Fight Pick & Preview – Klitschko vs. Pulev:
On September 6, world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko defends his crown against top contender Kubrat Pulev in Hamburg, Germany. Klitschko is riding a long wave of unchallenged success, but there is a sneaking suspicion on the part of some that Pulev may be something other than typical Klitschko fodder. Fans could certainly use a competitive heavyweight title fight, something that hasn’t been witnessed in years.
- Date: September 6, 2014
- Site: O2 World Arena, Hamburg, Germany
- Titles: World Heavyweight Championship
Wladimir Klitschko, 62-3 (52 KOs), Kiev, Ukraine
Kubrat Pulev, 20-0 (11 KOs), Sofia, Bulgaria
It’s not just that Klitschko is dominant. Winning every fight for a decade is remarkable, but nothing new. What puts it on a different level is that it’s difficult to remember a time Klitschko was even hit solidly. A lot of that may have to do with a deteriorated heavyweight division that is devoid of quality contenders. But some of it has to do with Klitschko becoming a master of who he is. He took some knocks on the way up, but by the end of the day, he managed to make maximum use of his assets, while camouflaging his weaknesses.
The heavyweight champion is able to make use of his reach, both in the form of an accurate jab with a sledgehammer right hand. Both are thrown from long-range, before opponents can threaten to land anything of their own. It’s boring, but effective, as opponents have struggled to gain any foothold over the champion for years. It allows Klitschko to conceal his weaknesses–an inability to exchange, a less-than invulnerable chin, and stamina issues when in a dogfight. No one has been able to drag him to those places in recent years.
The reasons for optimism surrounding Pulev are understandable. He has decent size and at least won’t be dwarfed by Klitschko. That could be a big factor, with most Klitschko opponents having to struggle massively just to get within range to land shots. In addition, though he is 33, Pulev is a fresh fighter untainted by losses. He is unbeaten and ambitious, carrying with him a winning attitude. Unlike recent Klitschko adversaries, he won’t enter the ring already defeated. Klitschko will really have to beat the fight out of this guy.
Pulev has a nice fluidity to him. He has a looseness to his limbs and a suddenness to his punches that you like to see with a contender trying to jump up to the next level. With skills honed from a long amateur career, Pulev can really fight. With wins over Tony Thompson, Alexander Ustinov, and Alexander Dimitrenko, he has some pro credentials and has probably been the most compelling heavyweight challenger in the world for the past year or two.
Pulev can take a while to get warmed up, as he showed by struggling early with Tony Thompson in their 2013 bout. But the Bulgarian challenger warms up nicely and carries his power and energy late into fights. Sometimes, Klitschko starts off slow and cautiously, which could set up well for Pulev.
It’s a bit unclear if Pulev has the power to truly threaten Klitschko. He can hit, but he’s not the slugger Lamon Brewster or Corrie Sanders were–two men who knocked out Klitschko. And while a skilled boxer, will he be able to win a long-range chess match with Klitschko? In other words, it’s a bit difficult to picture a clear path to victory for Pulev. He is certainly skillful, but fighting Klitschko looks easier than it actually is.
A lot of folks say Klitschko is allowed to thrive only by virtue of a dearth of competent heavyweights. At face value, Klitschko looks beatable, if only there were a hard-hitting slugger with passion who could bull his way inside. But again, it’s a lot more difficult than it appears, when getting slammed by telephone jabs whenever you step into his range. It makes a guy lose his nerve and then he’s easy pickings for the sharpshooting Ukrainian standout.
Klitschko vs. Pulev Prediction
I don’t doubt the overall quality of Pulev and he should be able to give Klitschko a different look. It would in fact be surprising if Pulev laid at the end of Klitschko’s reach all night en route to a TKO loss or lopsided decision defeat. Expect a more robust effort from Pulev. After a nip-and-tuck first several rounds, both men will find success in the middle rounds.
It just may come down to superior firepower and at some point, Klitschko is going to land something fight-changing to alter the match. I see Klitschko stopping Pulev late.
Prediction: Wladimir Klitschko wins by 10th-round TKO.