Saturday, September 10, 2011

Vitali Klitschko a Goliath in Boxing Trunks

WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitscko will meet Tomasz Adamek today in Wroclaw, Poland. He is seen here putting the finishing touches on his training.

He might be 40 years-old, but at at a towering 6'7 1/2” tall and 243 pounds of muscle and bone, Vitali Klitschko is most probably one of the scariest middle-aged men on the face of the planet. Don't forget that he's also the World Boxing Council heavyweight champion who has only lost twice in a professional boxing professional career that began way back in 1996.

Tonight, Klitschko, unbeaten since he was forced to stop by a cut inflicted at the hands of Lennox Lewis eight years ago, squares off against Tomasz Adamek in a soccer stadium in Wroclaw, Poland. The bout will take place in front of a sold out crowd of 42,000 souls, most of which will be cheering for Adamek, their native son.

With flecks of gray now sprouting up throughout his hair, “Dr. Ironfist” as he is known, because of the PhD. he holds in Sports Science, stepped on the scales Friday afternoon with all of the swagger befitting the heavyweight champion of the planet earth. While his younger brother Wladimir holds the three other heavyweight belts of note, Klitschko the elder is at least his equal in this familial, double-headed version of heavyweight champions.

Cool, calculating and supremely intelligent, Klitschko is a master of psychological warfare, the likes of which have not been seen in heavyweight boxing since Muhammad Ali packed up his rucksack and called it a career almost thirty years ago.

Champion and challenger weighed-in on Friday. The size difference is an obvious impediment to Adamek's chances.

Vitali will often stand as close as he can get to his opponents as it's all the better to threaten them with his imposing size. He stares down his long nose with an unblinking sneer. When he shakes their hand he squeezes until it hurts and will usually pull his man toward him in effort to check his balance and strength. Whereas Ali was boisterous and seemingly out of control, Klitschko is the picture coolness and calm.

He went so far earlier this week to show up at Adamek's public workout, seat himself in the front row with his trainer and gaze intently at his foe in an in an effort to unnerve and rattle him.

“Vitali was there and he was making his attempt at trying to intimidate Tomasz,” said Adamek's trainer Roger Bloodworth. “He's a smart guy, he has his degrees, he is bigger than Tomasz and he wants to use all of his assets to impose himself. But, as you saw, Adamek didn't react.”

Indeed, Adamek has proven to be a tougher nut to crack than many of the others that have fallen victim to Klitschko's mind games – and fists. Adamek is a former light heavyweight and cruiserweight world champion who has lost only once in a 45-fight pro career that began twelve years ago. His move to heavyweight in 2009 has been virtually flawless.

A plain-spoken, unassuming, guy next door type, the Pole is a heavy betting underdog in what is perceived as a virtual David versus Goliath match in boxing gloves and trunks.

Adamek takes a break from training to enjoy the view of the New York City skyline.

“I know I can win. I'm quicker than he is, I'm faster too,” said Adamek who scaled 216 pounds at Friday's weigh-in. “I'm not afraid of Vitali, I am not afraid of his size. In fact, I welcome it.”

Few outside of Adamek's inner circle give him any legitimate shot against the Ukrainian born monster. Klitschko has thudding power that slowly breaks opponents down. He is a one-two man all the way who rarely lobs a body shot or a hook, but his left jab is a rapier-like, two-by-four of a shot. A volume puncher who rarely clinches, he gets up on his toes sporadically. As a big man, he is not graceful and is primarily effective when coming forward. Only three of the victims in his forty-two wins have seen the final bell.

“I will give my best to improve my knockout rate,” said Klitschko earlier this week. “The only thing I'll promise you is that there will be no questions after the fight about who won.”

When asked whether he was concerned that Adamek is six years younger, likely quicker of hand and of foot and will be fighting in front of what promises to be a raucous, partisan crowd, Klitschko feigned indifference and is of the notion that size will ultimately prove to be the determining factor.

“I'll say this about Adamek – he is not a heavyweight. To be a heavyweight you have to be born as one, like me and my brother. Tomasz Adamek was not born as a heavyweight. He has only become a heavyweight because he is now eating like a heavyweight.”

The old saying in boxing is that a good big man will always beat a good little man. More often than not, that axiom does prove to be the case. Klitschko is twenty-seven pounds heavier, six inches taller and has a longer wingspan by at least five inches.

Klitschko brutalized Shannon Briggs over twelve rounds when the two met in October 2010.

Tomasz Adamek, however, believes he is the proverbial little engine that can – and will.

“Whenever I fight, I fight to win,” he says. “I've been preparing for this moment all of my life. I have a strong heart and a stronger spirit. I'm not going into the ring to lose. I want to win this fight and I will win this fight. For me, this is my dream. Yes, he is bigger than me, but I am faster. My pace is going to kill him.”

Let the battle begin.

September 2011

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