Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, Evander Holyfield and Wladimir Klitschko? The questions is not who is the top heavyweight boxer of all time, but just how good is Klitschko and where should he be ranked when compared against the legends of the sport.
Klitschko exploded onto the seen and earned worldwide notoriety by dominating the 1996 Olympic Games, where he won a gold medal in the super-heavyweight division. Since turning professional, the Ukrainian giant has accumulated a record of 53-3, including 47 wins coming by the way of knockout, all while fighting top competition. Currently, Klitschko holds the IBO, IBF, WBO and Ring Magazine world heavyweight titles and has not lost a bout in nearly five years.
Under the tutelage of legendary trainer Emanuel Steward, Klitschko has learned to use his unprecedented combination of size, speed and athleticism to develop a simple, but highly effective fighting style. The 6’6 ½’’ 245lb heavyweight uses the top jab among the current heavyweights to control his opponents and set up thunderous straight-right hands and sneaky, but powerful left hooks. “Foot Speed. He can move in, explode, move out, move back in, explode, and I’ve never seen anyone that could…move in and out and be in perfect balance,” Emanuel Steward explained. Klitschko has earned the nickname “Dr. Steel Hammer” by having one of the hardest punches in boxing today and by earning a PhD in sports science.
After studying several of the “top 10” heavyweights of all time lists, it appears that Klitschko would be both a favorite and underdog if pitted against certain legendary fighters.
Klitschko vs. Mike Tyson: A bout between the pre-Buster Douglas Tyson and Klitschko would be a clear mismatch. Even though he measures in at less than six feet tall, Tyson would use his superior head and upper-body movement to move inside of Klitschko’s jab and land his trade mark uppercuts. Prediction: Tyson via third round KO.
Klitschko vs. Muhammad Ali: Perhaps the most interesting match up of all would pit Ali against Klitschko. This bout would play out similar to the famous rumble in the jungle. Ali would out box the more powerful fighter, occasionally taking hard shots, but wearing down the bigger man over the course of the fight. Prediction: Ali via tenth round KO.
Klitschko vs. Larry Holmes: The most technical bout would be between Klitschko and Homes. Both fighters would try to set the pace with highly effective jabs, while throwing the occasional right hand. Klitschko would use a slight punching power advantage, quicker feet and a larger repertoire (left hook) to outpoint the dangerous Holmes. Prediction: Klitschko by unanimous decision.
Klitschko vs. Evander Holyfield: A fight between Klitschko and Holyfield would be fast pace, high action bout. Holyfield would press Klischko, forcing the bigger man into exchanges and possibly causing a cut. In the end, Holyfield would be a victim of a big right and from the Ukrainian. Prediction: Klitschko via sixth round KO
So the question has not been answered – just how good is Wladimir Klitschko? Well, when all else fails why not let one of the best trainers of all time weigh in: “Wladimir’s becoming a complete fighter,” explained Steward. “Wladimir is gonna be the one I don’t think I could train a man to beat the way he is. I’m serious. I’ve never had a fighter – I went from Holyfield and all the guys I’ve worked with, never, Lennox – (Wladimir) is a very, very committed, very difficult fighter to beat. Because he won’t let you fight him. He makes you fight what he wants you to fight. But the biggest thing which I think people are not looking at is his speed for a big man. Tremendous speed.” Steward, meanwhile, insists that the huge Ukrainian’s “next three fights will define him as a great heavyweight champion. Wladimir is close to Lennox.”
Obviously Emanuel Steward has a slightly biased opinion. With that being said, it’s not out of the question that Wladimir Klitschko will be considered one of the 10-15 best heavyweights of all time when his career is over. If Klitschko can win 3-5 more fights against notable foes, such as David Haye, Nikolai Valuev, Alexander Dimitrenko, Eddie Chambers, Odlanier Solis or Chris Arreola, he could retire roughly 60-3, as the unified heavyweight champion and with an unbeaten streak of six or seven years.