What kind of photographs of HBO executives in compromising positions does Wladimir Klitschko have? The world’s #1-ranked heavyweight knocked out Hasim Rahman in the 7th round of a complete mismatch after the ref stopped the bout. It wasn’t Klitschko’s fault he was so much better than the over-the-hill Rahman. But did HBO have to put it on TV? Nobody really thought this was going to be competitive, did they? When a more legit opponent for Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin, had to pull out with a training injury, why didn’t HBO just do what they always do in similar situations and reject Rahman as an opponent they would broadcast? Maybe they didn’t have control over that; maybe German television did. But they could have just passed and saved themselves the air fare to Germany. Unless their contract to air this Klitschko fight was so ironclad…?
Klitschko just makes me want to tear all my hair out, all the time, so maybe I’m reflecting that frustration here. But the selling point for matching him with Rahman is that he might land one big punch and knock Klitschko out. Honestly, if that’s the best thing Klitschko-Rahman had going for it, that’s a pretty thin margin of entertainment. Rahman took the fight on short notice, switched trainers at the last minute, and was coming off a controversial no contest that he wanted out of simply, it seemed, because he didn’t feel like fighting any more that night because of a cut. Rahman’s been a legitimate top-10 heavyweight in the past, but he’s always been erratic, his career has largely been centered on one big punch — the night he knocked out an out-of-shape Lennox Lewis — and anyone who’s watched him lately knew he was on the decline. His chances of landing that one big punch on Klitschko were remote.
And so Klitschko made mincemeat of him. Some of that can be attributed to the caliber of fighter Klitschko is. Frustrating or not, the 6’7″ heavyweight titlist is pretty good at what he does: throw that nasty jab ad infinitum, land the occasional powerful straight right and left hook, and when his opponent charges, tie him up, block shots with his arms or take a step back. Tony Thompson, Klitschko’s last opponents, was able to use his size to land the occasional meaningful punch. Rahman couldn’t land anything, ever. He looked exhausted at the end of the 1st round. Nothing worked. In the 3rd, for no apparent reason beyond “Why not?,” Rahman even played rope-a-dope. In the 6th, a round where Klitschko landed a triple left hook that floored Rahman, Klitschko connected with 28 punches to Rahman’s 1. That prompted the ref to look in on his health, and he threatened to stop it if Klitschko landed more big shots, which he did in the 7th, and the ref followed through on his threat.
I said when this fight was made that Rahman didn’t deserve the chance. I’m not anti-Rahman, per se — he’s had an eventful and interesting career, to say the least, and he’s made exciting bouts in the past — but he’s never been very good, even at his best. At this point in his career, Rahman is worse than not very good. the best you can say about his performance this evening is that when given a chance to quit this time, he passed it up. He may not have come to win, or maybe he came to win and just couldn’t, but his pride in wanting to fight on is commendable.
The heavyweight picture has gotten more promising of late, with the advent of David Haye and Chris Arreola and the return of Vitali Klitschko. Klitschko-Rahman was more like the heavyweight division I’ve come to know and loathe.
Next for the loser: Oh, I don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rahman got another chance just because he’s got a recognizable name. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got five or 10 more. I’ll watch because I’ve got a boxing blog, but I won’t be thrilled about it. The only scenario involving Rahman I can take even remotely seriously is one of the young up-and-comers wants to test himself against him.
Next for the winner: Klitschko owes Povetkin a title shot, and then Arreola. I think those are both mismatches in Klitschko’s favor, but I would certainly watch them, just because they are two young, energetic opponents I think would have a better chance than Rahman. I remain deeply interested in Klitschko-Haye, but Klitschko really likes his belt collection and has shown a willingess to let his mandatory title challengers take priority over the most interesting opponent. Maybe Klitschko-Haye needs some time to marinate; maybe Haye needs to prove himself more at heavyweight before anyone else can take it seriously. But what I see is two men with vulnerable chins, one of whom, Haye, has the power and speed that I theorize could be Klitschko’s Achilles heel. It may not be next, but I’d love for it to be up in 2009.