Saturday, March 3, 2012
Only history is left for Wladimir Klitschko
By Dan Rafael
Wladimir Klitschko needed only four rounds to destroy Jean-Marc Mormeck and earn his 50th KO.
There were no surprises on Saturday at the Esprit Arena in Düsseldorf, Germany, where a crowd of about 50,000 watched as heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko toyed with Jean-Marc Mormeck like a child plucking wings off of a fly.
As expected, Klitschko rolled to the uncompetitive fourth-round destruction of Mormeck, the 39-year-old former cruiserweight champion who hadn't fought in 15 months and had looked awful in his three heavyweight bouts after moving up in weight.
There was one round in which Mormeck -- seven inches shorter and 25 pounds lighter than the giant Klitschko -- landed no punches. Zero. There was another in which he landed one. It was that bad of a showing for Mormeck (36-5, 22 KOs), who was simply out of his depth.
All the while, Klitschko (57-3, 50 KOs) jabbed him, fired some left hooks and dropped bombing right hands. Mormeck was a sitting duck until Klitschko, who can be a fluid combination puncher when he wants to be, put together a sweet three-punch combo to knock Mormeck out -– a stiff left that froze him, a massive and flush right hand behind it and a window-dressing left as Mormeck was falling to the canvas.
It was easy, easy work for Klitschko, who scored his coveted 50th career knockout and continues to dominate the heavyweight division, which, admittedly, is short on talent and long on Klitschkos.
Klitschko has been champion since 2006, has made 11 defenses (nine by knockout) during his second title reign and has barely lost any rounds along the way.
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Frankly, as I said on the air while calling the fight as a commentator for the American television audience on Epix, had Mormeck won, I would have considered it an even bigger heavyweight title-fight upset than when Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson.
Between Klitschko and his older brother, fellow champion Vitali Klitschko, they have basically cleaned out the top 10. The one top-10 guy they haven't faced is Alexander Povetkin, who has blatantly ducked the Klitschkos.
As the brothers have laid waste to the division, it's becoming increasingly difficult to see what fight on the horizon would pose any challenge. Wladimir owes a mandatory defense to Tony Thompson, whom he has already knocked out. There's a chance a fight in America will materialize later this year against Cristobal Arreola, who was already knocked out by Vitali. Rising American prospect Seth Mitchell is still too green.
After the destruction of Mormeck, Klitschko mentioned two other possible opponents from the U.K. –- Tyson Fury and David Price -– but neither is ready yet, if they ever will be.
So what's left for Klitschko to accomplish as he continues one of history's most dominant heavyweight championship reigns?
I can think of only two things, both of which I asked Klitschko about during an interview we had a few days before the fight. He was noncommittal about both, but said, "You have pretty good ideas" before he chuckled.
Wladimir owns three of the four major sanctioning organization belts, plus the lineal championship.
Vitali has the WBC version of the title. But Vitali is 40 and, although he just retained the belt three weeks ago in a dominant win against Dereck Chisora, he doesn't plan to stick around forever. I am convinced that Wladimir wants nothing more than to win the WBC title once his brother either loses it (because they won't fight each other) or retires.
The only other meaningful accomplishment for Klitschko -- who also was a 1996 Olympic gold medalist -- would be to look longer-range and grind toward the all-time heavyweight record for title defenses.
The record is 25, held by the great Joe Louis, who was champion from 1937 to 1948 and made many of those defenses during his so-called "bum of the month" circuit.
With his 50th knockout, Klitschko moved into fifth on the all-time list for most knockouts by a heavyweight champion. He had been tied with the legendary Jack Dempsey and Louis.
Why not look at another Louis stat to match? Klitschko needs 15 more defenses to surpass Louis. It's a daunting task. Sure, it's unlikely. Impossible, some would say.
Certainly to have any chance, Klitschko would need to fight more than just once or twice a year. He's 35 and turns 36 on March 25. With his dedication, conditioning and the fact that he takes almost no punishment, he should have some good years left. There is nothing else to accomplish for him in the here and now. So why not just keep racking up defenses and look to a record in the future? Because right now, there is nobody who can touch him.