Vitali…Would Impale Wlad

By Jarrett Zook on December 20, 2013
Vitali…Would Impale Wlad
Has Wladimir become the top heavyweight due to his brother's absence? (Neale Haynes)

While their decision is rational and understandable, it doesn’t mean that one can’t speculate on what would happen if the two fought…

Wladimir Klitschko has everything going for him. He’s both the consensus No. 1 heavyweight in the world and has a beautiful famous finance, Hayden Panettiere. On top of that he’s also a renaissance man. Dr. Steelhammer speaks four languages, has a Ph.D, is a good chess player, and of course can kick pretty much anyone in the world’s butt. There is however one man who would bully him around inside the ring. That one man shares much in common with Wladimir, he’s a big hulking fellow Ukrainian renaissance man who shares the same last name. The reason for this is of course because this one man is Wladimir’s fearsome older brother, Vitali “Dr. Ironfist” Klitschko.

Over the years Wladimir Klitschko has put up quite the impressive resume. As of this moment he is the second longest reigning heavyweight of all time with the third most title defenses. Consequently, he sits atop almost every list ranking current heavyweights. But what most people forget is that it took his brother’s prolonged absence from the sweet science for him to assume his current position as top dog. In 2004 Vitali was seen as the preeminent heavyweight fighter and after a thorough thrashing of Danny Williams he seemed poised to stay atop the division. However, while training for his next title defense, Vitali snapped his anterior cruciate ligament and thus began a four year hiatus from boxing. Therefore, it can reasonably be concluded that Wladimir has become the top heavyweight due to his brother’s absence.

Even though Vitali’s departure caused Wlad to be crowned heavyweight king, it by no means definitively states who the better brother is. A better standard on which to compare the two is by looking at how the brothers fared in a few key fights. For starters, in early 2003 a vast albeit heavy hitting underdog named Corrie Sanders shocked almost everyone in the fight game when he blew out Wladimir in only two rounds. In his next fight though, despite some first round success Sanders was methodically broken down and eventually stopped in eight rounds by none other than Vitali himself.

To counter this point many boxing fans may point to the fact that Wladimir knocked out Chris Byrd while Vitali was “stopped” in nine rounds by the same feather-fisted fighter. What people might not realize though is that Dr. Ironfist was dominating Byrd until he felt a surging pain in his arm. Instead of trying to finish the fight Vitali told his corner that he was through and retired on his stool. Some people state that this thus means that the elder Klitschko lack heart, but in reality it showed great intelligence. An MRI revealed that his rotator cuff was torn and he decided to save himself rather than exacerbate an existing serious injury. If he would have continued he would have almost assuredly won as there is no way Byrd would have been able to knock him out as the light hitting blown-up cruiserweight trailed 89-82 on one scorecard and 88-83 on the other two. A victory against Chris Byrd wouldn’t do much to enhance his legacy and instead of winning one battle he decided to save himself so he could fight many more.

Vitali’s only other loss actually enhances his legacy. After the Byrd fight the elder Klitschko reeled off five dominant victories against some decent competition and was set up with one of the all-time greats, Lennox Lewis. Fans everywhere were excited to see the two dreadnoughts fight, but few expected what would transpire. Not only did Klitschko challenge Lewis, but he gave the great champion all he could handle. Vitali dominated the first two rounds and seemed poised to upset the mighty Englishman until he ran into a big right early in the third round and suffered a terrible cut. Any questions about his heart would now be answered as Dr. Ironfist was in real trouble. However, Vitali battled back and had a strong fourth round. The fifth and sixth rounds were a war of attrition as each fighter battled till the point of exhaustion. At the end of six rounds Vitali was leading on the scorecards, but his cut had been growing steadily worse and Lewis had been deliberately targeting it. Thus, the fight was stopped by the referee even though Vitali was imploring him not too. Lewis may have won the fight, but he was clearly scared of a rematch as he retired a few months after the fight. On the other hand, Vitali proved he can hang with the greats and showed that he has the heart to battle beyond reasonable adversity.

Not only has Wladimir lost more fights than Vitali, but his losses say much more negative things about him as a fighter. In all of his losses the younger Klitschko has been knocked out and he therefore has a very suspect chin. While his first loss was due in part to stamina issues his latter two were due to him being legitimately knocked out. Both Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster almost caused him to leave on a stretcher and the referees were forced to stop the fight. This is something that he is all too aware of as he has adopted a conservative style where he uses his tremendous size to keep fighters at bay while taking few risks. In some fights he barely even throws his booming right hand as he is scared to open up. This isn’t something that needs to be overly criticized as the object of boxing is to win and he also wants to keep his brain intact as the multitalented man has a bright future following his retirement from boxing. This is however a strategy that wouldn’t work against his tough brother who hits just as hard as him and is just as big.

Even though Vitali would win emphatically, the younger brother would open strong. Wladimir is the better boxer and would likely keep his brother at bay for awhile. But all it takes for a Wladimir fight to turn into a disaster is for a few hard punches to land. As Vitali is a more skilled fighter than Wladimir has ever faced he would almost assuredly land some devastating blows and that’s all he would need to do to ensure a knockout victory. The real competition between the two brothers would not take place in the ring but behind a chessboard as Vitali is also an avid chess player. That would be the only arena in which they would engage each other. The two brothers will never fight due to an agreement they made with their mother. While their decision is rational and understandable, it doesn’t mean that one can’t speculate on what would happen if the two fought.

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Wladimir Klitschko v Corrie Sanders 2003



Chris Byrd vs Vitali Klitschko



Lennox Lewis vs Vitali Klitschko SkySports1



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  1. sam 03:15am, 12/24/2013

    The fight showed - and everybody saw it - that Lennox and Vitali were to best fighters 10 yeras ago. If Vitali (who is a different person than Wladimir - like the article stated) was not “top of the cue” in 2003, who, besides Lennox, was? “Before Lennox lost the fire” and “Lennox would have turned resp. was turning aournd the (first) fight anyways” and “Lennox was not prepared”* are arguments leading towards justification for Lennox not fighting Vitali again (either biographical [to late] or competitional [no reason for second fight]). Most experts saw an even first fight, which could have gone either way (one knocking the other out, or one winning by points), but even more (and, of course, the croud, the fans watchting the fight live) inferred that Vitali was about to win. So it is not unlikely, that Lonnox might have “lost his fire” a bit later than 2003, i.e. without having fought Vitali in in this year. In my opinion there is no doubt that it hurt Lewis’ legacy leaving unfinished business with Vitali - which champion wants to leave stage beeing booed of by the crowd? But as i said, maybe this was clever, because a loss to Vitali in a second fight would have hurt the label “undisputed” even more. *thats why I stated that Vitali took the fight on three weeks notice - he also was “not prepared”

  2. raxman 01:21pm, 12/22/2013

    sam - yeah, i’d have called Vitali a nobody ten years ago. what was his claim to fame, he’d won the wbo title and then gave it up to chris bryd. in 2003 vlad had no chin and vitali had no heart. obviously the Lewis fight disproved the heart thing, but as you say he was a last minute replacement, he wasn’t top of the cue. had VK gutted out the last few rounds and fought byrd with one hand we may’ve got to LL vs Vitali a couple of years earlier, before Lennox had lost the fire in his belly. but really my point was never that Lewis should’ve stayed in the game one more fight(i’ll give you that if he was to fight on vitali was the only viable opponent based on that one fight) but my point here is that this fight was never the get of jail free card that people make it out to be.

  3. sam 05:42am, 12/22/2013

    Vitali a nobody in 2003? I think the money which was in for the rematch contradicts that only in 2013 we know that a rematch would have been the best (logical, financial, for the sport, maybe even ethical). All the experts, including Steward, all the fans (neutral, or supporting one of the two fighters) felt right after the Lewis-VK fight, what had to been done.

  4. raxman 12:19am, 12/22/2013

    Sam - ” if you read between the lines” - come on mate just give your opinion as your opinion don’t try to bolster it with your supposition of what manny really meant!!! what manny is on the record as saying is that he thinks that prime for prime LL beats both brothers - manny based this opinion on the fact that Lennox always found a way.
    in retrospect yes - LL should’ve got in shape and fought both brothers, but (as i stated in the previous comment) at the time both brothers were nobodies and who would’ve guessed that either would reach the level that we would be having this debate today - ok possibly vitali’s showing in this fight may’ve raised his estimation in some peoples eyes, but most saw this fight more as to how much Lewis had slipped, not vitali risen -and as i ascertain in this fight, despite LL being well over weight and out of shape, he was turning the fight, backing up vitali and walking thru vitali’s shots

  5. Ezra 01:20pm, 12/21/2013

    Wlad’s loss to Lamon Brewster also resulted from a stamina issue; it wasn’t because of him getting “legitimately knocked out” from Brewster’s punches, though Brewster has shown he’s more than a legitimate puncher. Wlad punched himself out by hitting Brewster with everything but the ring post.

  6. sam 07:54am, 12/21/2013

    @ raxman:

    what people always forget about the Vitali-Lewis-fight, besides that Lennox was past his prime and not in best preperation, is, that Vitali took the fight on three weeks notice without any prepartation (!), whereas Lewis was at least in normal fight preperation (although not for a Klitschko in the beginning).

    If you read the comments of Em. Steward regarding the fight and the non-2nd-fight, you can read between the lines, that Vitali was a threat to Lewis. And that Vitali and the boxing fans deserved the 2nd figth and Lewis needed it, to finish his carreer as an all-timer without an end in doubt. But maybe this was clever, because this doubt hurts his legacy as an alltimer less then a loss in a second fight against Vitali would have (with both in best preperation, the chances would have been 50-50 in my opinion). 

  7. nicolas 01:38am, 12/21/2013

    While I do feel that Vitali has the edge over his brother in there primes, I felt that after Vitali’s fight with Kevin Johnson, there was this destructive force that was just missing from Vitali that he once had, and would have to give the edge to Wladamir for the last four years.

  8. raxman 08:41pm, 12/20/2013

    ” Lewis may have won the fight but was clearly scared of a rematch” - this is one of those boxing myths that has grown and grown this is a fight that warrants re-watching without emotion.  Had it not been stopped on cuts i believe LL would’ve stopped Vitali anyway. it took Lewis several rounds but he eventually worked Vitali out, and although he was in terrible shape (a career high weight of something like 255 which is like 12 pound heavier than vs Holyfield) by round 6 he had started backing up vitali with his jab, whilst walking through vitali’s power shots.
    Lewis did the right thing retiring after this fight as he had certainly lost his passion for the contest but perhaps if he had known how great the klit brothers would become he would’ve got in shape for a rematch, found a spark to relight the fire that went out with wins over evander and tyson, but remember at the time vitali was a last minute replacement opponent - and no doubt Lewis would’ve thought that were he in shape he would beat Vitali easily. as for Vlad, 03 was the year of the Sanders.

  9. Eric 06:40pm, 12/20/2013

    I would pick Vitali over Wlad also. And of course both brothers would get knocked out by all those 185-215lb heavyweight kings of the past. heehee.

  10. Matt McGrain 06:23pm, 12/20/2013

    Arreola was #6.  Johnson was #8.

  11. Darrell 05:52pm, 12/20/2013

    I’m guessing both Kirk Johnson & Chris Arreola were probably top 5 contenders at the time Vitali utterly destroyed both…..Sam Peter, defending champ too, of course.  Since Arreola, he’s fought no one of any consequence.

    That top 5 guy by the name of Haye wanted nothing of it of course, though he made some “serious” overtures the last couple of years when the 40+ Vitali looked a little lacklustre against Chisora & beat Charr in his sleep.

    There’s the politician play thing that seems to be a side activity for several year & now the main event, so we can’t be too perturbed, after all, everyone really wants to fight the guy with the glass jaw.

  12. Matt McGrain 02:12pm, 12/20/2013

    It’s not that he “lacks a signature victory”, at least it’s not that for me.  It’s that he lacks meaningful wins full stop.  You don’t have to compare him to Ali to have him come up short resume wise - top contenders, not champions, from strong eras, have better scores versus top 5 contenders…I hear a lot about ratio of rounds won from Vitali’s fans, and knockout percentages, but this stat to me is more important.
    I meant to find out - was he 1-1 versus top five ranked fighters, or 2-1 - but I now can’t even remember who the fighter in question was.  Adamek and Lewis are the two guaranteed, 1-1.

  13. George Thomas Clark 02:04pm, 12/20/2013

    No one is trying to make a case that Vitali has faced murderer’s row, as Ali did, but almost all the fighters he beat since 1999 had zero, one, or two losses.  Since Vitali has lost only twice - once due to injury v. Byrd and once to Lennox Lewis, one of the three best ever - most observers will rate him among the top 15 all time.  He does lack a signature victory, but Lewis is the only fighter he faced - or had the opportunity to face - who’s demise would’ve certified Vitali’s greatness.

  14. George Thomas Clark 01:53pm, 12/20/2013

    I agree.  Unlikely Wlad could stop Vitali.  Probable that Vitali would stop Wlad.  But this fraternal matchup would be unholy, as the brothers indicated almost 20 years ago when they stopped sparring each other.

  15. Matt McGrain 01:47pm, 12/20/2013

    Vitali probably is a reasonable bet to beat Wlad prime for prime (Though who knows) but his record with top 5 ranked fighters is absolutely hideous.  He hardly met any and he’s something like 1-1, 2-1.  It’s awful, absolutely awful for a top ranked fighter, that.  So, basically, in a weak era, he fought a very weak level of competition.

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