The two most dominant fighters in boxing today are without question Floyd Mayweather and Wladimir Klitschko. Pretty Boy hasn’t come close to losing a fight since his first dance with Jose Luis Castillo in 2002. The only fighter who was at one time thought to threaten him — Manny Pacquiao — has since fallen by the wayside. Mayweather’s place as boxing’s Pound-for-Pound kingpin looks unassailable to all enemies but Father Time.
Big Wlad isn’t undefeated, but he hasn’t come close to losing a fight since his first dance with Sam Peter in September 2005. Sixteen victories, ten of them by knockout, and seven years later, no one even remotely threatens big Wlad. Like Mayweather, he looks unbeatable in the face of any opponent except the tickling clock.
Yet Klitschko gets far less respect than Mayweather. Not that Mayweather doesn’t have his detractors, and even many who acknowledge his greatness evince no great admiration for the man.
Nonetheless, Mayweather is acclaimed while many blame Klitschko for the moribund state of the heavyweight division. Why is Dr. Steelhammer so disdained, while Mayweather is so applauded (if grudgingly so)?
The answer comes down to one simple idea: Klitschko is boring. Take both men’s approaches to boxing. Both fighters are fundamentally defensive, but whereas Floyd Mayweather puts on a spellbinding display of grace and skill, Klitschko relies on a simple stick-and-move approach.
Klitschko’s somewhat mobile, jab-heavy efforts work only because he has a huge size advantage over most opponents, and the few who are his own size have far less ability. Mayweather makes opponents miss by a matter of fractions of an inch, and he looks great doing it. Klitschko makes opponents miss by several inches, and he looks merely above average doing it.
Furthermore, Klitschko’s out of the ring persona is also a problem. I appreciate that he is a consummate gentleman outside the ring, but even good guys can generate drama. Dr. Steelhammer is so restrained he sounded forced when he verbally retaliated against David Haye’s over-hyped trash talking. Mayweather, on the other hand, is a quote-seeker’s dream.
At the end of the day, if Wladimir Klitschko wonders why he isn’t as successful as Floyd Mayweather, despite being as dominant, he has only himself to blame. There is little he can do about his grinding approach to winning fights, since that approach is designed to protect Klitschko’s suspect chin and recovery rate.
However, he could have been a little more flashy or a little more menacing outside of the ring, and he could have started years ago. You don’t need to be a jerk to have an interesting media persona. If Dr. Steelhammer had acted little more like his moniker implies, it certainly would have paid him dividends in terms of both his legacy and his pocketbook.