By Gary Todd
On the 12th of November, we will find out who is “the best heavyweight on the planet”. Sure we have Chris Byrd, John Ruiz, and even James Toney, but this fight is a real fight for the fans of the heavies.
Since 1996, Klitschko has been putting everyone to sleep inside, and outside of the ring, according to some in the fight game, and he has had his fair share of battles with the critics over the years.
In 1999, he traveled to England to fight the popular, Herbie Hide for his WBO., title, and proved to be too powerful for the Englishman, blasting him out in the second round, to take the world title back to Germany.
After a couple of defenses in Germany, he signed to fight the slick speedster, Chris “Rapid Fire” Byrd in 2000. Klitschko was in for a hard nights work with his robotic, power punching style against Byrd’s awkward, hit and not be hit , slick movements.
In the fight, Byrd outboxed the champion and early on, it looked like it was not going to be Klitschko’s night. At the end of the 9th round, the fight was called off due to the champion hurting his shoulder. Chris Byrd was ruled the winner with a 10th round TKO.
Klitschko came back 8 months later to challenge the man mountain, Timo Hoffmann, for the vacant European heavyweight title. This was, without a doubt, one of his toughest fights, with the huge Hoffmann taking him the distance (the only man to do so) despite the Ukrainian winning on all scorecards.
With brother Wladimir always by his side in the gym and the ring, Vitali charged on. More wins over top twenty contenders from the states, building up for another crack at the world championship, Klitschko challenged the aging heavyweight king, Lennox Lewis. The fight was signed for mid 2003.
This was it. The big stage, fighting arguably the smartest heavyweight in the world since Muhammad Ali, Klitschko left nothing to chance, sparring over 200 rounds, and come fight night, he fought the fight of his life. Lewis had to use every bit of his “hall of fame” ring career experience (not to mention his head) to keep Klitschko away from him, and keep his titles before going off into retirement.
Lewis won by TKO in the 6th round due to a massive injury to Klitschko’s eye. Although beaten, he had come of age and gained a lot of fans in that fight with Lewis.
Klitschko continued with more crowd pleasing wins against Kirk Johnson, and the big banger from South Africa, Corrie Sanders. Sanders had blasted out Vitali’s brother, Wlad, in 2003. Klitschko stopped him in 8 rounds to win the vacant W.B.C. heavyweight title in 2004. Next up was Danny Williams.
Williams had hammered “Iron” Mike Tyson who had in turn been softened up by Lennox Lewis, but the tough guy from Brixton, England was still the man who beat the man. Come fight night, Williams looked huge, Klitshcko was huge and the ring was quivering with the weight of the two warriors. Klitschko battered Williams with huge robotic, slow punching indescribable, power punches that knocked the brave Englishman down 4 times, finally stopping him in the 8th round, in December, 2004.That was the last time he fought.
Since 1994, Rahman didn’t miss a beat, and was busier than a one legged man at an arse kicking competition. Everything was happening for “The Rock” He was in line for a title shot and but first he had to get past “The Throwing Sameon” David Tua. The little man from New Zealand had been knocking them all out and he was in line for a shot. Both fighters signed to fight in December, 1998. Rahman fought well, boxing smart, avoiding Tua’s left hook, and building up a big points lead, until the end of the round when Tua hit him flush with a cracking punch just after the bell. Rahman was gone and Tua was declared the winner, by TKO in the 10th round.
After another blow out win, he was matched to fight Oleg Maskaev, and again he was stopped. In 2000, he beat Corrie Sanders, to win the WBU heavyweight title and from there he was given the chance to fight Lennox Lewis for the undisputed heavyweight crown in South Africa in 2001. Rahman trained hard and knew he had to give it everything he had, as he was going into the fight as a massive underdog. Lewis was living it up, rubbing shoulders with the Hollywood crowd and loving it. Rahman left for Africa early on so he could acclimatize to the conditions, meanwhile Lewis opted for a half hearted training camp.
In the fight, Rahman was going for broke, fighting the fight of his life, connecting with shots to the champions head nearly everytime he threw.
Lewis was struggling for air and in the 5th round, with Lewis turning his body to the side, by the ropes, Rahman threw a huge right hand bomb that caught the champion, flush on the jaw. Lewis dropped down and couldn’t get up. Rahman had shocked the world in the carnival city.
Lewis wanted a rematch, Rahman gave it to him and Lewis trained like a champion, while Rahman ate like a king. Lewis battered him and knocked him out in 5.
Since that time, he has faced Evander Holyfield and John Ruiz, losing out. Then there was a draw with Tua in their rematch and he has beat club fighters like Mario Cawley, Rob Calloway, Terrence Cole and Kali Meehan. In his last fight against Monte Barrett, he went the distance to win the interim WBC title but really, he hasn’t fought anyone with Klitschkos pedigree for years.
You could say “The rock stuck between a hard place.”
Gary Todd is an international author with his book, “Workouts From Boxings Greatest Champs” and has been involved in the sport of boxing for over 25 years.