Top of the
With his knockout
of Calvin Brock, Wladimir Klitschko showed that he's the best of the
IT WAS David
versus Goliath, only this time Goliath was endearing and David needed a bigger
slingshot. Or, perhaps, a bazooka. In the moments following his emphatic
seventh-round knockout victory last Saturday night over Calvin Brock, Wladimir
Klitschko walked into his locker room at New York's Madison Square Garden and
basked in the moment: He posed for pictures, ran through a mock interview with
brother Vitali (coming soon: Those Krazy Klitschkos!) and glad-handed every
friend of a friend of a friend who had connived his way into the IBF/IBO
heavyweight champ's private quarters. Meet Wladimir Klitschko, boxing's man of
At age 30,
Ukraine's Klitschko has become the smiling face of a division that has for too
long been faceless. His performance against the previously unbeaten Brock (now
29--1 with 22 KOs) showed a new level of maturity and confidence. The 6'
6", 241-pound Klitschko used his jab to keep the 6' 2", 224 1/2-pound
challenger at long range, and when Brock—whose game plan, to "hit and not
get hit," had quickly given way to "hit and get hit harder"—opened
a cut over Klitschko's left eye with an accidental head butt in the sixth
round, the champion stepped up his assault. A huge right hand in the seventh
dropped Brock on his face. Though Brock beat the count, referee Wayne Kelly
wisely waved the fight over at 2:10 of the round.
With the win,
Klitschko (47--3, 42 KOs) retained his title and, more important, set himself
up as the unquestioned heavyweight standard-bearer. He is everything pundits
crave: the anti-Tyson, powerful and polished (so gracious in his postfight
praise of Brock that you would have thought he had just retired Muhammad Ali).
He preaches without sounding preachy, touting education in a way that doesn't
ring hollow, not when it's coming from a man who has doctorates in philosophy
and sports science and can sermonize in four languages. He is philanthropic—a
UNESCO goodwill ambassador fighting for Namibian school construction—and
carries himself with the equanimity of a hostage negotiator. When newly crowned
WBO champion Shannon Briggs crashed his postfight press conference, so deft was
Klitschko at defusing the situation that Briggs's parting shot at Klitschko was
an invitation to a party.
the ring. Inside the ropes Klitschko, with his potent right hand and that
stinging jab, has become boxing's best hope for a unified champion. "I
won't consider myself the true champion," he says, "until I win all the
titles." Say what you want about the four fighters who wear the heavyweight
crowns (Klitschko, Briggs, Nicolay Valuev and Oleg Maskaev), but there hasn't
been a unified champ since Lennox Lewis in 1999. Having handed three of his
four latest opponents their first losses, Klitschko has positioned himself as a
legend killer (or at least a myth buster) who is unafraid to step in with
top-flight competition. "He wants to fight the best," says his trainer,
Emanuel Steward, before adding a subtle shot at WBA champion Valuev and the
parade of patsies he has beaten. "No Monte Barretts."
The best way to
ensure that Klitschko gets his wish may be through promoter Don King's proposed
heavyweight tournament, a promising concept in theory but one whose
implementation would involve more political maneuvering than a congressional
election. Promoters, after all, have been known to raise fans' excitement with
high-profile bouts and then pull out when the money matters get tricky. But
Klitschko is committed to giving the public what it wants. "No
excuses," says the people's champ. "Let's get it done."
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