First View: Klitschko-Rahman

By Tom Donelson
Updated: October 17, 2005

Hasim Rahman & Vitali Klitschko

NEW YORK — Vitali Klitschko fights Hasim Rahman next month a fight that will go a long way to begin unraveling who is the best heavyweight in the world. Rahman’s last great fight was four years ago when he dismantled an out of shape and unprepared Lennox Lewis.

With a powerful right hand, Rahman sent Lewis down for the count. In the rematch, Lewis returned the favorite and rapped Rahman all over the ring before ending it with a fourth round knock out.

Since then, Rahman has fought only one fight with a top ten contender and that was his last fight. In one of the worst heavyweight fights of the past five years, Rahman posed for a twelve round victory over Monte Barrett, who showed reluctance in fighting.

Only the Byrd-Williamson fiasco could have matched that fight for sheer boredom. Rahman did enough to win but not much more.

Which brings us to the Klitschko’s match. This is Rahman’s big chance to regain the title that he held so briefly. A victory can put him in the bird seat when it comes to being the best heavyweight.

The heavyweight division is one big mud pile but most pundits, myself included, consider Klitschko the best. Klitschko is rated the best but not necessarily the undisputed champion. If Rahman wins, he goes a long way to recapturing the top slot.

For Klitschko, this is his first real test since Kirk Johnson. In the Johnson fight, he destroyed the Canadian fighter in less than two rounds.

At the time, Kirk Johnson was a legitimate top ten contender and possessed boxing skills that could have given the taller Klitschko trouble. Unfortunately, Johnson came in some 30 pounds over weight and Klitschko just punished the ill-prepared Johnson.

This fight has political intrigue as well. Vitali is ranked as the best heavyweight but of the four various recognized champion, he is the only one with no direct ties to Don King. King has been hesitant to put his other champs in the ring with Vitali.

King’s own goal is to find a way to gain some leverage with the Klitschko’s while the Klitschko’s goal is to maintain control over their careers.

Hassim Rahman is a Don King controlled fighter and if he wins, that gives King complete control over the heavyweight division and gives King some leeway to host his own tournament. With the entire division controlled by King, any tournament would yield a Don King promoted fighter.

If Klitschko wins, then he’ll still be the recognized champion but there will be even less chance of seeing a unified champion anytime soon.

Can Rahman pull the upset? Rahman’s strength is his jab and right cross that follows the jab. Rahman is a straight one-two puncher. He jabs to set up his right cross. What he is not is a flexible fighter.

Against Barrett, he added the left hook to his arsenal but it appeared ineffectual. He rarely trapped Barrett nor did he go to Barrett body effectively.

Klitschko is one of those fighters who use his size effectively. He is a big fighter, who fights big. He is more of traditional stand up European fighter than his brother but his jab is a face buster. He does not have the one punch knock out power but he does have enough power in his punches to bust up an opponent face.

In his biggest fight, he was leading on every scorecard against Lennox Lewis but Lewis own right busted up Klitschko’s face. Lewis’ jab was ineffective against Klitschko and Lewis found himself pursuing Klitschko as oppose the other way around. Lewis’ right was his most effective punch.

In the Rahman-Klitschko fight, the strategy of both fighters will determine the winner and here Klitschko has the advantages. If he employs the same strategy as he did against Lewis, he will allow Rahman to come to him. Klitschko can jab Rahman and then follow up with his own right hand.

For a heavyweight, Klitschko is an active fighter and it is not uncommon for him to unleash up to 80 punches per round. On occasion, Rahman has also shown similar conditioning. In his second fight with David Tua, Rahman averaged 60 punches per round and should have won the decision.

As Rahman illustrated in the Barrett fight, he was not comfortable chasing Barrett and he will become the target of the taller Klitschko punches.

Rahman, who has a long reach for a heavyweight, can pound the body and survive the early onslaught, he has a very good chance of pulling the upset.

What if Rahman forces Klitschko to pursue him? This would allow Rahman to use his own jab and counter with his best punch- the overhand right.

Klitschko is the sharper puncher of the two and Rahman’s punches would appear to be more looping. This gives Klitschko advantages as he pursues Rahman.

In his first fight with Lewis, Rahman’s jab allowed him to control the bout and set up his right. In his second fight, Lewis jab dominated and Rahman found himself on the canvas for the full count.

The key to this fight will be the Rahman jab. If he can be effective with it, he can throw Klitschko off rhythm and give himself an excellent chance. If he as ineffectual with his jab as he was against Barrett, then this fight is over quickly and ends in Klitschko’s favor.

If Rahman pursue, he must jab his way in. The key is the jab and who wins the battle of the jab, wins the fight easily. This favors Klitschko, whose jab may be the better of the two.