Klitschko heavy favorite over Pianeta

Once again heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko will step into the ring to defend his cadre of belts and once again the opponent standing across the ring from him will be a heavy, heavy underdog.

This time it will be 28-year-old German-based Italian Francesco Pianeta, whom Klitschko will meet on Saturday (Epix and EpixHD.com, 4:30 p.m. ET) at SAP Arena in Mannheim, Germany. The names may change but the expected result is always the same.

Ukraine's Klitschko, 37, who lives in Hollywood, Fla., has so thoroughly dominated the heavyweight division in recent years that there isn't a single big man who would be even close to being favored, perhaps with the exception of fellow titleholder and older brother Vitali Klitschko. But, as they have said for their entire careers, the brothers will never face each other because of a promise they made to their mother many years ago.

How dominant has Klitschko been? He will be making his 14th defense of his second title reign, the third most in boxing history, behind only Larry Holmes (20) and Joe Louis (25). Klitschko has been champion for seven years, has not been remotely challenged in eight years -- since getting knocked down three times by Samuel Peter in a 2005 title elimination fight but winning a clear decision -- and has not lost in nine years.

Klitschko's dominance has been so overwhelming that some have taken to criticizing him because his fights are so one-sided.

Klitschko has come to accept that, barring the emergence of a historical rival to get people excited, there is little he can do to change opinions.

"I'm going for another undefeated fighter, but it doesn't matter. It's been a one-sided game, even when I fought David Haye. That was also one-sided and it continues, I'm always getting criticized and I totally understand the situation," Klitschko told ESPN.com. "People are getting bored because my fights only go in one direction. They are so ridiculously one-sided. But it's actually exciting to me."

Klitschko then brought up his most recent fight, a virtual shutout decision in November against Mariusz Wach, whom he ravaged for almost every second of every round (and then Wach tested positive for steroids and was suspended).

While Klitschko hammered Wach with brutal shots, the underdog had a singular moment when he briefly wobbled Klitschko.

"In the Wach fight everybody was talking about the fifth round when he got through with one punch," Klitschko said. "Everybody wanted to make a big deal about it. But there are 12 rounds and I got hit like once and something happened. People don't want to talk about how he never really hit me the rest of the fight and I hit him, a lot.
"So I understand the situation. But I will continue my fighting schedule. I want to stay busy."

Klitschko had hoped to be facing secondary titlist Alexander Povetkin, one of his mandatory challengers. But when negotiations stalled, Klitschko decided to schedule the fight with Pianeta (28-0-1, 15 KOs).

"I was totally frustrated," Klitschko said. "I decided to stay busy. It was six months, a long break, so I wanted to fight. I always remember what [late trainer and close friend] Emanuel Steward would tell me -- 'stay busy, knock people out.' And that's what I am doing."

The fight with Povetkin was eventually forced to a purse bid when the sides could not make a deal, but -- in a highly unusual move -- it was scheduled to take place shortly before Klitschko and Povetkin (25-0, 17 KOs) both had interim bouts scheduled. It will have been a waste of time should either lose; Russia's Povetkin fights May 17 in Moscow against Andrzej Wawrzyk (27-0, 13 KOs).

The purse bid was a stunner. Klitschko's K2 Promotions bid $7.13 million and Povetkin's promoter Sauerland Event bid $6,014,444. But Russian promoter Vladimir Hryunov made an extraordinary bid of $23,333,330, the third-biggest winning purse bid ever for a fight that most experts believe won't come even close to generating that kind of money. The bout is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 31, probably in Moscow.

Klitschko (59-3, 51 KOs), who is due 75 percent of the money, would earn a career-high payday of $17,499,997 with Povetkin due the remaining 25 percent for a career-best $5,833,333.

With Pianeta in front of him, Klitschko was reluctant to discuss the Povetkin fight and the massive purse bid.

"I have learned in my life, especially in boxing, you go step by step, so I am focused on Pianeta," he said. "A lot of things can happen. I don't know what [Hryunov is] thinking, but I don't even want this in my mind right now. In my opinion it's unfair to Pianeta to have a purse bid called two weeks before the fight. It happened and I was surprised."

Despite Pianeta's thin résumé -- his two biggest wins came in 2012 in 10-round decisions against long-faded names, Frans Botha and former titlist Oliver McCall -- he is well-known to Klitschko. The 6-foot-5 southpaw was one of Klitschko's sparring partners from last summer as he was training for his rematch against Tony Thompson.

"He was for one week in the training camp and he definitely gave me good work," Klitschko said. "He was very aggressive [but] I didn't get hit once by him so I cannot judge him."

When asked why he was giving Pianeta a title shot if he so easily handled him in sparring, Klitschko was a little frustrated, as many are by the lack of name contenders for him to fight.

"Tell me an alternative? Who else should it be? In my opinion, he did deserve this fight," Klitschko said. "He has an amazing life story. He is a [testicular] cancer survivor, he's motivated, he's undefeated, his attitude is very self-confident. He wants to make it happen. One night he has to be good and this is it. Any opponent, this is their life chance and sometimes people do magic."

Then, without being asked, the 6-6, 245-pound Klitschko brought up brash British heavyweight Tyson Fury, the 6-9, 250-pound giant who made his American debut on April 20 and stopped former cruiserweight titlist Steve Cunningham. Fury (21-0, 15 KOs), 24, got knocked down and struggled severely, but scored a seventh-round knockout to move him one step closer to becoming a mandatory challenger.

"I'm honestly embarrassed for his behavior as a representative of the sport," Klitschko said of Fury. "I don't get it. His disrespect for everything and the way he presents himself, I was thinking I was watching 'The Jerry Springer Show.' He was pushing and head-butting [Cunningham] and he got dropped on his butt. He was in a difficult fight with a cruiserweight who doesn't have a punch. I've never seen a heavyweight get hit on the nose by a cruiserweight and go down. It was funny and embarrassing at the same time. He needs to deserve to fight a champion. He's just another guy barking at me.

"I will even defend David Haye in this case. I heard Tyson Fury said David Haye was pathetic. David Haye will knock Fury's butt out cold. Tyson Fury is just loud and ridiculous. He needs to deserve to fight me. Let him beat [Kubrat] Pulev [in the eliminator] and down the road I will give him the shot if he deserves it, but he needs to get in better shape. He is not in the same league as I am. When you're on the top, dogs keep barking and the caravan keeps going."

Those are harsh words from Klitschko, who is typically very respectful. Maybe he is just trying to drum up interest in a possible opponent at a time when interest in his fights, at least outside of Europe, is passing. One of the reasons for that is because Klitschko is so dominant.

The criticism will keep coming because of that and Klitschko said he accepts that.

"I'm just enjoying myself. That is my motivation," he said. "I want to try to be ridiculously good so there will be more one-sided fights and I hear more complaints about my opponents. I want to keep it this way. That means I am doing my job as good as I can. At age 37, I feel better than ever.

"My attitude is just to continue what I'm doing as good as I can so I will get even more criticism that these fights are one-sided."