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The new Nigerian Nightmare (cont.)

Posted: Thursday September 22, 2005 2:30PM; Updated: Thursday September 22, 2005 2:30PM

The 1996 Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist and "little" brother of World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight champ Vitali Klitschko, the 29-year-old Wladimir (44-3, with 40 KOs) was initially considered the brighter pro prospect among the two Ukraine-born, Germany-residing, PhD-holding, chess-playing heavyweight siblings. Big and athletic, with a strong jab and decent power, Wladimir looked impressive in winning the WBO title with a 12-round decision over Chris Byrd in October 2000 and then running off a string of five KOs, including a sixth-round stoppage of Ray Mercer and a 10th-round TKO of Jameel McCline.

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In March '03, however, Klitschko was blasted out in two rounds by 36-year-old South African Corrie Sanders. Clipped on the chin in the opening round, Klitschko went to pieces, going down twice in the first and twice in the second before the bout was stopped. More than a year later, he made an attempt to reclaim the by-then vacant WBO crown in a match with Lamon Brewster. Though Klitschko was ahead on points and had dropped Brewster in the fourth, he ran out of gas in alarming fashion in the following round, and the fight was stopped at the end of the fifth.

Klitschko is coming off a fourth-round KO win last April over Elvis Costello -- er, that's Eliseo Castillo -- but his collapses against Brewster and Sanders (along with his only other loss, an 11th-round TKO at the hands of Ross Puritty in Kiev in 1998) suggest that Klitschko, despite his nickname of Dr. Steelhammer, may not have the mettle to stand up to Peter's power. Or to the magnitude of the occasion. Standing at the podium during a press conference this week, Klitschko engaged in the following rather awkward question-and-answer:

Q: Will a fourth loss signal an end to your career?

A: I ignore your question.

Klitschko does have estimable trainer Emanuel Steward in his corner, which can only help, but my sense is that on Saturday night, Peter will answer a lot of questions and make his big-time debut a smashing one. And if he does dispose of the younger Klitschko, what's next for the Nigerian Nightmare?

"The other brother," says Peter, with that same bright smile. "Maybe on the same night."

Short jabs

Saturday night's undercard will feature WBO super lightweight champion and budding superstar Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico against Ricardo Torres of Colombia. The promoters are playing up the fact that Cotto (24-0, 20 KOs) could be taking a risk against the relatively unknown and also undefeated (28-0, 26 KOs) Torres. ("Shades of Ricardo Mayorga!" they shout.)

But a glance at Torres's résumé shows that his opponents brought in a cumulative record of 85-145-4; of the 28, only six had a winning record when they faced Torres -- a hapless 13 had never won a fight, and another six had won just once in their careers. There's padding a record, and then there's bubble-wrapping it. ...

Big brother Vitali Klitschko will put his WBC title on the line against Hasim Rahman on Nov. 12 in Las Vegas. The bout is being billed as "Seek and Destroy." Alternative title: "Two Guys Who Lost to Lennox Lewis." Seriously, this is a good match, and if the right Rahman shows up he could be champ again. ...

St. Louis blues: Excited by the success of the Zab Judah-Corey Spinks fight last February, which drew 22,000 fans to the Savvis Center in St. Louis, Don King scheduled another card for the same arena on Sept. 30. This week, however, King scrubbed the promotion in the face of lagging ticket sales. Hmm, could it be that St. Louis sports fans are less interested in a clash for the vacant WBA cruiserweight title between Virgil Hill and Valery Brudov than they are in, oh, I don't know, Cardinals postseason play? ...

Last week I mentioned Dropkick Murphy's bagpipe-rave-up tribute to Micky Ward. It got me to thinking about other boxing-related songs. The only ones I could come up with were Paul Simon's The Boxer (duh), Bob Dylan's Hurricane and Bruce Springsteen's new The Hitter. Where are all the fight songs?


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