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Mon Apr 21 09:06:35 SAST 2014

The ringmaster is a clown

David Isaacson | 09 October, 2013 06:370 Comments
NOT BOXING CLEVER: Alexander Povetkin, left, and world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko fight in Moscow. Klitschko won, but it was more like wrestling than a boxing match
Image by: DMITRY KOROTAYEV / GETTY IMAGES

WANTED: A world heavyweight champion who can box.

Had Martians watched Wladimir Klitschko's scrap against Alexander Povetkin in Moscow on Saturday night, and been asked to correctly identify this sport, they might have chosen wrestling, or judo, or human tiddlywinks. Anything except pugilism.

Klitschko repeatedly fouled his opponent by catching him in headlocks, leaning on him, pushing him across the ring, and even throwing him to the canvas.

The only thing more bizarre was the referee's inability to spot the infringements. He eventually docked one point from Klitschko, but only after ruling some throw-downs as knockdowns.

Klitschko should have been disqualified; a terrified Henry Akinwande was thrown out of the ring in 1997 for continuously holding Lennox Lewis, the only way he could avoid getting hit.

But Klitschko was dominating Povetkin. Yet each time the shorter Russian got close, Klitschko fouled. He displayed an astounding inability to box on the inside; uppercuts and hooks might have been useful.

Truth is, Klitschko is one of the most unskilled heavyweight champions of all time.

The old-timers would have made mincemeat of him. George Foreman, Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey - you name 'em, they would have dismantled him, just as Corrie Sanders did in 2003.

A few days before Sanders fought Klitschko, I attended an exhibition training session by both boxers at a factory outside Hanover.

For some odd reason, Klitschko did wicketkeeper-like practice in the ring - his trainer throwing a tennis ball, presumably to sharpen his reflexes.

A chuck to the right, a toss to the left and Klitschko was all thumbs. But the worst part was when he tried to chase the ball, slowly and awkwardly coaxing his massive frame to move in the right direction. It was ugly.

At the time, Klitschko was regarded as the second-best active heavyweight behind Lewis, and yet he had no hand-eye coordination. I was gobsmacked.

Sanders, a former Craven Week flyhalf and scratch golfer, was truly talented; that's when I first believed the South African could actually win.

More than a decade later and Klitschko still resembles a blue whale out of water, but fortunately for him his opponents are fish out of water.

He stank Moscow out. Klitschko was paid $17.25-million, but his performance wasn't worth the same amount in Zimbabwean dollars.

The contest was less absorbing than the SA heavyweight title bout between Anton Nel, 45, and Hein van Bosch, 43, on Sunday. At least they threw some punches.

I'm not sure how Boxing South Africa allowed these two veterans to fight for the vacant national heavyweight crown, but anyway, Nel - a perennial nice guy - is the champion for the third time in his career.

At this rate he is in danger of being compared statistically to Sugar Ray Robinson, who won the world middleweight title five times.

Seriously though, the heavyweight division is sinking in its own mediocrity; it needs big skills, not circus strongmen.

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The ringmaster is a clown

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