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It’s More Dangerous For Roy Jones To Fail Compared To Manning And Bryant

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In 1998 Peyton Manning was a rookie quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. Manning, who will turn 40 this coming March, is now the backup quarterback, due to injury and sub-par play, for the Denver Broncos. In 1996 Kobe Bryant, who turned 37 four months ago, was a second string rookie shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant announced earlier this month that he’ll be retiring at the end of this season and Manning’s future is still undecided as to whether he’ll play during the 2016 NFL season. This coming January Roy Jones 62-9 (45), who made his professional boxing debut on May 6th of 1989, will turn 47. On the 12th of this month Roy was brutally knocked out in the fourth round by former fringe title holder Enzo Maccarinelli in Roy’s 71st bout.

If you follow sports you must know that Manning hasn’t been able to complete a pass to anyone but the defensive players of the Broncos opponents – and Bryant can’t hit the back of the rim let alone make a jump shot. At one time Manning played the quarterback position in the NFL perhaps better than any quarterback who has ever lived. Today you cringe every time he drops back to throw the ball knowing that the defensive player on the other team has as much of a chance to catch it as his favorite receiver and target Demaryius Thomas. These days when Bryant takes a shot the other players on the court step back and look to grab the rebound off of what most on the floor believe is a certain miss. And to think the player who most believe is greatest NBA player since Michael Jordan entered the league can no longer hit an uncontested jump shot is mind boggling. But father time catches up to everybody, that’s the surest bet in the world.

On November 8th 2003, Roy Jones won a controversial majority decision over WBC light heavyweight title holder Antonio Tarver in their first meeting to bring his record to 49-1. For the record, I had Jones edging out Tarver in the last two rounds to secure the decision legitimately. In fact Roy’s gallant stand during the final two rounds of the bout impressed me as much as anything Jones had ever done in a light heavyweight bout. Simply because he was weakened by the dramatic weight loss he’d been force to endure after beating John Ruiz for the WBA heavyweight title eight months earlier — and the outcome rode on the final two rounds and Roy was forced to suck it up like never before in his career and he did to eek past Tarver.

Had Jones decided to retire after beating Tarver, today he’d be considered one of the top-5 pound-for-pound greatest fighters in boxing history. In between the years 1989 and 2003, with the exception of Sugar Ray Leonard, Jones was the most gifted fighter/boxer I’ve seen since Muhammad Ali. Roy could do it all, box, punch with both hands, put punches together in blinding succession to the head and body and he was impossible to touch with a clean shot.

When fans even attempt to compare Floyd Mayweather to Roy Jones from a skill and talent vantage point, it’s a joke. Roy did everything better than Floyd but pick and choose his opposition. He beat Bernard Hopkins and James Toney, two first ballot hall of famers and all-time greats when they were in their prime, and in 24 rounds against them, maybe he lost five. Mayweather doesn’t own a single win on his record that equals Jones beating Hopkins let alone both he and Toney. And to think Roy dominated a quality heavyweight like Ruiz, who went 1-1-1 in three consecutive bouts with Evander Holyfield, and who was 50 pounds heavier than any other opponent Jones ever fought to capture a piece of the heavyweight title….was a career defining accomplishment

Now that I’ve made the case attesting to Jones greatness, it’s come to the point to where he could get seriously hurt and perhaps die if he continues to fight, something neither Peyton Manning or Kobe Bryant risk by continuing to embarrass themselves throwing interceptions and missing shots during games. Roy has been stopped five times during his boxing career and all five times he either was devastated or took a bad beating. Ever since Jones dropped the weight (nearly 20 pounds of muscle) he put on to fight Ruiz and went back down to light heavyweight, his punch resistance has been basically non-existent. At the conclusion of his last bout versus Enzo Maccarinelli, 35, he looked to be left for dead on the ring canvas. Roy was down for more than five minutes and his legs tapped the canvas. The knockout was so devastating that Maccarinelli dropped to one knee in the ring as if he were saying a prayer that Jones would be okay.

Getting beat up and knocked out looks much worse than a washed up quarterback or shooting guard missing the target. ESPN, in fun for a joke, splices tapes together of Manning getting intercepted and Kobe missing shots, but they never do that regarding washed up fighters taking punches and getting knocked out – and that’s because their lives aren’t in jeopardy of ending when they walk onto the football field or basketball court.

Roy failing in the ring looks much worse than a former great football or basketball player not getting it done. Worse than that, Roy Jones’ life is at stake and he could get killed! Hopefully someone will find a way to save Roy from himself before it’s too late, because he cannot be counted on to save himself and the result of that could be tragic. We’re talking brain damage at the least or a crippling injury or death at the other end of the scale.

What drove Roy Jones to be a great pound-for-pound fighter during his prime is now detrimental to his health. Unlike Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant, Roy Jones doesn’t have to make the team in order to box. All he has to do is pass a state physical and his license is good. Unless someone in power figures out a way to deny Jones a boxing license, even on some sort of a technicality, I’m afraid Roy’s career may end under the saddest of circumstances.

Never have I wanted to be more wrong about a fighter!

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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The Avila Perspective, Chapter 10: Cancio, Nevada Hall of Fame and More

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desert town

In the desert town of Blythe where two states are separated by a river, Andrew Cancio was semi-famous despite only being 16 years old. He was a barber and everyone knew it.

“By the time I came out of high school as a barber everybody knew me in Blythe,” said Cancio looking back. “They kept me busy and making good money.”

Cancio is still famous but for a different reason.

Expect a town-sized crowd to arrive as Cancio (18-4-2, 14 KOs) meets Dardan Zenunaj (14-4, 11 KOs) in the 10-round main event on Friday Aug. 17, at Fantasy Springs Casino. The Golden Boy Promotions fight card will be televised by ESPN2.

No longer is Cancio a barber.

“I really loved it. Still cut my sons hair but I just do it for fun. You don’t ever lose your touch,” said Cancio. “It wasn’t a job, it was chill.”

Cancio no longer cuts hair for pay. Instead, he cuts down contenders like one of those electric razors mowing through a mop headed scalp. He’s ruthless.

So far, whenever Cancio fights anywhere in the Southern California desert region his legion of fans appear shouting his name and yelling approval. He’s a rock star in Blythe.

The last time Cancio’s hordes arrived at Fantasy Springs he was fighting Kazakhstan’s Aidar Sharibayev (7-1) who was undefeated at the time and headed toward a title fight. That was last April. It ended in a knockout win for Cancio.

Back in March 2016, Cancio and his Huns fought veteran Hugo Cazares at the Fantasy Springs. That fight ended in three rounds.

In December 2015, Cancio was matched with another contender buster named Rene Alvarado of Nicaragua. Though both have a knack for knocking off contenders, if you stand in front of Cancio you got problems. Alvarado stood in front of the Blythe bomber and down he went in eight rounds.

“Oh yeah. I love fighting in the pocket, it’s like natural for me,” says Cancio who trains in Ventura. “That’s where I feel most comfortable for me. They try to make me fight inside and don’t know that’s what I like.”

He’s hoping that Albania’s Zenunaj goes pocket hunting too.

“I watched a couple of his videos. He seems to be a come forward type of guy,” said Cancio with a hint of glee. “I’m just training to outsmart him, especially inside.”

Cancio needs to win for his fans; the Huns are hungry.

Japanese Fighters

Another returning will be Japan’s Yoshihiro Kamegai (27-4-2, 24 KOs) who meets Gregory Vendetti (19-2-1, 12 KOs) in a 10 round super welterweight clash at Fantasy Springs on Friday.

The last time Kamegai was in the boxing ring he was trading vicious blows against Miguel Cotto for the WBC super welterweight world title. Though he was defeated, many lauded his tremendous effort and do or die spirit.

If you like warriors, then Kamegai is one of many Japanese fighters that have made that trek across the Pacific Ocean to showcase their spirit. It’s been a boost to the boxing world when fighters like Kamegai, Naoya Inoue, Ken Shiro, Kosei Tanaka and Ryosuke Iwasa among others have willingly traveled to America to display their craft.

Incidentally, Iwasa lost the IBF super bantamweight title today to TJ Doheny of Australia by unanimous decision in Tokyo. It was Iwasa’s second defense of the world title he won last September.

Saturday in L.A.

Ed Holmes All Star Boxing returns to the Westin Bonaventure Hotel with another large fight card at the downtown L.A. hotel this Saturday Aug. 18.

Seven undefeated prospects including super lightweight Batyr Akhmedov (4-0) who meets Ismael Barroso (20-2-2) for the WBA Inter-continental title in an eight round clash.

Others on the card include Ricardo Valdovinos, Israel Mercado, John Leo Sato and Arthur Saakyan in separate bouts. A female MMA fight is also scheduled on the card.

The doors open at 5 p.m. at the beautiful venue which has become one of my favorite places to watch boxing. For more information call 323 816-6200 or go to www.allstarfights.com.

Nevada Hall of Fame

Numerous stars will be inducted to Nevada’s Boxing Hall of Fame including several non-fighters.

Leading the list for this year sixth annual induction at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas will be Laila Ali, Sugar Shane Mosley, Kevin Kelley, Earnie Shavers, Don Minor, and Chris Byrd in the fighter category. Also inducted will be Senator Harry Reid, promoter Todd DuBoef and judge Jerry Roth.

Those fighters, trainers and promoters honored who are no longer living include Aaron Pryor, Alexis Arguello, Henry Armstrong, Bill Miller and Jack “Doc” Kearns.

“This is a wonderful class and we are very proud of all of them and we’re eager to celebrate their many accomplishments in this wonderful sport,” said Michelle Corrales-Lewis CEO of NBHOF. “We have come up with a full slate of events to make this an entire celebratory weekend. In a short period of time, we have built a reputation as a first-class Hall of Fame and the fighters look forward to this event every year. We are continually looking for ways to improve and I believe this will be our best year yet.”

Festivities begin Friday at 12 p.m. in the Augustus Room with a meet and greet that ends at 4 p.m. A cocktail party begins at 7:30 at the Caesars pool area weather permitting.

On Saturday, at 11 a.m. an amateur boxing card takes place at the Augustus Room and ends at 3 p.m.

Red carpet photo opportunities begin at 5:30 p.m. and is open to the public. The actual ceremonies start 7 p.m. at the Augustus Room and only those with tickets or invitations will be admitted. For more information go to this web site: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/nevada-boxing-hall-of-fame-6th-annual-induction-dinner-tickets-43144441185

Top Rank

WBO featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez announced he made a change in trainers and is now working with Eddy Reynoso who also trains middleweight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, according to public relations ace Ricardo Jimenez.

Valdez, 27, suffered a broken jaw in his last world title defense against over-weight Scott Quigg of England. He still has not been cleared by doctors but made the decision with his management to depart with former trainer Manny Robles Jr.

“I want to thank Manny Robles and his whole team for everything they have done for me over the last few years, but like everything in life, changes are sometimes needed to move forward. I’m very grateful to them for their friendship and all they have taught me”, said Valdez who lived next to Robles in Lake Elsinore.

The two-time former Mexican Olympian is managed by Frank Espinoza and expected to return to defend the title soon. He is promoted by Top Rank

Top Rank also signed an extension that now ties them with ESPN for seven years and includes Saturday’s show out of Atlantic City.

Heavyweights Bryant Jennings (23-2, 13 KOs) of Philadelphia meets Alexander Dimitrenko (41-3, 26 KOs) in the main event at Ocean Resort Casino. ESPN will televise and stream the fight card.

“I’m just grateful for the opportunity, grateful for the consistent fighting schedule. I’m just looking to win and climb the heavyweight ladder. I let everything fall into place once the results come in,” said Jennings.

Dimitrenko realizes he has a prime opportunity.

“It is very important for me to be here, to fight live on ESPN against Jennings. I will do anything to win this fight,” said Dimitrenko. “It’s an honor to fight here in America. Everybody watching will get a great show. Saturday night can’t come soon enough. I am ready to fight.”

Next week, Top Rank has another show but this time in Phoenix. Two world title fights are planned at Gila River Arena in Glendale. Slated to fight are WBO lightweight titlist Raymundo Beltran (35-7-1) versus Jose Pedraza (24-1) and Isaac Dogboe (19-0) defending the WBO super bantamweight world title versus Hidenori Otake (31-2-3).

Also, Mikaela Mayer (6-0, 3 KOs) is set to meet Edina Kiss (14-7) in a six or eight round super featherweight clash.

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Is Jennings Arum’s Last, Best Hope For Another Heavyweight Champion?

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preposterous

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Trainer John David Jackson has an interesting, but not exactly preposterous, idea for why his fighter, one-time heavyweight title challenger Bryant “B.Y.” Jennings, is topping Saturday night’s ESPN-televised card here at the Ocean Resort. The 33-year-old Jennings (23-2, 13 KOs) will swap punches with Alexander Dimetrenko (41-3, 26 KOs), 36, in a scheduled 12-rounder that can be termed as flying beneath the radar.

Although Jennings is nominally in world-title contention with a No. 11 rating from the WBA, he is not listed in the top 10 of any of the four major sanctioning bodies, and neither is Dimetrenko, a Germany-based Russian who has never fought for a widely recognized title. In the IBO’s computerized ratings of the top 100 heavyweights, Dimetrenko comes in at No. 14 with Jennings at No. 27.

But when Jackson looks at Jennings, who in his street clothes and black-framed glasses has the bookish look of a college professor, and has an introspective manner to match, he sees so much more than a guy who had his shot at the big prize and came up short when he dropped a reasonably competitive unanimous decision to IBF/WBA/WBO titlist Wladimir Klitschko on April 25, 2015. He sees a potential world champion who is still honing his craft, and he believes that Bob Arum, the Top Rank founder and CEO who signed Jennings to a make-good contract in June 2017, sees the same thing, or at least is daring to hope so.

“I think Bob wants one more heavyweight champion,” Jackson hypothesized Wednesday afternoon at the Atlantic Police Athletic League gym, where seven of the fighters on Saturday’s card went through brief and light workouts for the benefit of a small media turnout. “Yeah, he has a lot of great fighters, but if you have the heavyweight king, you rule boxing. It’s still the most prestigious and most marketable division in the sport. That’s just how it works. And Bryant represents the last, best opportunity for Bob to get there before he retires.”

It is something to consider. Although Arum was with Muhammad Ali for 27 of “The Greatest’s” bouts, and later rode the high surf with George Foreman during the second phase of Big George’s remarkable career, when he defied all odds by winning the heavyweight title at age 45 with that bolt-from-the-blue overhand right that put Michael Moorer down and out, the Top Rank honcho’s history with heavyweights is a bit sketchy. He took a flyer on Hasim Rahman after Rahman shocked the world by knocking out Lennox Lewis in South Africa, but Rahman never could summon more of the same magic and their association ended with little fanfare.

Arum has arguably the two finest pound-for-pound fighters in the business today, WBA lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko and WBO welterweight ruler Terence Crawford, and he still holds paper on 39-year-old legend Manny Pacquiao, the only man to win world titles in eight weight classes and again a champ of sorts after he stopped Lucas Matthysse in seven rounds to claim the “regular” WBA welterweight strap. There is a steady flow of talent in the TR pipeline, one of the most promising prospects being featherweight Shakur Stevenson (7-0, 4 KOs), the baby-faced (he’s 21 but looks younger) silver medalist at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics who continues his professional development in a scheduled eight-rounder against Carlos Ruiz (16-4-2, 6 KOs) on Saturday’s card. Truth be told, there is a much greater likelihood that super middleweight contender Jesse Hart will find himself in a world title bout sooner than fellow Philadelphian Jennings. Hart (24-1, 20 KOs), who is ranked No. 1 by the IBO, No. 3 by the WBC and No. 10 by the IBF, lost by unanimous decision to WBO 168-pound champion Gilberto Ramirez on Sept. 22, 2017, and he could be in line for a rematch should he get past pesky veteran Mike Gavronski (24-2-1, 15 KOs), of Tacoma, Wash., in Saturday night’s co-featured attraction.

“I want to go out and get it over as quickly as possible,” said Hart, the 29-year-old son of 1970s middleweight contender Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, a huge puncher who imparted to his son the benefits of taking care of business as expeditiously as possible. “My dad (who now trains Jesse) always said that if you let a guy hang around too long, and he gets a little bit of confidence, the next thing you know, you’re in the fight of your life. I’d rather get in and get out fast.”

That philosophy is in stark contrast to the learning curve the more patient Jennings has been asked to master by Jackson, with Arum’s apparent consent. A very good defensive end at Ben Franklin High School in Philly, Jennings’ physical gifts are obvious, but getting his boxing skills to align with his raw athleticism has been a process. Jackson, a former WBO super welterweight and WBA middleweight champion, describes Jennings as a “work in progress,” but whose ceiling, presumably when attained, will elevate him far above his present status as just another fringe contender waiting for the more elite crowd above him (Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury, Alexander Povetkin, Dillian Whyte and possibly a few others) to thin out.

“I like Bryant’s position,” Jackson said. “He’s under the radar right now. He’s not being talked up as a dangerous heavyweight, even though he is. But he’s not as dangerous as he can be. He’s using this time to develop his skills.

“The wonderful thing about being with Bob is that Bob is old-school. He’s committed to rebuilding Bryant’s career back up. You don’t hear Bryant calling out people, demanding a title shot right away. He knows, as Bob does and so do I, that you have to earn your way back up to the top and another shot at the title. It could take four or five fights. Bob is making Bryant prove that he deserves another shot.”

Since Jennings’ image-smudging two-bout losing streak – he followed his points loss to Klitschko with a seventh-round stoppage by Luis Ortiz on April 25, 2015 – he has strung together four consecutive victories, all of which can be  described as learning lessons. There were TKOs of Daniel Martz, Daniel Haynesworth and Akhbor Muralimov and a 10-round unanimous decision over Joey Dawejko, each fight a building block in his evolution into a new and improved version of his former self.

“Bryant needed to learn how to cut the ring off on an opponent, how to get inside and work in tight,” said Jackson. “He had no inside game. He just worked off the jab. You have to remember, Bryant had almost no amateur career, so when he turned pro (at the relatively advanced age of 25), he probably was rushed along a little bit. It was all on-the-job training. It still is, to a point. But when it all comes together for him, he’s going to be a helluva fighter. He’s some kind of physical specimen (at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds) and he has more power than people realize. If he continues to believe in the things I’m showing him and gets it into his mind that he can do it, he has all the tools to be a world champion.”

Should Jennings get past Dimetrenko – clearly the most difficult test he will have encountered since the setbacks to Klitschko and Ortiz – he moves a step closer to another grab at the brass ring. A loss might end his quest, at least in affiliation with Arum, a realist who knew when it was time to end the experiment with Rahman.

“To have someone like (Arum) to have faith in me has to be a positive thing,” Jennings said. “I’ve always had faith in myself. Now I have to show everybody what I’m still capable of doing.”

While Jennings-Dimetrenko and Hart-Gavronski will be televised by ESPN and ESPN Desportes, the remainder of the card – in addition to Stevenson, fighters who bear watching include popular Philadelphia bantamweight Christian Carto (15-0, 11 KOs) and Atlantic City super welterweight Thomas “Cornflake” LaManna (25-2-1, 9 KOs) – will be carried on the new ESPN+ app.

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Wladimir Klitschko’s Astounding Comeback

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noteworthy comeback

George Foreman fashioned the most noteworthy comeback in boxing – perhaps in all of sports – when he returned after a 10-year absence and went on to regain the world heavyweight title. But Wladimir Klitschko also forged a remarkable comeback. The difference is that he did it without ever saying goodbye. There was no interregnum in his timeline; no second act.

Now that his career has come fully into focus, it’s plain that Klitschko will follow in the footsteps of his older brother and enter the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. And it’s easy to forget that there was a time when many pundits thought he was something of a tomato can.

Former Las Vegas Review-Journal sports editor Joe Hawk said this about Klitschko following his loss to Lamon Brewster: “Wladimir Klitschko joins the likes of John Ruiz and David Tua as purported boxers who should never again have their names appear on a sports page. We should’ve known about Klitschko, though. The Ukrainian-to-English converter on our computer says his full name translates to ‘Big Slow Stiff With Glass Chin.’” Associated Press sports columnist Tim Dahlberg was less snarky, but basically echoed that sentiment: “Wladimir Klitschko better get used to working in his brother’s corner during fights,” said Dahlberg in 2005. “It might be the only future he has left in boxing.”

Although he was reportedly 134-6 as an amateur and won a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics, Wladimir Klitschko (henceforth WK) wasn’t highly thought-of when he turned pro. He had two strikes against him. He didn’t look like a future heavyweight champion. The last lineal heavyweight champion that shared his pigmentation was one-trick pony Ingemar Johansson who captured the title in 1959 which was back in the Stone Age in the eyes of some young sportswriters. And WK was European, hailing from a part of the world once lampooned as the land of horizontal heavyweights.

And then, while he was still something of a mystery fighter, WK’s reputation was stained by losses to three fighters dismissed as second-raters: Ross Puritty, Corrie Sanders, and Lamon Brewster. Each of those fights ended inside the distance. Against Puritty and Brewster, WK simply ran out of gas. He was leading both fights comfortably on the scorecards. Against Sanders, who knocked him out clean in the second round, he simply forgot to duck.

Let’s look a little more closely at those three fights.

Ross Puritty could fairly be classified as a journeyman, but his record (24-13-1 going in) was very deceiving. The former UTEP defensive lineman had gone the distance with future heavyweight title-holder Chris Byrd, had knocked out former heavyweight title challengers Joe Hipp and Jose Luis Gonzalez, and had boxed a draw with fearsome Tommy Morrison…all this despite a very limited amateur background.

WK fought Puritty on Dec. 5, 1998, in Kiev. The match was assembled in a hurry. Wladimir had fought three weeks earlier and this was his ninth start of the year. The bout was for a minor title so it was scheduled for 12 rounds rather than ten. When the big Ukrainian fell in the 10th round, it was from sheer exhaustion. His corner stopped the fight moments into the 11th.

The fight wasn’t big news in the U.S., warranting only a paragraph or two in most papers. What most took from the story was simply that another undefeated European heavyweight had been exposed by an American boxer. Ho hum; what else is new?

WK won 16 straight after this mishap. During this skein he won the WBO title, outpointing Chris Byrd, and successfully defended it six times. But the WBO, the newest of the four major sanctioning bodies, had little cachet. Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield ruled other roosts and were considered more legitimate.

In his title-winning match against Byrd, WK went to post the favorite, but only because he was the bigger man. The presumption was that if the fight went the full 12, Byrd, a slick southpaw, might steal the decision.

Hardly anyone out-boxed Chris Byrd, but WK put on the clinic, pitching a near-shutout. In fact, one of the judges did award Wladimir every round. He didn’t merely out-box Byrd, he punished him. When the fight was over, one of Byrd’s eyes was completely closed and the other was barely half-open. But the fight was held in Cologne, Germany, and didn’t receive the media attention it would have received if it had been held in the United States.

WK’s WBO title reign ended with a loud thud in Hanover, Germany, when he was annihilated by the aforementioned Sanders, a 37-year-old South African who boasted a 38-2 record but whose best sport was actually golf. With 33 seconds remaining in the opening stanza, Sanders, a southpaw, caught WK napping and put him on the canvas. Three more knockdowns would follow before the bout was stopped in the following round, but the other knockdowns were extensions of the first. And then, three fights later, Waldimir suffered another mortifying defeat, this coming at the hands of Lamon Brewster.

The Brewster fight was a repeat of WK’s match with Ross Puritty, only shorter. Wladimir won the first four rounds on all three scorecards. Brewster barely made it back to his corner at the end of the fourth. But then WK suffered a mysterious meltdown. He was knocked down twice in the fifth, the second coming just as the bell sounded to end the round. Ascertaining that he was in no condition to continue, even with a 60-second respite, referee Robert Byrd waived the fight off.

Wladimir was of the opinion that he had been drugged and, according to one post-fight story, his blood sugar level was discovered to be abnormally high. But when his attorney went to the press and demanded an investigation, important boxing writers, in the main, dismissed it as sour grapes. Where once they had questioned his chin, they now questioned his chin and his heart and his integrity.

Having been upset twice in a span of four fights, WK had a lot of making up to do to win back the affection of his fans and the respect of the media. Seventeen months after his loss to Brewster, with two more fights under his belt, he dispelled any questions about his heart, rallying to defeat Samuel Peter in a match in which he suffered three knockdowns. Wladimir was in distress in round five and again in round 10, but he won the last two rounds and prevailed by three points on all three scorecards.

Peter, a New Jersey-based Nigerian, trained by future Hall of Famer Lou Duva, was undefeated coming in with 22 knockouts among his 24 wins. With the fight being staged at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, he was chalked the favorite – the only time that WK was cast in an underdog role by the bookies until the final fight of his career.

The victory set up a rematch with Chris Byrd who now owned the IBF title. The second meeting was a carbon of the first through the first six rounds, but this time Byrd wouldn’t still be standing at the final bell. WK finished him off with a right hook in the seventh.

WK’s second world title reign lasted nine years and seven months. During his tenure he made 18 successful defenses and acquired the other two meaningful belts. He avenged his loss to Brewster (TKO 6), repeated his triumph over Samuel Peter (KO 10), comprehensively out-boxed former unified cruiserweight champion David Haye and, in a match between two former Olympic gold medalists, thoroughly outclassed previously undefeated Alexander Povetkin (that’s Povetkin eating a left hook in the photo).

WK would have pitched a shutout if not for having a point deducted after shoving Povetkin to the canvas. As it was, he won by 15 points on all three cards. The fight, however, was a stinker and there were precedents for it.

Wladimir was too dominant during his title reign. When he won lopsidedly, as was usually the case, it was said that he was too robotic. And the emphasis shifted away from him to his opponent who was seen as just another mediocrity plumbed from the wreckage of a weak division.

Yes, the heavyweight division was inferior relative to the days of Ali and Frazier and the young George Foreman. However, that was the Golden Era of Heavyweights and WK’s opposition stands up fairly well when juxtaposed against the heavyweight class of other eras. Overall, he opposed a more worthy cast of challengers than Joe Louis who was carefully steered away from good black fighters until he was deep into his 13-year title reign.

Klitschko vs. Povetkin was marred by excessive clinching. In hindsight it was precursor of the match that marked the end of WK’s title reign, his November of 2015 contest with Tyson Fury in Dusseldorf. That was an ugly fight, a poor effort by both contestants, although a few pixilated British scribes credited Fury with painting a masterpiece.

There was a rematch clause that to Wladimir’s dismay was never activated. If Tyson Fury had been fit to honor it, perhaps WK would have left the sport on a winning note. But from the standpoint of his legacy, perhaps it was better that his career ended as it did.

His farewell fight with young gun Anthony Joshua was a see-saw thriller contested under a clear sky before a great multitude at London’s venerated Wembley Stadium. And when it was over, folks that previously knocked him were forced to concede that he may have actually been pretty darn good. He was still pretty good, just not good enough to overcome Anthony Joshua but by then he was 41 years old!

If I were to ask you if WK ranked among the greatest heavyweights of all time, you should take that as a rhetorical question. Wladimir Klitschko was special.

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