Wladimir Klitschko: The Case for the Defense

By Matt McGrain on December 1, 2013
Wladimir Klitschko: The Case for the Defense
“Boxing” heavyweight champions never go down as well as their slugging counterparts.

I rank Wladimir as a great heavyweight, one of fifteen that have ever lived, but I think Dempsey might have beaten him with that elusive, rhythm-breaking style…

Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko have suffered a bit of a mauling on Boxing.com in recent weeks, apparently triggered by Wladimir Klitschko’s own mauling of Alexander Povetkin in Russia this October. What it is that irritated people about Wladimir’s defeat of his nearest competitor for the world heavyweight Kingship, his nineteenth win in a row, his sixteenth successive defense of one of the many straps he has accumulated over the course of the nine years he has fought unbeaten, was the manner in which he achieved it.

I have no problem with that.

I have no problem with that because it is a matter of taste, and Wladimir’s victory over Povetkin—worth more than twenty million dollars to the world’s heavyweight champion—was nothing if not unpalatable. Reporting that evening for Boxing.com was Adam Berlin, a published author and a man who writes as well about boxing as anyone I know. Nevertheless, I was more than a little concerned to read his remark that “writers will recount the fight round by round. But it’s not necessary. One round represents every round, give or take some less than dramatic knockdowns.”

Whilst I found Adam’s contention that we “saw a sloppy fight” and “felt nothing” reasonable—though I never watch one of Wladimir’s fights without feeling, for reasons I will touch upon later—I found his remark about why a round-by-round report was unnecessary, namely the supposed sameness of each round, objectionable (not least because I had published one!). I felt that this was disrespectful, not only to Wladimir Klitschko who produced a beautiful jabbing display in the tenth, late in the fight for such precision, but more than that to Alexander Povetkin for if, as I wrote in my Boxing.com coverage for that fight, “heart is the greatest attribute to which a fighter can lay claim, then Povetkin was a great opponent indeed, for in the eighth he showed as much as any heavyweight who has stepped into the ring.” No, there were things that happened in that fight that were worthy of any writer’s specific attention.

Then again, Adam was very reasonably writing about his own distaste for Wladimir, and crucially—this must be stressed—was not hiding behind any pretence of objectivity. “Wladimir Klitschko had his hand raised for the nineteenth time in a row since his loss to Lamon Brewster in 2004,” read the first words of his coverage, “how sad.” Whether or not Adam’s sadness was deepened by Klitschko’s finally establishing a new heavyweight lineage in this fight by defeating, for the first time, the #2 contender whilst himself ranked at #1, is not known, but it is important to acknowledge that this was the case. Since the retirement of Lennox Lewis, the heavyweight depths have been dominated by a two-headed shark, Wladimir handling one bank of contenders, Vitali the other. Whilst this is an astonishing familial feat, it did in fact hamstring both of them in the sense that their inability to meet one another due to blood prevented either establishing a new lineage by spilling one another’s. 

Now, Wladimir, for the first time, has his own established identity. Like it or not, he is a part of the same lineage as Jack Johnson, Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali. That is a powerful identifying tool which finally separates him from his semi-retired and unranked brother, Vitali.

I was surprised then when Mike Casey published his intriguingly titled We Are the Hollow Men on Boxing.com last week, a detailed look at both Klitschko brothers and how they compare to past champions. I consider Mike to be the greatest working historian and it would not be an exaggeration to name him as being amongst my inspirations to writing about boxing, but having said that, I was shocked by some of the things he wrote about Wladimir Klitsckho, and intend to explain why.

Mike’s opening premise was that the Klitschko brothers—or Wladimir, who I am primarily interested in here—is not amongst the greatest heavyweights of all time. Again, I do not see that as a problem. I do believe in the power of the list to describe what has been in boxing, but I also consider the top ten at heavyweight to be the most malleable of any division, and once you are outside of the top two you can order the great ones pretty much in any way you like, within reason. Seeing Wladimir listed at #8 wouldn’t upset me any more than seeing him way down at #18. 

My choice for the #3 berth, Rocky Marciano, is a fighter that comes out of We Are Hollow Men without a scratch, in fact he is the fighter Mike choses to use as a stick to beat Wladimir Klitschko where punching power is concerned.

“Would Wlad’s big punch save him?” writes Mike concerning Wladimir’s chances against former greats of the ring. “What big punch? This is another fallacy I hear all the time from [Klitschko admirers]. ‘Wlad is a terrific puncher.’ No he isn’t. He is a hard puncher but is a primarily competent bludgeoner.”

This, I must disagree with in the strongest possible terms.

Chris Byrd disagrees too. “He punches so hard,” stresses Byrd who fought, amongst others, Vitali Klitschko, the monstrous David Tua and Ike Ibeabuchi. Phil Jackson, who shared a ring with both Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko, is clear that Wladimir hits notably harder than Lennox, “with both hands. You could feel it.” Wlad, is amongst the very hardest punchers since Mike Tyson.

Mike argues however, powerfully, that boxing is in a downwards spiral and being the best of a generation does not mean what it once did. This is very possibly true, but it is also true that power is primarily a matter of function, not multi-dimensional skill, like boxing itself. What I mean by this is that it is possible to judge, by eye, that Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis and yes, Wladimir Klitschko, punch with the correct form and in a similar fashion to a fighter like Sonny Liston or Ezzard Charles. Whilst it is true that the voodoo that makes up the soup of power-punching is not an exact science, the late, great Joe Rein had something to say about the laws of physics and how they acted upon boxers.

“When the Marquis of Queensberry divided boxing into different weight classes,” Joe tells us in the publicly available video footage that survives him, “it was intended to make the competition fairer. It’s all about the laws of physics.”  In short, an object—a fighter, say—with a mass of 185 pounds over which to distribute energy introduced to his frame by an overhand right has less mass over which to discharge that energy than a 240-pound fighter. Punch resistance is even less directly explicable by science than power, so this is not a hard and fast rule, but nevertheless it is a relevant one—it is why an iron-jawed middleweight like Dick Tiger, unstoppable at 160 pounds, was knocked unconscious by Bob Foster at 175 pounds. The bigger the man, the more total energy it is possible for him to summon in a correctly delivered punch.

Mike might be right in suggesting that close to 220 pounds may be the best weight for a combination of elasticity and power in a heavyweight, which is why I was so stunned that he picked the 185-pound Marciano to demonstrate his point concerning Wladimir’s limitations as a puncher.

“Around 1955 Rocky Marciano had his punch measured at a USA military installation,” writes Mike, “where it is believed that the test was conducted on a ballistic pendulum. Rocky achieved a score of 925 foot-pounds whilst wearing twelve ounce boxing gloves.”

This is indeed impressive.

Before his recent bout with Francesco Pianeta, Wladimir took a similar test and landed, according to Boxen.com, with around 1500 foot-pounds of pressure, around a third more than Rocky. 

By Mike’s own standards, Wladimir is the harder puncher. 

Personally, this doesn’t mean all that much to me. Boxing doesn’t recreate men aiming their best blows at a static opponent, the source for Rocky’s number is not good and the mathematics used to calculate Wladimir’s numbers are under question—but the Ukrainian’s higher numbers appeal to common sense, too. Wladimir has more energy to introduce according to the laws of physics, and has only a slightly lower knockout percentage than Marciano, despite the fact that the Rock was the most aggressive heavyweight King in ring history and Wladimir is the most cautious.

I agree with what Mike had to say about that caution. Wladimir himself acknowledges that he is “not a natural fighter” and that, rather, he has become one. I also agree that Wlad “always looks like a man who expects the roof to fall in on him at any given moment…he is not a confident, dominant fighter.”

When I said that I never watch a Wladimir fight “without feeling” as Adam Berlin does, this perceived uncertainty is what I was referring to. I don’t enjoy the grabbing style that he deployed against Povetkin any more than the next man, although as Adam is shrewd enough to intimate, it is a problem for the referee not the offending fighter and “a win is a win.” But I do enjoy his fragility. As I feel I’ve shown, this is a heavyweight with one-punch knockout power but also one who, as Mike identifies, is terribly, terribly vulnerable. For me, this engenders within any Wladimir Klitschko fight a matter of urgency and drama that may not be played out physically in the ring but exists perpetually. That is interesting to me.

It is also interesting to me that Wladimir is the first heavyweight champion to have his style designed in total around his weaknesses. His control of range is a rampart built to protect his vulnerable chin. His control of pace is an acknowledgement of his possible stamina issues. His defensive taint is the final uncomfortable reminder of the seeming panic attack that beset him whenever he was hit—until that keystone 2005 fight with Sam Peter.

The eleventh round of that fight, in which Wladimir was dumped on the canvas three times, was the “toughest round” Emanuel Steward had ever seen one of his fighters survive in all his fifty plus years in boxing. Think about that.

“What’s special about him,” continues Steward, who seems to have regarded this as something of a graduation night for the charge he, like Phil Jackson, regarded as a harder puncher than another of his fighters, Lennox Lewis, “is that he has so much power in the late rounds. Lots of guys, great punchers like [Mike] Tyson, they were great in the early rounds but very seldom in the later rounds…he’s had the power to go out after being down three times with Sam Peter and he had him out on his feet with a single punch, a left hook.”

Mike Casey sees, of course, that Wladimir improved under the tutelage of Steward, but is keen to quantify it.

“Manny, for all his duty-bound praise of Wlad, must have known that the improvement could only be finite.”

This is obviously true, but the degree of that finite improvement can hardly be exaggerated. Nobody is better placed to testify to that than Chris Byrd and Lamon Brewster, two men who faced Wladimir both before and after Steward’s tuition was allowed to take hold.

“He was able to maintain the jab,” says Brewster, putting his finger on what he feels was the definitive change in Wladimir’s capabilities. “He was able to maintain the jab, whereas the last time I knew his jab would be busy but I was able get past it, in the second fight the jab was better. He had an awesome jab…I felt I was the same Lamon Brewster in both fights but sometimes, somebody has a better night [than you].”

For Brewster, the changes were so vast as to the difference between a devastating loss and a devastating win. Byrd, too, describes a different fighter:

“Emanuel Steward really changed him —made him stand up. He uses height and reach now. Not aggressive, going for the knockout [like before]. He systematically breaks you down with the jab…[I] got in the ring with him and you’re like, man, this isn’t the same guy.”

Still, although Wladimir has not been beaten since Steward moulded him into the best in the world, it is still reasonable to ask about Wladimir’s past losses:

“Steward…[taught Wladimir] how to better protect the chin that had been shattered by Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster…Does anyone seriously believe they would have knocked out Dempsey, Louis, Marciano, Liston, Foreman or Ali?”

The obvious answer is “no”, but it must also be pointed out that many great champions have embarrassing losses during their careers and are not excluded from greatness as a result.

Liston was beaten by a clowning light-heavyweight named Marty Marshall and knocked cold by Leotis Martin. Dempsey was knocked out in a single round by journeyman Jim Flynn and outpointed by an obese former flyweight named Willy Meehan. I think that it is very possible that both Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster would have beaten all of the above, but if that is not true, nor is it the point. 

The point is, whilst I wouldn’t expect the prime version of these men to lose to the fighters who beat Wladimir, I wouldn’t expect the prime version of Wladimir to lose to them either. Past and pre-prime? Sure, Dempsey, Foreman, Liston, any one of them could lose to either Brewster or Sanders.

And yes, this is a weak era for heavyweight boxing, but it is unlikely to be as weak as the 105-pound opposition that has made Ricardo Lopez “great,” and nor did Joe Louis’s ludicrously titled “Bum of the Month” club hamper his rise to the absolute heights. The lack of resistance amongst Carlos Zarate’s opposition was a bugbear for the press of his time but his domination is now seen for what it was—domination. A lack of great opposition can be accounted for every time by longevity and consistency. That is proven. 

What I fear for our shared future is that whilst this argument rages on and on, Wladimir just keeps on winning and those that have set their stall out against him will continue to ignore the fact, for reasons that don’t make sense. 

As to the notion that smaller heavyweights are better, we shall see—I look forwards to the domination by modern boxing of another 215-pound fighter with baited breath, but I suspect that even those who protest otherwise know deep down that baring the visitation of the occasional Tysonesque phenomenon, those days are done. Mike is right when he points out the ludicrousness of our being told that “[modern] heavyweights…would have knocked seven bells out of their predecessors” but all other things being equal, size used properly is a fight winner, inarguably, and devaluing that truism because it is rarely aesthetically pleasing when it occurs is verging upon intellectual dishonesty. 

Wladimir, like Lewis, is a prototype for the bigger heavyweights who work to maintain a level of elasticity and fluidity. Like Lewis, he has beaten everyone, bigger, smaller, puncher, boxer and he has done it with relative ease. Would he beat the great fighters of the past? I don’t know. I picked Ricky Hatton to beat Manny Pacquiao, I’m not the man to ask. I do know that Wladimir is listed as five inches taller, four inches rangier and at their respective bests around 50 pounds heavier than Jack Dempsey. I know that those are very singular advantages. But I also know that we’ll never know. For all that Mike can present a serious case for Jack, there are people that can present a serious case for Wladimir. Nobody will ever be “right.”

What is known is that Wladimir has been number one for a number of years and is likely to remain so for a number of years. He has established lineage, he has won sixty-one fights, he has scored fifty-one knockouts. He has not been beaten since his prime began, and there are no signs he will be beaten now it is over. There are very, very few heavyweight champions who can lay claim to these raw statistics and exactly none who are active, fighting, on your television next year and the year after.

There is not a heavyweight champion who can be named that was not undercelebrated for cultural reasons during his own era, aside perhaps (and rather bizarrely) from Jim Jeffries who was almost universally lauded by the time of his retirement. I suspect that just as Ali and Johnson were undervalued by a white overclass and Tunney and Holmes were undervalued by the black underclass, so Klitschko is undervalued by an older generation and by North America generally. “Boxing” heavyweight champions such as Holmes, Tunney and Corbett, never go down as well as their slugging counterparts, and naturally enough, those that are raised on foreign soil are less well-loved than those grown at home.

The current boxing heavyweight champion, Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko, was asked after his total domination of the #2 heavyweight Alexander Povetkin what he thought American trainer Emanuel Steward would have made of his performance.

“Just go and knock this motherfucker out,” Wlad guessed his mentor would have told him. “Especially during rounds seven and eight. But,” he added, “I know what I’m doing in the ring. I didn’t get hit once.”

He did get hit, perhaps twice, but you know what he means.

For those who care, I want to say that firstly I do rank Wladimir as a great heavyweight, one of fifteen that have ever lived, and secondly that I think Jack Dempsey might have beaten him with that elusive, rhythm-breaking style. 

In my opinion the second point is debatable.

The first point is not.

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Wladimir Klitschko's punching power

Joe Rein: "The Laws of Physics"

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  1. George R 10:22am, 12/08/2013

    Wlad Klitschko is a protected heavyweight who always fights in Europe so the ruling bodies can help him win. When he fought Povetkin, he was literally getting up on his toes so he could put his weight on Povetkin’s shoulders and tire him out. The referee did nothing about this for at least 10 rounds. Wlad also is allowed to stick out his left glove in his opponent’s face, block his vision or hold, then hit with his right hand. Larry Holmes did this a lot too, but many times Larry was told to stop, but not Wlad. I’m not saying he isn’t an excellent fighter, but these issues give him an unfair advantage

  2. nicolas 06:47pm, 12/06/2013

    Also I wanted to mention about your article Vs. Mr. Casey’s. You wrote to the point, and did not use words that are supposed to encite people to agree with you. He calls one of the Klitschko’s a Tyrantasauris Rex, and as a back handed compliment to them, big good competent heavyweights and nothing more. His mention that Dempsey floored the Giant Argentinian Luis Firpo so many times was also quite funny. According to BOXREC, Firpo weighted 216, and was 6 ft 2 and a half. Giant for a heavyweight then, but not now. While Firpo did weigh twenty pounds more, he was an inch and a half taller then Dempsey, not a giant by any means. Heck didn’t they call Jack Johnson back then the Galveston Giant, all six feet of him.

  3. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 01:27pm, 12/03/2013

    Eric-You had it right the first time…..no need to modulate your viewpoint….which reminds me…..it’s time to upset the apple cart in this way….if a prime, peak performance,  Joe Louis had subbed in for either David Tua or Ike Ieabuchi the night they had their unGodly war he would have been KO’d….early or late…no matter…. he would have gone down and out for the count.

  4. Eric 12:11pm, 12/03/2013

    Just my opinion on the “race” issue with the Klits, but to I would care to say it exist outside a “small minority.” Probably the BIGGEST reason is boxing in general is no longer what could be called a top tier sport like it was back in the day. Being the boxing heavyweight champ no longer carries the clout it used to. I think part of the mystique was the heavyweight champ was allegedly the toughest man on the planet, and we’ve come to learn that isn’t the case. As everyone knows, MMA has hurt the popularity of boxing a great deal. And former boxers have made some pretty dismal showings in the octagon so that kind of put the rest the whole “toughest man on earth” mystique. Boxing is indeed the “sweet science” but perhaps in these supposed civilized times, boxing has become too tame for the “civilized” public. The heavyweight championship is no longer the biggest show in town, not even close. But then again boxing is really no longer a “major” sport.

  5. Matt McGrain 09:47am, 12/03/2013

    Lots of kind words, and I thank you.
    I don’t want to get too involved past what i’ve already said, but i’d just add that i’d agree in the main with Don from Prov regarding the race issue - Wlad’s “whiteness” (?) isn’t an issue for any other than a tiny margin IMO.
    @Ted Spoon - thanks…I get a pass because I don’t think there ARE any “locks” outside of the top two, really.  I can see healthy arguments for every single other great HW being ranked at #11.  Just some appeal to me more than others.  I’ve no problem with Wlad at #10 as long as the right criteria (longevity, consistency, a sort of dominance) are stressed throughout the list.

  6. Eric 07:43am, 12/03/2013

    Sorry, but I can’t help but think the Klit’s skin color is the reason why they aren’t well received. Kind of baffles me a little bit, considering how for years white heavyweights may have received overdue praise or coverage for the same reason regardless of “nationality.” In the past “White Hope Era” there were an eclectic assortment of heavyweights from around the globe, some were American, and others were South African, Canadian, Argentinian, British, etc. Fighters like Quarry, Chuvalo, Cooper, Cooney, Tommy Morrison, and even lesser fighters like Boone Kirkman, Chuck Wepner etc., got their share of media coverage and support. Only thing about these fighters is they all came up short when it counted the most. Sure these fighters won big bouts but they all failed to capture the crown, unless you want to count the paper titles won by Morrison and Gerrie Coetzee. Maybe the media enjoyed the 40 year run of the White Hope Era. Hell, even the mega hit movie “Rocky” played off the underdog white fighter challenging for the “biggest title in sports.” Lennox Lewis was a “foreigner” and while Lewis certainly wasn’t as well received as a Mike Tyson or a Muhammad Ali, he wasn’t as ignored by “our” media as the Klits. Is the “media” and the sportsworld uncomfortable with a dominating white heavyweight champion? The Klits aren’t paper champs ala Coetzee or Tommy Morrison they are the very best out there and are dominating the competition for a decade and counting. They don’t fit the lovable underdog image of a REEL Rocky Balboa, or a REAL George Chuvalo.

  7. Don from Prov 07:02am, 12/03/2013

    Why is it always assumed to be racism when Americans don’t take to a fighter?  I really don’t give a shit about anyone’s ethnicity or point or origin—

    A fighter either grabs me or he doesn’t.  Period.

  8. Ted Spoon 05:44am, 12/03/2013

    An objective rebuttal, Matt, and your point about most top ten lists greatly differing is well taken, however I do think there is quite a difference between a top ten and a top fifteen ranking. Whether you’re bored to death watching him or you don’t mind, most agree that Wladimir is a decent heavyweight who can box and punch. It is those who believe he is now a lock for the top ten and the bane of many great fighters which I find indigestible. In Wladimir I see a boxer with key weaknesses. His most ardent supporters exaggerate his talent; it’s a style borne of insecurities and this is never more apparent than when he ditches his form to simply clamp onto his opponent - that is not the act of a boxing surgeon but, as Adam Berlin nicely put it, the “sloppy doctor, patching things together with frayed bandages”.

  9. AKT 03:11am, 12/03/2013

    Well written and quite impassioned Essay. But I have to say you may have forgotten one of the things that make fighters great. Heart. Now, I have not reached into Wladimir’s insides to see its contents, but his style of fighting (what you call vulnerable) is highly suggestive of an individual who is a coward. You are in a ring; people fight in there. Not look like a bunny with headlights shone in its face. I am going to be frank. I don’t enjoy watching him fight. He mostly relies on his size to get by. Period. And it’s boring. This is why you will never be able to get a Wladimir next to a Tyson in terms of the excitement they bring/brought to the ring. Tyson had a lot of odds stacked against him size wise but he used skills to get by. Skills is what people pay to see. Not Hum drum.

    Wladimir is a scholar. He studied boxing well, and understands as well as does the fundamentals very well, but please let us not get ahead of ourselves and commit any sacrileges. He is not a great.

  10. AKT 02:42am, 12/03/2013

    I agree with Raxman. Size in the different eras must be taken into consideration when these “my guy beats your guy” discussions are had.

  11. Darrell 07:01pm, 12/02/2013

    Brilliant riposte Matt McGrain.

  12. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 05:37pm, 12/02/2013

    Matt McGrain-At last some science has been introduced into the discussion and the results of the comparison of Rocky’s punching power to Wlad’s is telling, in fact it’s mind boggling….if my math is correct, Rocky’s score was only 62% of Wlad’s. Since this was not a controlled test and the actual tests occurred years apart the integrity of the results would be in question…..nevertheless, assuming that their best right hand punches were the punches tested because that indeed was Rocky’s “Suzy Q”....these findings beg the question, at least for my Jagerbombed noggin and the question is…..is Wlad’s jab as powerful or even more potent than Rocky’s “Suzy Q” was? It’s a new day even for learned and renowned historians….it’s a day when 6’5” 210 lb Usain Bolt (juiced or not) sprints 100 meters in 9.58 seconds in comparison to the 5’10” 165 lb immortal Jesse Owens’ time of 10.3 seconds.

  13. Eric 04:59pm, 12/02/2013

    @raxman, Have to agree asking a modest sized albeit super talented Joe Louis, Joe Frazier or an undersized Marciano to defeat someone as large as Wlad would be a tall order. Seeing Mike Tyson stand next to Vitali, you can really notice the huge size differential. Of course just being large doesn’t make a fighter but when that fighter is pretty talented it factors into his favor. I’m sure Shaquille O’Neal wouldn’t beat Mike Tyson, but then again, Shaq hasn’t been trained or have the experience the Klits have. That’s why the comparisons to Abe Simon, Carnera, Buddy Baer, Willard etc., are meaningless. Mickey Walker was a better fighter than Max Schmeling but when they met in the ring it wasn’t a fair match at all, Walker was dwarfed by the much larger Schmeling. If the Klits were just two overgrown stiffs, sure it wouldn’t matter how big they were, but they are far from being talentless stiffs. Who knows why the American public hasn’t embraced the Klits? I think it is a variety of factors such as racism, their relatively boring albeit effective styles, being “foreigners, etc. Of course the public probably doesn’t like their heavyweight champ to be educated, articulate, and clean cut. We prefer a Mike Tyson or a Larry Holmes to those two stuffy Klit brothers.

  14. raxman 04:09pm, 12/02/2013

    I always think when comparing the HW’s from the past one needs to allow for some “size inflation”. when determining how Joe Louis would go as a heavyweight in 2013 one must allow for how much bigger a Joe Louis born in the 1980’s would be. if 6’2 was a big man in the 1940’s you need to allow for what quantifies as a big man today. don’t you? otherwise yesterdays joe Louis is fighting as a cruiserweight today. as is smoking joe. I don’t care how good they were they’re not beating a 6’7 240pound guy who can fight tall and hit hard

  15. Eric 01:50pm, 12/02/2013

    Those who claim the past greats could beat the Klits are like those people who kept insisting the earth was flat. heehee. Just kidding.

  16. Eric 01:47pm, 12/02/2013

    Wlad and Vitali will gain more acceptance once they retire. It always happens. Marciano, Holmes, even Ali all grew in stature once they retired. Hell, Larry Holmes was criticized for fighting “bums” just like the Klits when he was champion, and now some people rank Holmes in the top 5-6 all time heavyweights. IMO, no way does Holmes deserve a top 5 or 6 ranking, but that’s what retiring does for you. teehee. Remember Nat Fleischer’s all-time list which had people like 167lb Bob Fitzsimmons and tiny Sam Langford ranked ahead of Ali? What the hell. NOW, who in their right mind would rank Langford or Fitz ahead of Ali at heavyweight, P4P sure Langford and/or Fitz might be ranked higher, but not at heavyweight.

  17. Vic 12:13pm, 12/02/2013

    Great article.
    Wlad is not Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali…but he has some pretty great world class attributes in my view. His jab is one of the best of all time in my humble opinion, you know…......nice to read what Brewster said about it btw….

  18. Pete The Sneak 10:32am, 12/02/2013

    Matt…Great stuff here…Nuff said (for me)...by the by @Cyril..What a great Post…Peace.

  19. Cyril 09:46am, 12/02/2013

    Seems to me that a great fighter and champion was always defined to overcome adversity in the ring and after losses and was able to make the adjustments necessary to win.
    The modern obsession with an undefeated record is a childish, simplistic statistics game. Boxing is better, grittier and more psychological than that. Like all great champions,besides his strength, good agility for his size, Wlad’s intelligence makes the difference.
    And I hope that some time in the future the boxing community can disregard nationalism and look at the individual boxer unbiased, understanding that is probably the singularly most individualistic athletic discipline.

  20. Don from Prov 07:53am, 12/02/2013

    Where I said

    “Top fifteen?  Who knows.” 
    Should read: “Top fifteen?  Why not”—

    As it is certainly a defendable opinion.

  21. Don from Prov 07:24am, 12/02/2013

    Good article—and I can relate to the point about Wlad’s vulnerability being part of the reason Mr. McGrain enjoys watching him.  I often find flawed fighters the most interesting, but in this case Wlad’s style—one he had to adapt we can see—coupled with his (to me) hyper-caution, make him less than scintillating to watch.  I would also acknowledge that it seems that Vitali, more than Wlad, is simply a good puncher—strong as hell but an arm puncher who wears fighters down.  I am not one to underrate a boxer such as Tunney but see nothing comparable, skill-wise, coming from Wlad.  Weak chin, what I think is a lack of true stamina when forced to fight outside of his comfort zone, and skin that I’d guess is not that hard to cut all have appeared at times (to me) to be limits that Wlad faces.  Yet, the last two are unproven over the long haul as his style and his strengths have allowed Wlad to keep the current crop of heavyweights from fully testing either.  Top fifteen?  Who knows.  A fighter who is going to exploit Wlad will need quickness and footwork, plus a willingness to face—and an ability to handle—good power; either that or be able to outbox Wlad (see: Tunney?) or walk right through him and put the big guy in the fright zone (Foreman?).

  22. nicolas 03:43am, 12/02/2013

    Great article Matt.

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