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With his knockoutof Calvin Brock, Wladimir Klitschko showed that he's the best of theheavyweight champions
IT WAS Davidversus Goliath, only this time Goliath was endearing and David needed a biggerslingshot. Or, perhaps, a bazooka. In the moments following his emphaticseventh-round knockout victory last Saturday night over Calvin Brock, WladimirKlitschko walked into his locker room at New York's Madison Square Garden andbasked in the moment: He posed for pictures, ran through a mock interview withbrother Vitali (coming soon: Those Krazy Klitschkos!) and glad-handed everyfriend of a friend of a friend who had connived his way into the IBF/IBOheavyweight champ's private quarters. Meet Wladimir Klitschko, boxing's man ofthe people.
At age 30,Ukraine's Klitschko has become the smiling face of a division that has for toolong been faceless. His performance against the previously unbeaten Brock (now29--1 with 22 KOs) showed a new level of maturity and confidence. The 6'6", 241-pound Klitschko used his jab to keep the 6' 2", 224 1/2-poundchallenger at long range, and when Brock—whose game plan, to "hit and notget hit," had quickly given way to "hit and get hit harder"—openeda cut over Klitschko's left eye with an accidental head butt in the sixthround, the champion stepped up his assault. A huge right hand in the seventhdropped Brock on his face. Though Brock beat the count, referee Wayne Kellywisely waved the fight over at 2:10 of the round.
With the win,Klitschko (47--3, 42 KOs) retained his title and, more important, set himselfup as the unquestioned heavyweight standard-bearer. He is everything punditscrave: the anti-Tyson, powerful and polished (so gracious in his postfightpraise of Brock that you would have thought he had just retired Muhammad Ali).He preaches without sounding preachy, touting education in a way that doesn'tring hollow, not when it's coming from a man who has doctorates in philosophyand sports science and can sermonize in four languages. He is philanthropic—aUNESCO goodwill ambassador fighting for Namibian school construction—andcarries himself with the equanimity of a hostage negotiator. When newly crownedWBO champion Shannon Briggs crashed his postfight press conference, so deft wasKlitschko at defusing the situation that Briggs's parting shot at Klitschko wasan invitation to a party.
That's outsidethe ring. Inside the ropes Klitschko, with his potent right hand and thatstinging jab, has become boxing's best hope for a unified champion. "Iwon't consider myself the true champion," he says, "until I win all thetitles." Say what you want about the four fighters who wear the heavyweightcrowns (Klitschko, Briggs, Nicolay Valuev and Oleg Maskaev), but there hasn'tbeen a unified champ since Lennox Lewis in 1999. Having handed three of hisfour latest opponents their first losses, Klitschko has positioned himself as alegend killer (or at least a myth buster) who is unafraid to step in withtop-flight competition. "He wants to fight the best," says his trainer,Emanuel Steward, before adding a subtle shot at WBA champion Valuev and theparade of patsies he has beaten. "No Monte Barretts."
The best way toensure that Klitschko gets his wish may be through promoter Don King's proposedheavyweight tournament, a promising concept in theory but one whoseimplementation would involve more political maneuvering than a congressionalelection. Promoters, after all, have been known to raise fans' excitement withhigh-profile bouts and then pull out when the money matters get tricky. ButKlitschko is committed to giving the public what it wants. "Noexcuses," says the people's champ. "Let's get it done."
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Last Friday in San Antonio former heavyweight championEvander Holyfield continued his quixotic comeback with a 12-round win over FresOquendo. Said Holyfield, 44, of his quest to regain the title, "No man cantell me to stop. God can. He's the only one."...A year into retirement,Vitali Klitschko (Wlad's brother and a former WBC heavyweight champ) is alsothinking comeback. "I feel much better than I did when I retired," saysKlitschko, 35. "Nothing is impossible."