“Steel Hammer” Nails Austin: Klitschko Retains Heavyweight Title

By Francis Walker
Updated: March 12, 2007

NEW YORK — Wladimir Klitschko (48-3, 42 KOs) retained the IBF heavyweight championship with an impressive second round knockout of mandatory challenger, Ray Austin (24-4-4, 16 KOs) at SAP Arena in Mannheim, Germany on Saturday.

Klitschko is referred to as the “Steel Hammer,” because of his punching power. At 6-feet-6 and 246 pounds, Klitschko is one of the biggest and hardest punchers in boxing. Klitschko has a right hand that when it lands, other large heavyweights will go.
It wasn’t the champion’s right hand that damaged Austin. It was Klitschko’s left. Klitschko crumpled Austin against the ropes with a left hook, followed by a loud flurry of left hooks to Austin’s chin. Referee Eddie Cotton stopped the bout at 1:23 into the second round.
“It was easy. Austin was much, much slower than my sparring partners,” Klitschko said afterwards. “He was sharp with my critiques about my balls, my chin, my stamina, and also my heart. But the best answer, I keep my mouth shut and I’d better fight.”
The champion didn’t even throw his right hand once in the 4 minutes he spent fighting with Austin.
“I didn’t choose this opponent,” Klitschko said. Austin was given the No. 1 ranking in the IBF following a 12-round draw against undefeated southpaw, Sultan Ibragimov last year.
Aside from his punching power, Klitschko’s trainer Emmanuel Steward is teaching him how to use range and distance to pick his shots and avoid getting caught with anything silly. That’s why Klitschko saw every punch coming and covered every angle Austin couldn’t.
Steward said leading up to the fight that “after one minute of the first round everything will change for Ray Austin when he realizes who he is in the ring with. Wladimir is on a different level. Ray Austin is running into the growth and progression of Wlad.”
In the opening round, Klitscko displayed strong balance and was not flat-footed. He kept his hands up, pawed, and jabbed with his left. Austin couldn’t get inside and was simply a sitting duck. The moment Klitschko landed anything significant, Austin collapsed.
Unification of Heavyweight Crown A Possiblity in ’07
Wladimir Klitschko and unbeaten WBA champion, Nikolai Valuev could be the first of the current group of heavyweight titlists to unify their championships.
Klitschko doesn’t have to face another IBF mandatory until next year. If Valuev is successful in his next fight on April 14 against WBA No. 1-ranked, Ruslan Chagaev in Germany, there could be an opportunity for both Klitschko and Valuev to meet.
The original plan was for Klitschko and WBO heavyweight champion Shannon Briggs to unify the WBO/IBF heavyweight championships. Briggs has pneumonia and still has the obligation to face Sultan Ibragimov.
WBA champion, Oleg Maskaev is involved in a mess with the WBC and mandatory challenger Sam Peter over his selection to skip Peter for a more lucrative fight against a returning Vitali Klitschko, the older brother of Wladimir.
The biggest heavyweight title fight that can be made is a Wladimir-Valuev fight. Klitschko is one of the best heavyweights in the world. Valuev, at 7-feet-3 and 325 pounds is four victories away from breaking the late Rocky Marciano‘s heavyweight record of 49-0.
Valuev, who beat John Ruiz for the WBA title in December 2005, has TKO victories against Owen Beck, Monte Barrett, and in January a stoppage of Jameel McCline.
The current group of heavyweight champions Klitschko, Valuev, Maskaev, and Briggs are big punchers and exciting fighters that have an opportunity to take the next stride toward becoming the next great, unified heavyweight champion.