The Boxer ……. A short story by me.
If you are a fan of Paul Simon or “Simon and Garfunkel”, then the song entitled “The Boxer” is one of your favorites. I wonder how many of you know that there is a missing verse. It is only on a few cuts and, if I knew were they were, I’d tell you. I DO know the verse, though, and here it is:
And the years are rolling by me
they are rocking evenly
I am older than I once was
but younger than I’ll be, that’s not unusual
It isn’t strange
After changes upon changes, we are more or less the same
After changes we are more or less the same
La de di….li de di di di de di, etc
I wanted to write this story before last Saturday but didn’t get to it in time.
Vladimir Klitschsko is 38 years old. He is 6 ‘ 6 ” tall and weighs 255 pounds. His body fat is somthing like 6 %. He has a PHD in Sports Physiology. He speaks 4 languages fluently. He is originally from the Ukraine and still has a heavy, Russian accent. He is also the undisputed, heavy-weight boxing champion of the world. Before he turned to boxing as a profession, his record as an amateur was 134 wins – 6 losses. He won the Gold Medal for Super-heavyweights at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. His professional record is now 63 wins – 3 losses. 54 of his 63 wins have come by way of knockout. His 3 losses were all more than 10 years ago. When he won his 1st championship belt (International Boxing Federation) 9 years ago, there were still 3 other heavyweight champs. The champions were from the World Boxing Association (WBA), the International Boxing Federation (IBF), and the World Boxing Organization (WBO). During the last 9 years, he has beaten all the other champions and all of the contenders to become, as I said, the undisputed heavyweight champion.
Outside of the ring, he is articulate, soft spoken and happy-go-lucky and has many interests and hobbies. Inside the ring, he becomes very serious and stone faced with a solid determination to complete the task at hand. Yet, he has never been popular in the U.S. In my humble opinion, this is because there are 3 kinds of boxing fans in the States. 40% are non-fans….they consider boxing barbaric and a blood sport and wouldn’t watch a boxing match if you paid them. 50% want to see a bloodbath. These folks want to see a fight with no defense at all where both fighters are cut and bleeding….kind of like “Rocky.” 10% are true boxing fans with an appreciation for the game and the strategy of the sport. Around the rest of the world, and I’ve even heard boxing announcers say this, boxing is much more appreciated as being the “Sweet Science”, the event in the “Square Ring”, the “Manly Art of Self Defense.” These fans appreciate the strategy and talent of “hit but don’t get hit.” Vladimir is not your typical 100-mph forward all-the-time fighter. He tends to have that classic, European, hands-high defense from which he throws almost all jabs. This makes his fights, to many boxing fans, a little too slow…..especially to U.S. fans. In Europe, his fights are always sellouts. To me, they are fascinating. He stands like a classic, Russian-type fighter. Left foot in front…both hands held high with the left hand out front. He will slowly take one step at a time and, when he gets close enough, he’ll throw a piston like jab. When it lands, you’ll see the opponents head snap back. Then, Vladimir does it again…..and again. Eventually, the opponent holds his hands higher because getting hit in the head is getting a little annoying. It’s then that Vladimir will start throwing the jab to the midsection with thundering force. When the opponent gets tired of being hit and tries to come forward, Vladimir will grab him and hold on and kind of wrestle with him until the refereee moves in to break up the fighters. This is not a popular move with the fans but takes a tremendous toll on the other fighter who is trying to push all of that 250 pounds off of him. After 5 or 6 rounds of this, the other fighter’s face is usually beginning to swell and you can see that he is getting tired of trying to push this giant off of him. It’s around this point that Vladimir will fake a left jab, the opponent will put his hands up and a little to the left and Mr. Klitchsko will throw a thunderous right hand that lands flush on the jaw of the other fighter and usually ends things. It’s amazing. I’ve seen this time and time again.
The reason I wanted to write this before last Saturday was so that I could advise you to tune into HBO and watch Vladimir try to defend his heavyweight title for the 17th consecutive time. Only Larrry Holmes has more heavyweight title defenses with 20. The legenday Joe Louis defended his title for 25 consecutive times… the record for all weight classes. This time, Vladimir was facing the #1 contender in the world…a boxer named Kubrat Pulev. Pulev was 20 – 0 with 11 knockouts and had been a 2008 Olympian for Bulgaria. Many of the experts considered him one of Vladimir’s sternest tests in years. Pulev decide to go with the strategy that had defeated Klitschko in his early years which is to come right at him and try to knock him out. It was a poor choice. Since Pulev did something fighters don’t usually do, Klitschko did something he doesn’t usually do, which is throw a left hook. It made Mr. Pulev sit down on the canvas immediately, one minute into the fight. In my opinion, the referee could have stopped it right there as Mr. Pulev didn’t seem to know where he was. Therefore, Vladimir’s next punch, another left hook, deposited Pulev onto the ground again. To his credit, Kubrat got up and finished the round. He changed his strategy in the 2nd round to what most fighters try to do….stay away while Vladimir stalks you. So it turned into a usual Klitschko fight until Mr. Pulev realized, in the 5th round, that he had lost every round and he tried to go on the offensive again. He got knocked down again for his trouble. When he got up, he finally tasted the thunderous right hand from Vladimir and decided to take a short nap and the fight was over.
It will be several months before his next fight and I’ll try to catch it and remind you to tune in. In the meantime, remember the name….Vladimir Klitchsko. He may just turn into, statistically, the best heavywieght of all time.