Wlad already heavyweight royalty

Few remaining goals left to take aim at, but two could set Klitschko apart

Updated: July 7, 2012, 10:22 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

The outcome came as little surprise when heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, a massive favorite as always, smashed Tony Thompson in a rematch that took place only because one of the sanctioning organizations made Thompson a mandatory challenger based on a victory against journeyman Maurice Harris that happened more than a year ago.

Klitschko did as he pleased. He thoroughly dominated the entire fight Saturday before dropping the American with a clean right hand -- his best punch -- in the fifth round and whacking him out with a series of shots at 2 minutes, 56 seconds of the sixth round at the Stade de Suisse, a 30,000-plus-seat outdoor soccer stadium in Berne, Switzerland.

[+] EnlargeWladimir Klitschko
AP Photo/dapd/Daniel MaurerTony Thompson proved to be less a match for Wladimir Klitschko on Saturday than he was (although just barely) in their first fight, in 2008.

The fans got what they came for, Klitschko added yet another chapter to his growing legacy, and the 40-year-old Thompson -- who made it to his feet after the final knockdown but was in zero condition to continue -- got his big-payday golden parachute.

Thompson (36-3, 24 KOs) had given Klitschko at least some competition in their 2008 mandatory bout -- although not much -- before being knocked out in the 11th round. He put up far less of a fight this time around, even though he had two good knees, unlike when he was hampered by a right knee injury he suffered in training camp before their first fight.

Thompson had promised to be aggressive, but he wasn't. Trainer Barry Hunter begged him to double and triple up with his right jab. He wouldn't or, most likely, couldn't because he didn't like the fury coming back at him. And even though Thompson was fairly busy with his punches compared to most Klitschko opponents, he barely landed anything, much less anything of note. What little he did land had very little steam.

Meanwhile, Klitschko shredded him to make the 12th title defense (10th by knockout) of his second reign and continue to show that he is best big man on the planet.

If you look at any list of historical statistical comparisons of the top heavyweights in history, Klitschko ranks right up there on all the lists along with legends such as Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes and Jack Dempsey. That's heavyweight royalty, where Klitschko now resides.

There is little left for Klitschko to accomplish after dispatching one top-10 foe after another during his six-year championship reign.

He has been the best amateur in the world; he won a 1996 Olympic super heavyweight gold medal.

As a professional, he is the best heavyweight of his (admittedly weak) era and a Hall of Fame lock.

Klitschko doesn't like questions about his legacy and shies away from any direct discussion about it, although he does acknowledge that it is important to him.

A few days before the fight, I interviewed Klitschko and rattled off some of his statistics and where they ranked in relation to other all-time great heavyweights. Klitschko, as politely as he could, said simply that he wasn't interested in hearing about it. He said we could talk about it after he retired. (I'll hold him to that.)

But the fact is, if you look at any list of historical statistical comparisons of the top heavyweights in history, Klitschko ranks right up there on all the lists along with legends such as Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes and Jack Dempsey. That's heavyweight royalty, where Klitschko now resides.

It doesn't matter if you're talking about knockout percentage, title defenses, record, length of reign, whatever. Klitschko is near the top in every single category.

In championship fights, he is 19-2 with 16 knockouts and on Saturday moved his overall record to 58-3 with 51 knockouts.

And there isn't a legit threat to him at the moment, especially when you consider he and his older brother, fellow titleholder Vitali Klitschko, are adamant that they will never fight each other because of a promise they made to their mother. You can't go back on your word to mom.

There are two possible goals left for Wladimir to strive for, the same goals that have been sitting there for him following other recent dominant victories:

• He can wait until his brother retires, which might happen after Vitali's September defense in Moscow against Manuel Charr (especially if Vitali wins a parliament seat in the Ukraine elections in October), and go after that version of the title. Wladimir would love nothing more than to own all of the major belts, and that's the only one missing from his collection. Grabbing that last belt is something he wants, too, even if he won't say it publicly.

• He can also just keep lining 'em up and knocking 'em down with a long-range goal of breaking the hallowed consecutive title defenses record -- for any division -- of 25, set by the great Louis. With one more defense, Klitschko will be more than halfway home. He's only 36 (not old for heavyweights these days), is in top physical condition, hasn't been in any tough fights for years and remains as good and as committed to boxing as he ever has been.

It won't be easy to get to 25, and maybe it's just fantasy. It would certainly help Klitschko's cause if he could be a little more active. I don't think it's too much to ask him to fight three times a year. Even four times shouldn't be out of the question when he is blowing opponents out and trains year-round.

In fact, some of the people in Klitschko's inner circle believe that he is still getting better even after everything he has already accomplished.

That is a scary thought. A very scary thought.

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