The Ring All-Star Report Cards: Wladimir 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: Wladimir Klitschko. Tomorrow: Vitali Klitschko.
55-3 (49 KOs)
TALENT: The fighter we’re seeing now is actually the third version of Klitschko. He was a punishing knockout artist when he made his pro debut after winning a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics. Then, from 2003-2005, he was the fragile Klitschko who had trouble staying on his feet. Now, as Wlad 3.0, he is an overly cautious, sometimes dull fighter who controls fights with a long, probing jab. His left hook and straight right are excellent, and at 6 feet, 6¾ inches (199cm) and around 245 pounds (111kg), he is an imposing, statuesque heavyweight. Still, what has kept him undefeated since 2004 is his unwavering concentration. Grade: A-
ACHIEVEMENT: Klitschko has fought twice this year, brutally stopping Eddie Chambers in the 12th round in March and then doing the same in his rematch with Sam Peter in the 10th round on Sept. 11. The latter victory was his 14th successful title defense spread out over two reigns and the second defense of THE RING championship. Not bad for a guy who started out beating the likes of “Wimpy” Halstead, and “Bigfoot” Martin. Klitschko victims include Chris Byrd (twice), Francois Botha, and Hasim Rahman. Klitschko also gave a number of undefeated heavyweights their first losses, including Peter, Calvin Brock, Eliseo Castillo, Ruslan Chagaev, and, in one of the all-time worst stinkers, Sultan Ibragimov. You could say he hasn’t beaten any great fighters, but your argument would be stronger if you could actually name a great heavyweight since the retirement of Lennox Lewis. Grade: A-
MARKETABILITY: Klitschko is a Caucasian with charisma and a knockout percentage that would impress Ernie Shavers, but he can’t barely get a fight on American TV. The moronic statement by HBO president Ross Greenburg regarding viewers not being able to discern between Wladimir and his brother Vitali as the reason for Wladimir not securing HBO dates shows how little Wladimir means in this country. Had Greenburg said the same thing about the Marquez brothers, he’d be labeled a bigot. Apparently, though, fighters from the Ukraine are safe targets. Fortunately, the German public treats Klitschko like a superstar. Grade: A+ (in Europe), C- (in USA)
SUPPORT SYSTEM: Bernd Boente and Shelly Finkel have worked as Klitschko’s business advisors, while Klitschko’s promotional group is K2 Promotions. They seem competent, but a couple of huge international bouts – Klitschko vs. Oleg Maskaev, and Klitschko vs Nikolay Valuev – fell through the cracks. Rather than try to figure out who is at fault, let’s focus on the strong work of trainer Emanuel Steward, who began working with Klitschko when “Dr. Steel Hammer” was beginning to look like a chinless wonder. Steward’s resurrection of Klitschko may go down as one of the great reclamation projects in boxing history. On the personal front, Klitschko is dating gorgeous actress Hayden Panettiere, which means not everyone saw the Ibragimov fight. Grade: A
GROWTH POTENTIAL: Klitschkok has Dec. 11 reserved for a fight against a yet to be determined opponent who he will undoubtedly will pummel. Let’s hope a bout with David Haye happens eventually. Grade: B