SPORTS DOCTOR- Down in six: My money's on Dr. Steelhammer
It's a little early to start counting the days, but when a belt-unifying heavyweight fight looms, I can't help but get antsy. Did I mention this first heavyweight unification title fight since 1999 isn't pay-per-view?
April through October, my television stays on WGN (maybe not in October), and rare is the program that prompts me to change the channel. I might switch between innings, but a real title fight is the only thing that preempts my Cubbies.
Real title fights are few and far between. As boxing's popularity waned, someone in a big office opened the gates and vomited out inept and inelegant fighters, as if middle featherweights who can't split a punch will revive the sport. Please.
Boxing rides a sharp and unforgiving fence: it isn't bloody enough to satisfy the public's thirst for gore, and it's no longer skilled enough to make up for it, i.e. Mick Jagger. Like Mick, boxing still thinks of itself as sexy and inventive, as embarrassing as that is.
Once in a great while a fighter comes along who restores the sport's integrity and glamor, a fighter worth celebrating.
Wladimir Klitschko is perfect. Better looking than Jude Law, more muscular than Roger Clemens, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, the Ukrainian Dr. Steelhammer (he has a PhD) is Atlas, supporting the ponderous boxing world on able shoulders.
My father is a boxing expert and a very opinionated one. He's confident Muhammad Ali drugged George Foreman in Zaire, and he knows Floyd Mayweather Jr. depends on a late round advantage.
Last year I introduced my father to Wladimir Klitschko.
Not in person, mind you, as I would still be in shock, but on television. Last March I invited my father over to watch Klitschko fight IBF contender Ray Austin.
If I remember correctly, the fight started at 4pm. I made a big pot of chili and stocked up on beer.
At 4:12 the fight was over.
If you've seen Dr. Steelhammer's left hook, you know why Austin lasted a round and a half (he took four of them to the head).
In July, Klitschko faced Lamon Brewster, to whom he had lost in 2004. In the sixth round, Brewster asked the ref to stop the fight.
On February 23 Klitschko has a real fight against WBO champion Ibragimov Ibragimov, not that being WBO champion means much.
Four months after Klitschko dispatched him, Austin fought to a draw with Ibragimov, who then won his WBO title against flabby former cruiserweight Javier Mora, knocking him out 46 seconds into the first round.
Even 44-year-old Evander Holyfield took Ibragimov twelve rounds last October, losing by decision. At 6'2, Ibragimov has an 85-inch reach, longer than the 6'7 Klitschko's 81 inches. Sounds like an advantage, doesn't it. Not so fast. For all the benefits of his longer reach, Ibragimov's feet rival Master P's for clumsiness. Ibragimov crosses his feet when switching directions.
Oh dear. Ibragimov walks directly into left hooks. When fighting the aged or the overweight, crossing one's feet may not buy one the farm, but against the Hammer of Steel, it's a hefty down payment. Klitschko knows Ibragimov's tactics. After the first tentative rounds, Ibragimov picks up steam and tries to work his opponents to the inside, not Klitschko's strength. Dr. Steelhammer, to turn a phrase, will come out swinging.
When HBO airs the fight, I hope my father will come over to watch it with me. Along with plumbing repair and sausage making, boxing is a shared passion. I hesitate to make another pot of chili, as I don't think Ibragimov will go past the sixth round, if that far. What the heck, I might make a pot. This fight is the Halley's Comet of sports, and it's worth a little celebration.
Shoot, it's even worth pay-per-view.
On February 23, Wladimir Klitschko will fight WBO heavyweight champion Ibragimov Ibragimov at Madison Square Garden.