Klitschko-Thompson: Another Stinker or Sleeper?
This Saturday’s highly-unanticipated fight between IBF-WBO heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko and WBO mandatory Tony Thompson in the Color Line Arena in Hamburg, Germany, is generating less interest than Mike Gravel’s unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, which was at least kind of humorous. Klitschko’s rock-paper-scissors slapfest against Sultan Ibragimov at Madison Square Garden Feb. 23 did untold damage to the already dismal reputation of the heavyweight division, and even the Garden itself. Their next big fight may not be until Sept. 20, when Joe Calzaghe and Roy Jones Jr. will likely tangle.
Wladimir Klitschko’s latest style, if it even can be called that, is not merely safety-first, as many have noted. It is disgraceful in that it changes a sport, where the fans pay good money to see good fighting, into a variety of fencing. And the fans then feel that the ticket-sellers and TV networks are themselves fences, selling garbage packaged as name-brand goods, and then treat them as the crooks they believe they are.
While I admire much of the work Wladimir Klitschko has done outside the ring to help needy people around the world, he should also remember that he can only be in a position to do this kind of work if he remains respected for what he does inside the ring. Another all-out stinker Saturday, and maybe not even the Hypocritical Boxing Organization (HBO) will want much more of him.
The wild card in this is Tony Thompson. The lanky, little-known, 36-year-old, six-foot five heavyweight has a record of 31-1 with 19 KOs. The lone loss was a four-round decision to Eric Kirkland in just Thompson’s fifth pro fight. Since then, he has 27 straight wins, but mainly against the graduates of the University of Journeymen (whose dean, A.J.L. Shoemaker, once wrote for a boxing web site which has since closed down).
Thompson’s break, so to speak, came last July against perennial contender Luan Krasniqi. In a WBO eliminator, Thompson stopped Krasniqi in five – and in Germany, and in the same arena in which he will face Klitschko this Saturday.
Whether or not he will have to impale Wlad to get a win in Germany this time remains to be seen. But a profile of Tony Thompson posted Thursday on the web site of The Washington Post raises some interesting points.
On the one hand, we have this:
Thompson doesn't love boxing. He derives no joy from training. He fights for the reward, not the act.
"I really don't like getting hit," he said. "I really don't like to train for boxing. I'm just good at it. It's what I do to make a living. If I had my choices of making a living, I'm not one of those people who would say boxing. . . . Boxing was so far down the list for me."
His family awaits his return. At his Fort Washington home in a tree-lined development at the tip of a cul-de-sac, one of three air conditioning units is broken. The dishwasher and washing machine have stopped working. The electricity won't run in part of the house, where three of his children still live. Sydnee, who grew up with both parents and went to a Catholic school, college and graduate school, wants everything fixed. Tony said she'll have to wait until the check clears from the fight.
We’ll find out Saturday night if any of that provides Thompson with the motivation to fight the fight of his life against Klitschko, to abandon his own uber-cautious style, and to pull a major upset against this European moneymaker.
Or, it could just be another useless show televised in America by HBS.