A Tale of Three Fighters

By Tom Donelson
Updated: July 17, 2007

IOWA CITY, Ia. — This past month saw defining moments for three fighters. Wladimir Klitschko solidfied his position as the man to beat in the heavyweight division, Arturo Gatti saw the end of his career and Cornelius Bundrage now knows his place in boxing hierarchy.

Klitschko is the best heavyweight and is riding a seven-fight win streak with six of those fights ending in knockouts. In this streak, he has beaten Chris Byrd, the division’s best boxer, and two of the division’s tough sluggers in Lamon Brewster and Samuel Peter.

The problem with Klitschko is that the boxing gods have conspired against him. The heavyweight division is one of most shallow and most pundits have long dismissed this generation of heavyweights.

The first problem is that the best fighters in the division reside in Central Europe and Russia. These fighters have extensive amateur experience and are well schooled.

What are often overlooked are their skills.

When you view these fighters, you see are talented boxers-puncher. They don’t just wing their punches but use tactics and techniques to win fights. Many American pundits over look these fighters for the simple reason they are not Americans and they rarely fight on American Television.

The reality is that in most division middleweights and above, the best fighters come from Europe not the United States.

And many of these fighters hail from Central Europe and Russia where amateur programs still prove effective at developing top talented fighters.

Klitschko’s inability to gain favor among boxing pundits is due to present boxing politics.

None of the major title holders seem ready to fight each other and often fight whoever their sanctioning bodies or Don King puts in front of them. There seem to be no hurry for any of the present champs to fight each other.

So why do I rate Klitschko the best?

The first reason, he has fought the best fighters over the past three years and in his seven fight streak, he has victory against three of the better heavyweights in Byrd, Peter and Brewster.

In his victories over Byrd, Peter as well as his rematch with Brewster was easy one sided victory. Klitschko has not just won his last seven bouts but dominated his opponents.

There are very few heavyweights who have his overall skills.

Klitschko can jab with anyone and his combinations land with authority. He can box and keep the big bangers at the end of his jab before unleashing his arsenal.

If Klitschko is the hot man in the heavyweight division, Arturo Gatti fought his last fight.

Over the years, he has proven to be one of boxing’s most exciting fighter. While he was not one of boxing elite fighters, he was good enough to nab a few sanctioning bodies championship and if nothing else, Gatti treated boxing fans to all out brawls.

Gatti did not care who sat in front of him, he simply fought and even in defeat, his fans never felt cheated. Alfonso Gomez did not have the reputation of being a heavy handed puncher but he simply over matched Gatti and almost from the beginning, Gomez’s right hand consistently found a home on Gatti’s face.

Gomez never seemed to miss and Gatti rarely located a punch in his zip code. At the end of the fourth round, a Gomez right stopped Gatti in his track. In the seventh round, Gomez right sent Gatti reeling to the ring and he followed with combinations.

For a minute, Gomez trapped Gatti on the rope and he rarely threw punches back.

A final Gomez right nailed Gatti and he slowly descended toward the canvas. As soon as he hit the canvas, New Jersey Commissioner Larry Hazzard jumped out of his seat and into the ring to stop the fight.

After the fight, Gatti surrendered to the inevitable as he retired.

After the numerous wars in the ring, Gatti no longer had the skills to match his will to win.

If Gomez upheld the Contender alumnus banner, Cornelius Bundrage wanted to use his fight against Joel Julio to move up the Welterweight ranks. The former Contender star found himself over matched against the more experienced Columbian fighter.

Bundrage’s problem stems from the fact that he is one trick pony, his right hand.

His jab often acts as a range finder but against Joel Julio, he was up against a fighter with multiple skills.

Julio can hurt an opponent with either hand and he used variety of punches to dominate the action from the opening bell. Bundrage’s left jab had nothing to keep Julio off him and his right often missed its mark. In the third round, Bundrage went down but survived to fight five more rounds before Julio ended the fight.

“K-9″ Bundrage has shown that he can beat most fighters and that his right is enough to get by. Against elite fighters, his weakness shows up.

He does not fight well on the inside and he is basically a one-two puncher.

When he fought against better fighters, his inability to fight on the inside and his weak jab merely became exposed and often he could not deliver his great equalizer — his right hand.

Over the past month, Klitschko solidified his position as the king of the heavyweights and Bundrage found his dream of being a champion dead when J ulio sent him crashing to the canvas.

Then Gatti finally ended his career with a reputation as a fighter who gave all he could and when there was no more left to give, he left the ring.