Friday, March 24, 2023  |


The Ring All-Star Report Cards: Vitali Klitschko


Note: This feature originally appeared in the October edition of THE RING magazine. The November issue, with Floyd Mayweather Jr. on the cover, is on newsstands now. The cover story is titled: “10 Guys Who Would Have Kicked Mayweather's Butt.”

It was out with the old and in with the new as THE RING composed this year’s All-Star Report Cards. Gone from last year’s survey are such old warhorses as Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Chris John and Israel Vazquez. In place of those fighters were newer, fresher names like Yuriorkis Gamboa and Timothy Bradley, a sign that new blood is being pumped into the sport. Meanwhile, names like Sergio Martinez and Pongsaklek Wonjongkam show that our All-Star list always has room for veterans, provided they’re still producing in the ring.

Aside from the youth movement, other trends have emerged this year. For instance, there is a noticeable dip in Mexican or Mexican-American fighters among our 20 All-Stars. When THE RING first compiled this roster in 2003, there were five such fighters listed; this year, there is one. Also, the number of fighters born in the United States shrunk from 13 in 2003 to a measly four this year. Lopez and Miguel Cotto are U.S. citizens by way of Puerto Rico, but they didn’t learn their stuff in the American amateur system, so they can’t be counted. Brits are on the rise, though. There was only one Brit All-Star in 2003, but three made the list this year, sans Hatton.

Perhaps you’re wondering why some of your favorite fighters didn’t make the list, but rest assured that many other fighters were given close consideration. It’s just that some fighters seem to lose fights as we’re creating our list, and others just fall a bit short in terms of box office and general excitement value.

The 20 fighters who made it weren't chosen solely on their ability to sell tickets and attract cable customers but the ability to fill seats definitely plays a big part in our selection process. Some fighters, Nonito Donaire for example, might not yet be a legitimate star on the level of Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao, but we felt he can compete with the best in terms of talent, and is certainly on his way to stardom.

Those who were removed from last year’s list are gone because they simply didn’t do enough to merit inclusion this year. The one exception is the late Edwin Valero. He made it last time, and there was every reason to believe he’d repeat.

With that in mind, here are the 2010 All-Star Report Cards. The fighters are judged on talent, achievement, marketability, support system, and growth potential. They are presented in order of weight class, starting with the heavyweights.

Today: Vitali Klitschko. Tomorrow:

WBC Heavyweight titleholder
40-2 (38 KOs)

TALENT: Age and injuries have slowed him to where he is no longer the destroyer he was prior to his first retirement in 2004, but 39-year-old Vitali can still wear opponents down with his steady jabs and right crosses. He’s also one of the most intelligent heavyweights around, with an intellectual’s understanding of how to use his size and jab to control a fight. His 10th-round KO of Albert Sosnowski showed that he might have regained a little of that right-handed power that helped earn him a brief reign as THE RING’s heavyweight champion. He also uses his 6-foot-7¾ (202cm) height to great advantage by standing tall and leaning away from opponents. He’s never been knocked down, and it has been years since anyone hit him with anything resembling a clean shot to the chin. Grade: A

ACHIEVEMENT: Klitschko stayed busy since last year’s All-Star roundup, defending the WBC title successfully against Chris Arreola, Kevin Johnson and Sosnowski. Like brother Wladimir, Vitali has beaten a decade’s worth of good but not great heavyweights, including Sam Peter, Danny Williams, Corrie Sanders, Kirk Johnson, Larry Donald, Vaughn Bean, Orlin Norris, Ross Puritty and Herbie Hide. And he faces another suspect opponent in Shannon Briggs on Oct. 16. When you consider that Vitali’s only losses have been on a cut (to Lennox Lewis) and a shoulder injury (to Chris Byrd) – in fights that he was winning before the stoppages – it’s clear that he has been a dominating performer. True, he dominated a weak field, but every other heavyweight of the era had the same chance and didn’t do it. Grade: A

MARKETABILITY: He isn’t quite the attraction his younger brother is, but he’s a popular figure overseas. Because he’s perceived as more of an action fighter than Wladimir, he might be able to get back into the good graces of American television if an interesting opponent comes up. Grade: B

SUPPORT SYSTEM: Like his brother, Vitali is managed by the Bernd Boente/Shelly Finkel combo, who kept busy in 2010 turning down offers from Don King to match Vitali with the no longer amusing Nikolai Valuev. Strangely, Vitali recently went on-line with a video tirade, calling Valuev a coward and saying the fans demanded the bout. If this was Vitali the promoter talking, maybe someone should listen, for Klitschko co-promotes his fights with Wladimir under K2 Promotions. And judging by the crowds in Switzerland and Germany, the Brothers K know what they’re doing. Also, Klitschko and Fritz Sdunek have one of the longest boxer/trainer relationships in boxing, going back to Vitali’s amateur days. Grade: A

GROWTH POTENTIAL: He’s announced that he will again run for Mayor of Kiev (he failed in a 2006 bid) but with opponents like Tomasz Adamek and David Haye in the wings, the elder Klitschko will probably continue fighting for a while. The downside is that the Klitschkos enjoy their alphabet belts, and Vitali might get bogged down in trying to please the WBC, which means more dreary mandatory challengers. Grade: B

Previous report cards

Wladimir Klitschko