How Does Klitschko Measure Up Against The Contenders?

By Tom Donelson
Updated: December 23, 2004

Go to fullsize image Vitali Klitschko Go to fullsize image Chris Byrd

Go to fullsize image John Ruiz Go to fullsize image Lamon Brewster

Go to fullsize image Hasim Rahman

MARION, Ia. — So how would Vitali Klitschko measure up against the other heavyweight champions and contenders? Right now, I’d have to say I would favor Klitschko over the others, but it’s not automatic that Klitschko would prevail.

Boxing matchups are as much about style than anything else. For example, Chris Byrd has fought the two Klitschko brothers over 22 rounds and you would be hard pressed to find any rounds that he actually won.

While he is 1-1 with his victory over the older brother Vitali, Byrd had difficulty in fighting the bigger and stronger Klitschko brothers. Their height, boxing ability and strength made it difficult for Byrd to gather momentum. What saved Byrd in their first fight was Vitali’s damaged shoulder.

Would a rematch be any different? Vitali would use his size to keep Byrd at bay and force Byrd to come to him where he has the advantage. In the second round of Byrd’s last bout, challenger Jameel McCline pushed the issue and used his size to punish Byrd on the rope and nearly finished Byrd off.

Byrd outlasted McCline as McCline ran out of gas and allowed Byrd to win the last several rounds. Vitali would come in 20 pounds lighter and should be less likely to tire out than McCline.

But would Klitschko run out of gas and become vulnerable to a Byrd comeback in the second half of their fight?

Vitali Klitschko throws a lot of punches for a heavyweight. Against Danny Williams, Klitschko averaged 70 punches for round and there were times that he appeared to be gassed.

Klitschko’s last two opponents were even more gassed since they were getting hit with barrages of accurate punches. Byrd has enough defensive skills to keep from getting pounded consistently. He might be able to deflect many of Klitschko’s power shots and hopefully tire the bigger fighter out.

Against McCline, Byrd threw over 170 punches in the last two rounds and connected on nearly 40% of them. Byrd will not tire and this is his best chance to win. The one flaw with this strategy is that Byrd is now 33 and a step slower. Klitschko would be the favorite but Byrd would have confidence since he did prevail in their first fight and Byrd has the chin to survive any Klitschko’s outburst.

John Ruiz loves to get his opponent to waddle in the mud pit with him. He has the ability to force normally good boxers fight his fight. He is able to get close enough to hold and mug his opponents while frustrating them. Klitschko has the reach advantage and will be stronger in any wrestling matches.

He also has an effective jab to go with an accurate right. Klitschko could keep Ruiz at bay and force Ruiz to fight. Ruiz would be fighting not a fighter his size but one considerable bigger and Klitschko jab would put its mark on Ruiz’s face.

Ruiz‘s chance to win is to rumble on the inside like he did with Golota and turned this into a wrestling match. Klitschko’s jab may actually keep this a boxing match. A closer fight than what most pundits would assume but Klitschko has too many weapons for Ruiz.

Lamon Brewster would be the easiest for Klitschko to beat. Brewster’s only chance is for Vitali to repeat what his brother did and just run out of gas. Brewster would take alarming pounding in employing just a strategy and will be more worn out being hit by Klitschko than the other way.

The toughest opponent could be Hasim Rahman. Rahman has a long reach and excellent jab. He has decent mobility for a heavyweight and is a heavy puncher than Byrd. He beat Lennox Lewis in their first fight and if he is on as he was with Meehan, he could upset Klitschko.

In the second Tua fight, Rahman averaged nearly 80 punches per round in the first four rounds and averaged over 50 punches per round for the entire fight. And he was nearly 30 pounds over his best weight for this fight. If he is conditioned as he was in his last fight, he would have the endurance to match the normally busy Klitschko.

Klitschko would be the favorite but this fight has intriguing possibility and this fight is the one most likely to happen. The reason is simple. Don King is not about to let his other champion fighters take on Klitschko, if there is a chance if they would lose.

On the other hand, Rahman does not have a title at risk and if he wins; then King controls all of the Heavyweight division. And King does not necessarily have to force Klitschko to sign his life to fight Rahman. And this may be the best fight of all of the fights that I have discussed.