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March 21, 2010

Not So Fast, Eddie…

by Matt O'Brien

Going into the twelfth and final round Wladimir Klitschko looked well on the way to fulfilling my pre-fight prediction almost to the letter. Dominating from the outside with one-two combination’s for the entire fight, the champion won every round in a typical Klitschko bore-fest. Controlling the fight easily with his excellent left jab, Klitschko showed again why he is both the best heavyweight in the world and also one of the least watchable. His unwillingness to take anything resembling a chance in the ring completely vindicated American TV giant HBO’s decision not to screen the world heavyweight title fight. Still, if only Chambers can see out this final round, my prediction will be smack on the nose…

The American challenger came in shape and looked determined early on in the fight. I particularly liked it when he body-slammed the much bigger champion to the canvas. The move is clearly not in the Marquess of Queensbury rule book, but then again, neither is Klitschko’s incessant holding on to his opponents for dear life every time they get inside. If the referee isn’t gonna help you, sometimes you gotta help yourself. Not only did this deter Klitschko from the holding tactics, but it also sent a message to the champion: I’m not going to be pushed around by you, I’m strong, and I’m here to win. Unfortunately for the challenger, that was about as good as the message got. He needed to back that up with some solid boxing and take advantage of his extra speed and defensive prowess. He didn’t. But, if he can just hold on until the final bell, that prediction is looking quite good…

Klitschko staggered the American with a big right hand in the second round, demonstrating why he is so dangerous and perhaps why opponents are so reluctant to let their own hands go and take serious chances against him. Unfortunately he also thereby showed why he is such a frustrating fighter to watch: You get the impression that if he just opened up and really let that right hand go with a bit more regularity, and perhaps something vaguely resembling imagination in his combinations, he could flatten most fighters in no time at all. Sadly he chooses not to; content merely to pop-away methodically at his opponents with an effective yet mechanical one-two combination from long range, far away from the danger zone.

At times the champion throws so few hooks and uppercuts, you’d think there was a law against them. After buckling Chambers with his big right hand in the second round, he chased the American and followed up with a straight left-right, one-two combination, followed by… another one-two combination. If the champion had showed a bit of creativity in his attacks, feinting more and using body shots to set up the big right hand, the fight could’ve been over with very early in the game. Alas, it wasn’t to be, despite trainer Emmauel Steward’s best efforts to implore his fighter to let some shots go and take a few chances. Such a safety-first strategy does not tend to make for an entertaining heavyweight title fight, or endear fans to their heavyweight champion. It would though lead to at least one writer coming good on his pre-fight pick…

Looking tired and resigned to defeat going into the final round, it was just a simple matter of Chambers seeing out the round and hearing the bell before the unanimous decision verdict was read against him. By this point the challenger had given up any notion of actually trying to win the fight, and it seemed the champion would be happy to continue pecking away with his predictable one-two salvo until the nights end. To his credit, Klitschko did pick up the pace ever-so slightly as the clock ticked down in the final stanza, but it still looked like the American would hear the final bell. Just a few more seconds Eddie…

And then… crash! With no more than ten seconds left on the clock, Klitschko threw a perfectly timed left-hook, sending the American to the canvas, lying face first across the bottom rope and out for the count. The referee might have counted for a week and it wouldn’t have mattered – there was no hope of the challenger regaining his feet. Although the punch initially looked like something of a glancing blow, replays showed that it was a beautiful shot that connected flush on the Americans face. If only the champion was willing to show a similar diversity in his punches and commit himself to getting opponents out of the fight consistently in his bouts, most of them wouldn’t last that long. They might also start being screened on American TV again, too.

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