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Tale of the tape
Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Jack Dempsey, Larry Holmes, Sonny Liston, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Riddick Bowe, Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis. What do those names have in common, you ask? Each man was the recognized World Heavyweight Champion at one point in time. In a day of meaningless alphabet titles, the number of fighters in each weight class that call themselves a "world champ" approaches double digits. But there can only be one World Champion. Tomorrow night the #1 rated Vitali Klitschko and the #2 rated Corrie Sanders do battle trying to succeed Lennox Lewis as the holder of the greatest title in sports - the World Heavyweight Championship.
But the bout between Klitschko and Sanders is about something more than just the title. It's also about family pride for Vitali, who watched in horror as Sanders dished out a brutal 2 round beating to Vitali's younger brother Wladimir nearly 14 months ago. Following the fight, Vitali stepped up to Sanders and proclaimed that he would defend the family name and regain Wladimir's WBO belt. Sanders, unintimidated by the giant Ukraine, mockingly patted the elder Klitshko on the cheek and walked away. From that moment forward, Vitali and Corrie have shared a mutual, albeit quiet, dislike for one another that will be settled along with the championship vacancy on Saturday night.
Before we break down the keys to victory for both fighters, let's first take a look at the fight by the numbers:
Vitali Klitschko Corrie Sanders
33-2 Record 39-2
32 Knockouts 29
6'8 Height 6'4
245 Weight 235
32 Age 38
80" Reach 77"
12/6/03 Last Fight 3/8/03
4.75 Months Off 13.75
100 Rounds Since '97 16
4 KOs Past 6 0
0 Times KO'd 2
2 Times Stopped 2
In looking at the numbers, two things immediately leap off the page. The first is that Corrie Sanders is 38-years old. Only a handful of fighters have held the World Heavyweight Championship past their 38th birthday. More alarming than his age, however, is Sanders' activity level. Over the past 99 months, he has only fought 16 competitive rounds, and only 5 of those rounds have come in the past 47 months. And it is that activity level along with his advancing age that will influence the keys to victory for both men.
For Vitali Klitschko, his keys to victory lie in relying on his 3 biggest strentghs - his awkward style, his murderous right hand and his chin. Klitschko's style is unusual and uncomfortable for any heavyweight. Sparring partners can't truly mimic Vitali, so he is tough to adjust to early in a fight. What Klitschko does that makes him so awkward is the way he throws his jab-right hand combination.
(Vitali's right hand is a thing of beauty)
Typically, a heavyweight will commit to one or two and then look to load up and fire a huge right hand. Vitali couldn't be more different because he rarely, if ever, really commits to his jab. Instead he uses an arm-punch of a jab to momentarily distract his opponent so that he can let his right hand fly, which is coming literally right behind the jab. In other words, Klitschko will actually begin to throw his right hand before his jab lands. Opponents have little or no time to react to the right hand because they simply do not see it coming. That's what makes Vitali so awkward. That's exactly what gave Lennox Lewis so much trouble in their 2003 fight. And that's exactly what Klitschko must do in order to land his big right hand.
It's no secret in the heavyweight division that Vitali Klitschko has one of the best right hands in the business. If he lands his right hand, it hurts. And when Vitali hurts an opponent, he stays hurt as evidenced by his 91% knockout ratio.
But Klitschko must stay patient and focused when fighting the dangerous Corrie Sanders. Sanders' best chance is in an all-out brawl, so Vitali must throw his trademark combination and then step to his left to avoid Sanders' left-hand counterpunch and then start the process all over again. The world knows that Klitschko has a tremendous chin after watching the Lewis fight, so he should be able to eat a few of Sanders' bombs and survive. But he must look to fire and step left so that he can minimize eating those left hands and bring Sanders into the mid- or late-rounds where Sanders is known to gas and lose power.
(Will Vitali's eye be a factor?)
Corrie Sanders, on the other hand, must fight a very different fight if he hopes to win the World Heavyweight Championship. Age, activity levels and a propensity to gas late in fights all mean that Sanders best chance is to stop Vitali Klitschko early. In order to do that, he must turn this boxing match into an all-out brawl.
In order to turn Saturday night's fight into a brawl, Corrie Sanders must get off first right from the opening bell. He must rely on his strong self-confidence to get into Vitali's face and stay there. He can accomplish that goal by throwing quick, powerful lead left hands to close the gap.
(Sanders used fast, yet precise, counterpunching to jump on
Vitali's younger brother early and end the fight)
Although Sanders possesses good heavyweight power, he doesn't have enough to stop Vitali Klitschko with a single shot. Therefore, he must look to put his deadly-accurate power punches together in rapid-fire succession once he's on the inside. Cleanup right hooks followed by left uppercuts (yes, uppercuts against the taller Klitschko) will be there all day for Sanders after he lands the lead left hand. And those right hands can test Vitali's surgically repaired left eyebrow and those old wounds created by Lennox Lewis will gush blood once again. That is very important because Klitschko will remember the premature (in his mind) stoppage if his eye begins to bleed, and he will become frustrated and desperately search for a quick knockout by brawling. And that's when Corrie Sanders is the most comfortable and the most dangerous.
Saturday night we will crown a new World Heavyweight Champion. The history between Sanders and the Klitschko family add a level of intrigue and drama to an already competitive match-up. All the factors surrounding this fight suggest that this one will end inside the distance. Don't blink!