Klitschko jabs his way to
Cautious, defensive-minded tactical bout doesn't win over MSG crowd.
By Mike Indri
Retired Boxers Foundation
February 23, 2008
NEW YORK - Wladimir Klitschko pawed, jabbed and swatted his way to a
twelve round unanimous decision win over Sultan Ibragimov in a rare
heavyweight unification title fight; which enabled Klitschko to add
Ibragimov's World Boxing Organization title belt to his trophy case,
along with his own International Boxing Federation championship crown.
Headlining a Madison Square Garden fightcard which featured several
quick knockouts by talented local prospects and a ten round "Pier Six"
style brawl between popular Irish middleweight John Duddy and Francisco
Mora, the Klitschko-Ibragimov heavyweight clash was hoped to be an
intriguing, classic battle of two champions willing to put their hard
earned titles at risk in their quest to become the one and only true
"Heavyweight Champion", instead the huge crowd had to endure twelve
rounds of a tentative, strategic effort by the physically bigger and
stronger Klitschko against a willing and game champion who had no answer
to combat his obvious disadvantages in height (five inches) and weight
(close to twenty pounds).
From the opening bell it was clear that this bout was to be more of a
chess match than a fight, as Klitschko came out using as much energy
swatting at Ibragimov's range-finding jabs as he did in looking to land
his own punches. Unfortunately for Sultan, Wladimir is an expert chess
It was not until round five that the 14,011 predominantly Klitschko fans
that packed the Garden, along with the millions watching live on HBO,
finally witnessed the first sign of Dr. Steelhammer's mighty right hand.
The shot temporarily silenced the boo's from the action deprived crowd
and had the familiar "Klitschko-Klitschko-Klitschko" chants ringing
throughout the rafters of boxing's most hallowed venue.
As round six brought three more minutes of fruitless work by Ibragimov
and conservative effort by Klitschko, this championship fight was
suddenly half over and if you blinked more than once you surely had
missed most of the action.
One thing was for certain, whether it be for lack of a good effort or
not, this fight was slipping away from Sultan Ibragimov and you would
think that the undefeated fighter would realize that his current
approach to this career defining opportunity was definitely not working
and maybe it was time to resort to Plan B.
Apparently there was no Plan B for the thirty-two year-old Russian born
southpaw, and that ineffectiveness along with the former Olympic silver
medallist getting tagged with several more Klitschko right hands in
rounds seven, eight and nine put Ibragimov in a dire situation. Those
big right hands in round nine actually stunned Ibragimov and sent the
hurt fighter sprawling into the ropes were it appeared that the ropes
may have been all that was holding the soon-to-be former WBO heavyweight
king up; as close to a knockout that this non-epic bout would see.
Against the urging and pleading from his most ardent fans, Klitschko
laid back and played it safe. Content to pile up the rounds in listless
fashion, Klitschko went back to the jab, albeit a solid one, and
neglected the punch that makes him the most dangerous heavyweight today,
perhaps the lone heavyweight with pure one-punch knockout power.
Never able to overcome the big physical disparity, and later claiming
that his left hand had been broken weeks earlier during training,
Ibragimov, now 22-1-1 (17 KO's) was barely able to scrap out one round
on two of the judge's scorecards over the last six rounds. Highly
respected judge Steve Weisfeld, a Rivervale, NJ native, did not see
Ibragimov winning any rounds over the last half of the bout.
With all credit to Wladimir Klitschko, 50-3 (44 KO's), for fighting a
determined and controlled match, obviously sticking to a pre-set fight
plan, I really don't know who had a more difficult time: Sultan
Ibragimov in trying to penetrate Dr. Steelhammer's tight and ever so
cautious defense, or the fans who were watching?
Judge Don Ackerman scored it 119-110, while judge Chuck Giampa saw it
117-111 and the aforementioned Weisfeld had it 118-110. This writer also
had it 118-110.
All for the unanimous decision winner, Wladimir Klitschko. Afterwards
the IBF, and new WBO heavyweight world champion would say, "I am not
disappointed in this performance as he (Ibragimov) is a very difficult
guy to fight, he kept leaning back."
"I had to be careful to shoot my right hand-not to lose my balance",
stated Klitschko. "Anyway, the fight is over and we have the winner of
the fight. I am ready to fight as soon as possible. I wish to get
another champion to fight."
In the co-feature attraction, popular middleweight Irish John Duddy
overcame an early rough beating in his ten round bout against rugged,
yet unheralded, Walid Smichet to survive with a controversial majority
decision victory. Getting pounded with 47 of 85 power shots (according
to the CompuBox punch stats) in round one Duddy, fighting out of New
York by way of Derry, Ireland, was forced to battle from the opening
bell and came out on the short end of most of the two-fisted volleys
throughout the first half of this bar room brawl. Smichet, a Canadian
from Montreal who now calls New York home, had Duddy bleeding from both
sides of his face; the real danger being an extremely deep and nasty
gash of a cut over the left eye. Luckily for the likable slugger, he was
in the capable hands of top-notch cutman, Big John Mitchell. Eventually
Smichet would tire and his offensive output would greatly diminish,
giving Duddy the chance he needed to get back into the fight. Employing
a good jab, actually moving away from some punches and working the body
of a tiring Smichet would pay off dearly for the Irishman. While the
emphasis of boxing over brawling salvaged the night for Duddy, the
exposed showing against his rudimentary opponent blew Duddy's real shot;
his all but signed June 7th title opportunity against middleweight world
champion Kelly Pavlik.
While the severe cut over his left eye may require as much as four
months of recuperation, the real question now is his worthiness.
Judge Frank Lombardi called it a 95-95 draw, while both judges John
McKaie and Don Trella somehow scored it 98-92 for Duddy, keeping the
Irishman undefeated at 24-0 (17 KO's), while the short lucked Smichet
falls to 17-4-3 (13 KO's).
On the K2 Promotions and Warriors Boxing "Heavyweight Unification"
Powerful middleweight prospect Joe Greene retained his NABA regional
title and picked up the vacant NABO belt as well with his commanding ten
round technical knockout win against gutsy Francisco Mora. Pounding the
resilient Argentinean from the onset Greene, decked out in all green:
robe, trunks, shoes, and even gloves dropped Mora twice in round two and
twice in round four. Despite the constant beating by the southpaw
Greene, Mora, to his credit, is doing just enough to justify his right
to continue, while skilled referee Tony Chiarantano is keeping a close
eye on Mora.
Winning every round the only blemish on the fight ledger is the one
point penalty Greene picks up in round six for low blows. While Mora's
trip to the canvas in round seven is rightly ruled a slip, it just shows
that the big-hearted fighter's legs are gone as well.
With his face bruised Mora gets a look from the ring doctor in round
eight and although his right eye is damaged, the thirty-four year-old
fighter is allowed to continue. After six more minutes of a beating
administered at the hands of the Queens, NY native, Mora returns to his
corner after the tenth round and drops to his knees, then slumps onto
his side. While Mora's heart and soul would not stop his body did, and
at the advise of the doctor the one sided scheduled twelve rounder was
halted, giving the still perfect Greene, now 18-0 (14 KO's) the
impressive TKO win. Mora slips to 52-13 (35 KO's).
Former IBF Cruiserweight champion Imamu Mayfield did not last too long
against highly touted, Kronk gym fighter Jonathan Banks. After a solid
right hand drove Mayfield backwards and his glove hit the canvas to keep
him up, Banks followed with what seemed to be a grazing right hand atop
Mayfield's shoulder which surprisingly sent the 35 year-old Perth Amboy,
NJ resident to the canvas again, where he stretched out until the count
of ten and referee Eddie Cotton felt he had seen enough. Banks, now 19-0
(14 KO's), gets credit for the KO at 1:49 of the first stanza. Mayfield
fell to 25-9-2 (18 KO's), and has now lost five of his last six fights,
dating back to 2004.
Talented super middleweight Peter "Kid Chocolate" Quillin also made
short work of his opponent, Thomas Brown, now 11-4-1 (7 KO's) as he
devastated the York, SC native, sending him writhing in pain to the
canvas. Referee Pete Santiago was forced to stop the one sided match,
scheduled for six rounds, at the 1:32 mark od round two.
"Kid Chocolate" sweetens his already perfect record to 17-0, with Brown
a very quick 14th knockout victim.
European heavyweight prospect Alexander Ustinov was treated very nicely
in his first fight stateside by journeyman Earl Ladson, now 13-18-1 (7
KO's). After getting dropped early in round one with a shot behind the
head that was ruled a knockdown, Ladson did not waste much time in
getting back down to the canvas for two more trips before referee called
a halt at 1:59 of the first round. Ustinov, of Minsk, Belarus, now is
8-0, with 8 knockouts. Ladson travels back to Winston-Salem, NC a loser
in ten of his last twelve fights.
Fighting for the sixth time since turning pro last September, busy jr.
middleweight Ronnie Vargas improved to 6-0 (4 KO's) with his four round
unanimous decision win over Monyette Flowers, now 4-9-1, from Memphis,
TN. Highly acclaimed as a top-ranking amateur Vargas, fighting out of
the Bronx, dominated the night's opening bout; all three judges scored
it 40-36 for the young Venezuelan boxer.
Alexa Ray Joel, daughter of legendary musical artist Billy Joel, added
to the special night by singing the national anthem. Fight announcer Joe
Antonacci aptly handled the duties until HBO prime timer Michael Buffer
steeped in, but unfortunately for the packed house neither Klitschko or
Ibragimov must have heard the "get ready to rumble" part, as the main
event was a stinker that will hopefully be quickly forgotten. Otherwise
a great night of boxing, at boxing's greatest venue Madison Square
Garden; star studded as always.
Mike Indri can be contacted at RBFNJMIKE@aol.com