True test or tomato can for Klitschko?
With a big fight against David Haye stalled by a breakdown in negotiations and mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin deemed by his handlers to be in need of further seasoning, Wladimir Klitschko shrugs his massive shoulders and gets on with the job of defending his heavyweight title.
Next up for Klitschko is Dereck Chisora, the British champion, who is young, undefeated and seemingly brimming with confidence. The two meet in Mannheim, Germany, on Saturday (live on ESPN3.com).
Klitschko is a big favorite in the betting, but there have been less-well-equipped challengers than Chisora, a former amateur champion in the U.K. who has won 14 fights in a row. Indeed, Klitschko's trainer, Emanuel Steward, isn't expecting an easy night for the champion.
"We have a little bit more anxiety than we normally have because Chisora presents a different challenge than we're used to," Steward told ESPN.com from Mannheim. "He's got a lot of youthful energy and aggression that we haven't experienced in a long time. He's a rough, tough kid with a Joe Frazier type of mindset. He's going to be a little bit of a challenge for Wladimir, and he's going to bring a lot more intensity than we're used to, and this is the type of situation that's usually the worst for a good technical boxer."
Steward recalled how Thomas Hearns, who he trained from the amateurs to greatness as a professional, had problems with boxers who brought pressure. "Tommy could box with a Ray Leonard, a Wilfred Benitez or a Virgil Hill, no problem," Steward said. "But the biggest problems we had were with the wild, aggressive-type, overly-rough guys."
He's going to be a little bit of a challenge for Wladimir, and he's going to bring a lot more intensity than we're used to, and this is the type of situation that's usually the worst for a good technical boxer.” -- Emanuel Steward, Wladimir Klitschko's trainer, on opponent Dereck Chisora
So, although Klitschko has the experience and the superior technical skills, Steward can see a competitive fight, at least for several rounds.
Chisora, 26, is an interesting challenger with a colorful and somewhat checkered background. He was born in Zimbabwe, Africa, but has lived in London since he was in his teens. Chisora calls himself "Del Boy," adopting the nickname of the lead character in a British TV comedy series ("Del" being the short form of "Dereck" in the London vernacular). He has a sideline selling cars, as does the character in the TV series.
Although he is not eager to talk about it in interviews, Chisora was in trouble with the authorities as a youngster. A probation officer suggested that Chisora try boxing as a means of expressing himself. Chisora won the English amateur championship in the super heavyweight division, showing a fierce, competitive spirit when he staged a storming last-round finish after falling behind on points.
Chisora's professional career has been marred by controversy. He was suspended for five months and fined 2,500 pounds by the British Boxing Board for biting an opponent, and he caused chaos at a weigh-in when he kissed his next night's opponent on the lips. Chisora said the incidents were all in good fun. More seriously, though, last month Chisora was handed a 12-week prison sentence -- and suspended for two years -- for assaulting his then-girlfriend.
Unsavory incidents apart, Chisora has ability. He destroyed Danny Williams, the former world title challenger, in two rounds last May -- although his opponent was considered just a shell of the fighter who knocked out Mike Tyson. Perhaps more significantly, Chisora twice stopped Sam Sexton, a former British Commonwealth champion who was undefeated going into their first fight.
In his rematch with Sexton -- a competent boxer with a good left jab -- Chisora showed adaptability, taking the fight to his opponent and craftily backing up onto the ropes in an attempt to draw his man into counterpunches. He gave the impression of being able to step up his pace to another level whenever he felt like it, and in the ninth round Chisora ended the fight with a series of big right hands.
There is a world of difference, of course, between the likes of a European-level fighter such as Sexton or a faded Williams and the powerful, accomplished and vastly-experienced Klitschko.
Chisora doesn't seem awed, though. "I am going to give him a war," Chisora told the British publication Boxing Monthly. "I am going to be on him. I am going to physically take what he has got and hit him everywhere I can hit him."
This sounds like the right attitude for an underdog challenger to take, but what Chisora imagines might happen and the reality of his situation could be cruelly different.
Chisora is a big man -- a little under 6-foot-2 and approximately 245 pounds -- but Klitschko will tower over him by about five inches. Klitschko's size might be more daunting than Chisora realizes when the two men are in the ring together. Chisora will have the same problem faced by so many others: He will try to find a way past Klitschko's long left jab without leaving himself open to Dr. Steelhammer's big right hand or his sneaky but dangerous left hooks.
If Chisora does what he says he will do and tries to attack vigorously, he will make things interesting but likely will create opportunities for Klitschko to do damage.
Klitschko's last defeat, against Lamon Brewster almost seven years ago, came when he was overwhelmed in five rounds by a fearless aggressor -- yet it is easy to forget the Ukrainian big man knocked down Brewster and almost stopped him before dramatically running out of gas. Klitschko's collapse that night in Las Vegas was strange indeed, but he has since won 13 fights in a row. The way he paces himself makes it seem he is ever mindful of what happened against Brewster, when Klitschko possibly used up too much stamina trying for the knockout -- punched himself out, as they say in the boxing business.
These days, Klitschko, 34, usually won't commit himself to an all-out offensive until he is absolutely sure that his opponent has been worn down to the point real resistance is unlikely. Thus, Klitschko has been widely labeled as effective but boring. The fight with Chisora has the potential for excitement, though, if the brash-talking challenger lives up to his bold talk and steams straight into the champion.
The suspicion is, however, that Chisora will not be able to maintain any sort of serious offensive -- Klitschko's jabs and counters will see to that. Once Chisora starts to step back and slow down, Klitschko should be able to assume the dominant role he has in so many title bouts by steadily jabbing the ambition out of his younger opponent and bringing in the right-hand artillery to force a stoppage between the sixth and ninth rounds.
Graham Houston is the American editor of Boxing Monthly and writes for FightWriter.com.