican champ, has naptime written all over it; yet it’s a fight that needs to happen for the sake of the integrity of the heavyweight crown. Will Ruiz even be willing to risk his belt that’s come and gone and now come back to him again against the Ukrainian champion? I know I dream the seemingly impossible dream, but still I dream on, quite possibly in vain.
Even though I sometimes question the methods and practices of renowned International Boxing Hall of Fame promoter Don King—while remembering that he operates in a system that is not entirely of his making—he has proven in the past with fighters such as Iron Mike Tyson that he is willing to see his champions fight each other to unify the title. For this I commend him, and hopefully this is his ultimate goal again, as this is what is most important in every weight division. Boxing needs and cries out for one bona fide champion, not four.
Can Vitali Klitschko, the Ukrainian champion fighting out of Hamburg, Germany, finally stop with the excuses, rise to the occasion, and do what’s best for the sport of boxing and commit himself to unifying the heavyweight title? Only time will tell; but he’s running out of time.
Vitali Klitschko has only a few months to decide if he’s willing to give all of this a try, or he’s going to quickly become one of these top contenders he keeps refusing to fight. And if that happens, I’m pretty certain that his vacant title will end up in the hands of a Don King fighter, anyway. So, Vitali Klitschko, I ask you this simple question: What do you have to lose…except your honor?
The bell rings. Don King comes out quickly and begins slamming his razor-sharp jab and relentlessly throwing his underhanded right at Klitschko’s jaw; Klitschko counters ineffectively and holds on for dear life; Don King starts throwing bombs left and right, wobbling the Ukrainian champion; Klitschko backs into the corner, desperately fending off the brutal attack from the wild-haired challenger; Don King finally comes in for the kill and destroys Vitali Klitschko with a crushing shot to his heart at 2:32 of round one.
“And the new…undisputed heavyweight champion of the world…Don King!”
With comments about this article, you can email Mark Workman at email@example.com .