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Wladimir Klitschko’s quality of opposition still a glaring hole in his resume

Credit: K2 Promotions / KMG
Credit: K2 Promotions / KMG

In his recent column about measuring the pros and cons of Wladimir Klitschko's legacy, Scott Levinson spent a great deal of time weighing the issue of dominance against quality of opposition. In Levinson's mind, there is a clear paradox there: how can the contenders of a division look good with a dominant champion looming over them? How do you know if the contenders are really that weak, or if the champion is really that strong?

There are a number of ways to get at the root of that question, and I addressed one of them in my own article comparing Klitschko to Larry Holmes. Because Holmes entered the heavyweight title picture during the last quarter of the heavyweight golden age, we have a fairly clear idea of how he would have stacked up in that far better era.

Credit: K2 Promotions / KMG

Credit: K2 Promotions / KMG

While we don't need to evaluate Holmes purely on his dominance over the "Lost Generation of Heavyweights," nonetheless there is a way to evaluate the merits of that later domination as well, and we can apply that model to Wladimir Klitschko. It's a question of focus: how does the division look without the dominant champion as part of the equation. In other words, how do those contenders fare against each other? Is the division healthy? This is exactly the same standard one would apply whether there were a dominant champion or not.

If a division is healthy, but ruled by a dominant champion, then there should be a clear hierarchy in the weight class. At the top is the dominant champ; beneath him are two to four strong contenders who have been whipped by the dominant champ, fight highly competitive bouts with each other, and whip all of the lower tier contenders; and beneath them are the lower tier contenders, who whatever they do can't threaten either the dominant champ or the few boxers ranked just beneath him. A weak division, on the other hand, has nothing but lower tier contenders.

For an example of a strong division ruled by a dominant champ, look no further than the modern super middleweights. Andre Ward is the top dog by a mile, and everyone knows it. Yet this doesn't change the fact that Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler are still Hall of Fame material, and everyone knows that too. Beneath them are scads of lesser guys, like Lucian Bute, Arthur Abraham, Robert Stieglitz, and so on, guys who could more or less beat each other on any given day, but not Froch, Kessler, and Ward.

Klitschko's heavyweight division looks nothing like that. The closest thing to a sub-dominant champ like Kessler and Froch is his own brother, Vitali, who suffers from the same problem of trying to look good ruling a division full of misfits and second-raters. John Ruiz, David Haye, or Alexander Povetkin are simply not comparable to Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler in terms of relative merit (or Archie Moore, Ezzard Charles, and Jersey Joe Walcott for that matter).

So yes, you can have a dominant champ and still have a division that is obviously and clearly very strong. And yes, while Wladimir Klitschko is the clear, dominant champion, he also just as clearly rules over a heavyweight division as weak or weaker than the infamous Lost Generation of the 1980s.




4 comments

  1. Here is the comment
    While comparing klitschko to holmes you forgot to mention Klitschko’s win against ray Mercer yes aging but the one who fought holmes Klitschko is in his late 30s still undisputed as far as the opposition
    I am sorry I am not a professional who is Karl Froch and how come you compare him with another boxer to Archie Moorer or Walcott Something is missing in this article or in my head for that matter

    • Zapaldo,

      I’ll be happy to answer/rebut your comments. Klitschko fans often point to the Ray Mercer win. As a one-time fan of Merciless Ray Mercer, as well as having met him a few times and watched him work up close many more times, I can tell you hands down the many Wlad Klitschko fought was NOT the same guy who gave Lennox Lewis the toughest fight of his career.

      Even on paper, that case is crystal be clear. Mercer’s last good win was in 1996, over Tim Witherspoon. After that, Mercer spent almost two years recuperating from neck surgery, and didn’t fight another “name” opponent for four more years, that being the Klitschko fight. To top it all off, Mercer was 40 by then, and Ray Mercer was never a Bernard Hopkins (or a Wlad Klitschko for that matter — the brothers take very good care of themselves).

      The other thing is my reference to the Rocky Marciano era. If you know who was who in the heavyweights at that time, there was a clear hierarchy … just like the modern super heavyweights. People knock the Rock for ruling a weak division, but the thing is that the division wasn’t that weak. If people want to call the likes of Archie Moore and Ezzard Charles old, alright, but those old guys were kicking even more ass than B-Hop does today.

  2. @Rich Thomas. Do you want to know the biggest problem with boxing in general, and the heavyweight division in particular? Answer: YOU. You, as part of a lame, ignorant, biased, and generally stupid boxing media. The arguments against the Klitschkos has mutated and morphed quite a bit over the years. But congrats, this is the stupidest argument yet. And that’s a real accomplishment, given just how biased and stupid some of the arguments are. First of all, since the Holmes era, the various governing bodies have greatly expanded their control (and parasitic sustenance) off the sport. There are numerous examples of this. But there’s probably no more perfect example than the fact that after Klitscko won the WBA title against David Haye, he was later declared “WBA Super” Champion and Povetkin installed as the “WBA World Champion”. This of course generates more money and sanctioning capability for the WBA, and to the detriment of the sport, creates more of a champion hodgepodge (which you are convoluting into an argument that we don’t know who the real #2 and #3 guys are). Also, the belts don’t mean that much in the public eye. The Klitschkos make a point of keeping their belts and obeying the rules of the governing bodies. But with or without the belts, everyone knows they’re the best today. And belt or no belt, everybody knows David Haye is up at the top. Any objective person knows David Haye would have DOMINATED certain other eras. Do you really like Holmes against David Haye? How about Mike weaver?Norton? How about 5’11” 202lb. Jerry Quarry? How about Michael Spinks? Leon Spinks? Jimmy Ellis? Do you even know who he is? How about David Haye vs. Ingemar Johhansen? Max Schmelling? Also, while you cite the current Super Middleweight division as an example of how things used to be in the GOOD heavyweight eras, tell me who the Kessler and Froch equivalents were during Joe Louis’ 10 year reign. Last, in your supposed “Golden Era” of heavyweights, you miss some key points: Frazier and the others made their names during Ali’s 3 year absence. During the 10 plus year period that Ali held the title 3 times, assuming HE was #1, who were the consensus #2, or #3 guy? Was it Liston, who became a non-factor after losing to Ali twice? Was it Frazier, who beat Ali when Ali came back then only lost to Ali after he was destroyed by Foreman? Was it Foreman, who was sent into retirement by Jimmy Young – a journeyman? Was it Norton, who beat Ali (arguably all 3 times) but was destroyed by Foreman? Was it Holmes, who beat a washed up Ali, then dominated a supposedly “weak” era until he lost to light-heavyweight Spinks? In other words: YOUR THEORY IS IDIOTIC. And if you delete my post, I will make a point of embarrassing you on the other sites I write for.

    • The Klitschkobot thinks “any objective person knows David Haye would have DOMINATED certain other eras.”

      I for one would love to see what other sites you “write” for. If your articles are as ignorant and juvenile as your trolling, I bet your audience is measured in single digits.

      As you’re an idiot, I’ll spell out what that means for you: 1 to 9.

      And why would anyone delete your laughable post? You pretty much shoot yourself in the face, without any help from anyone.

      Finally, you clearly haven’t heard the old hip hop rule: “Even as you dis that guy, you spread his name.” Assuming you had an audience of devoted readers, which you don’t, if you did start some kind of flame war with these guys, all you would do is show those readers how truly terrible your own stuff is by comparison. Because while ProBox isn’t always great, it’s usually at least OK, and you Mr. Zack D suck big hairy donkey balls.

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