by Cliff Rold
It was the slap heard ‘round the internet.
Once upon a time, the world would have been a fair assessment. Such is the state of the Heavyweight division that Friday’s weigh-in shenanigans are limited to igniting interest in only certain pockets of the globe.
So be it.
It only takes a spark to start a fire. The challenger has met the burden of selling up a fight without much promise on paper. Given his style and fighting mentality, if he can make it a real go, Heavyweight could well have excitement at hand.
Two times, Dereck Chisora has stepped into big fight situations. Both times he lost, once legitimately. Now he has one of the two best Heavyweights of the last ten years. Tyson Fury and Robert Helenius were steps up.
Vitali Klitschko is the turbo lift. He will do more than slap back.
Let’s go to the report card.
Title: WBC Heavyweight (2008-Present, 7 Defenses)
Previous Titles: WBO Heavyweight (1999-2000, 2 Defenses); WBC/Ring Magazine Heavyweight (2004-05, 1 Defense, Retired)
Height: 6’7 ½
Weight: 243.6 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 247.1 lbs.
Hails from: Kiev, Ukraine
Record: 43-2, 40 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #1 at Heavyweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 13-2, 11 KO, 2 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 7 (Herbie Hide, Orlin Norris, Corrie Sanders, Samuel Peter, Juan Carlos Gomez, Shannon Briggs, Tomasz Adamek)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 2 (Chris Byrd, Lennox Lewis)
Title: 1st Title Shot
Height: 6’1 ½
Weight: 241.2 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 246.7 lbs.
Hails from: London, U.K. (Born in Zimbabwe)
Record: 15-2, 10 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #10 at Heavyweight
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated or Faced in Defeat: 0
Pre-Fight: Speed – Klitschko B; Chisora B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Klitschko B+; Chisora B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Klitschko B+; Chisora B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Klitschko A; Chisora B+
Analysis of this fight can begin at the weigh-in on two levels. Let’s get the slap out of the way. While the odorous WBC has leveled a fine (and who exactly enforces that?), the real reaction it warrants is pretty simple.
Good for Chisora.
Brought together for the customary face-off, Klitschko and Chisora went forehead to forehead. Klitschko pushed forward and down. Chisora slapped him in the mouth. While not the usual happening, responding to a physical provocation rather than just taking it speaks to some of the intangibles of the fight. Unlike Victor Ortiz last September, who grinned like a doofus when Floyd Mayweather put a hand on his throat, Chisora gave a physical reply.
It might mean he’s a bit psyched out by the challenge in front of him. It might mean he’s serious about trying, against long odds, to actually beat Klitschko. Either way, it beats the hell out of grin and bear it. Anyone want to place odds that, if Chisora finds himself behind against Klitschko, we can also not expect him to go all huggy?
Time will tell.
The other thing the scale says is that both men are in good shape for them. Of the two, Klitschko’s condition appears superior. He’s the lowest he’s been on the scale since Corrie Sanders in 2004. It implies he recognizes a quicker, more aggressive foe in front of him.
Chisora, even at 241, looks like he could be better off with another ten pounds shed. At 241 and change, he’s at what has been, in the past, his best weight. With a, so far, sound chin, Chisora is going to need to be conditioned to make any sort of run here. It looks like he held up his end as best as could be expected.
Conditioning and chin aren’t going to win the fight though. Tactics are. In that sense, Klitschko holds the edge. He’s not as athletically quick as Chisora, but he’s long and fights tall as well as any big man ever has. His awkward jab is a weapon and a range finder. Chisora has to get around it or he has no chance. No one has been up to the task in years and no one has ever done it well enough to leave Klitschko a genuinely beaten man.
To borrow from Apollo Creed, Klitschko has lost, but he’s never been beaten.
One of the things he has done proper with aggressive fighters in the past is get them to stop being offensive. Sanders and Chris Arreola pressed early but he broke them down, reducing both to unanswered prayers in the form of single shots. Chisora has a habit of offensive lulls no matter the shape he’s in. Against the ropes, he can lock himself inside a shell defense and be reduced to dancing, mocking…but not throwing.
If Klitschko solves what distance issues evolve in the fight, Chisora is going to have a heck of a time clearing the ropes. Chisora’s best shot was on display, strategically, in last year’s debated decision loss to Robert Helenius. Chisora slipped well, used his jab, got inside, worked the body and was able to land hard shots upstairs. He created offense. His right hand was straight, unlike the Fury fight where extra weight had him winging shots with less authority as the rounds wore on.
Chisora isn’t likely to score a single shot knockout so volume, and the ability to still press hard if the fight goes into the second half, is critical.
Klitschko merely needs to be himself. As he stated to Chisora in their “Face-Off” on BoxNation, he intends to measure his man, up the tempo each round, and eventually break him down. It’s how he has won for years. Despite any anger about the weigh-in slap, it’s likely how he wins on Saturday.
The only question is, if Klitschko thinks Chisora is ready to go, does he extend the beating for fun, for a measure of revenge?
Klitschko just might. He’s not, in the ring, a nice man. It’s very difficult to pick against him versus anyone on the current landscape. The best that can be hoped for is that he gets a fight, something that makes the mean in him count.
In that sense, like Chisora’s chances to simply compete. Could he win? Sure. It’s at least a possibility if he can get, and stay, inside (and if he doesn’t let himself be tied up when he’s there). It’s not the most likely scenario so hope lies best in just seeing as good scrap.
If the challenger wants to fight as bad as he says, and his past performances indicate he will bring it, then the question is when and if he folds. The first couple rounds of this one could be the best action in a Klitschko fight (either brother) in some time. Past, say, four rounds, it should settle into normal patterns.
Klitschko is the more experienced fighter and appears the better one. The thinking here is by round five, he’s in control and able to extinguish occasional firefights. Based on the bombs Chisora took against the big punching Helenius, the thinking is he joins the rare circle of fighters who have lasted the distance with Klitschko.
He’ll stand there as the scores are read to be announced defeated by unanimous decision.
Report Card Picks 2012: 3-1
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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]