A man can die but once
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Dan Rafael on Klitschko-Wach:
Klitschko is, pound for pound, one of the best punchers in boxing and has one the best knockout percentages in heavyweight history. When he hits an opponent flush, especially with a clean right hand or a full-force combination, the man usually falls to the canvas. Wach was an incredible exception to the rule: He took massive punishment throughout the fight, yet amazingly made it to the final bell. If there is such thing as a moral victory in sports, this had to be one of them.
When it was over, the scores were academic because Klitschko, one of the greatest heavyweight champions in history, was the clear landslide winner, much to the delight of the 15,000 or so who jammed the 02 World Arena to witness Klitschko extend his historic championship reign. It was his 13th consecutive title defense -- third all-time behind only Joe Louis (25) and Larry Holmes (20) -- and he advanced to 20-2 in heavyweight title fights, which includes those bouts from his first title reign.
Klitschko's performance was all the more impressive considering he entered the ring with a heavy heart following the Oct. 25 death of his longtime trainer and close friend Emanuel Steward. It was Steward who was integral in helping Klitschko rebuild his career after losses to Corrie Sanders (2003) and Lamon Brewster (2004), and he gets a lot of the credit for what Klitschko, 36, of Ukraine, has accomplished over the past eight-plus years. Taking over for Steward in the corner was one of his disciples, aspiring heavyweight contender Johnathon Banks, who was 15 when he met Steward and was being groomed as one of his assistants. Steward believed Banks would become a quality trainer when his own fighting career was over. Banks, who trained Klitschko while also training for his own HBO fight against Seth Mitchell on Nov. 17, did a great job Saturday and appears to have a real future as a trainer.
When Wach, 32, a native of Poland who lives in North Bergen, N.J., landed a big right hand on top of Klitschko's head in the fifth round, it wobbled the champion. A few follow-up shots also had him out of sorts. But the round ended and Klitschko, with Banks' calming words, survived the tough spot and continued to dominate. His jab was hard and accurate as it split Wach's guard time and again, and he could barely miss with his right hand. Klitschko had a huge seventh round and an even bigger eighth round, during which he pounded Wach so brutally that referee Eddie Cotton was close to stepping in. Wach managed to weather the intense storm but was crushed over and over before the final bell finally sounded. For the fight, Klitschko landed 274 of 693 blows (40 percent) while Wach landed just 60 of 308 punches (19 percent).
There is nothing left for Klitschko to prove, so every time he fights it is simply to continue adding to his legacy as the best of his era. His next move is undetermined. He could finally face second-tier titleholder Alexander Povetkin, who has run from him for years but now seems willing to fight. Cruiserweight titlist Marco Huck has been calling out Klitschko. And there are also interesting potential fights with rising contenders such as Tyson Fury, David Price and Kubrat Pulev. Klitschko would be a heavy favorite against each of them, but at least they are fresh faces.