26.04.06 - By Dino Alvarado:
Wladimir Klitschko (46-3, 41 KO's) slaughtered Chris Byrd (39-3, 20 KO's) via 7th-round knockout last Saturday. The performance was nothing short of outstanding; Klitschko imposed his size and overwhelmed Byrd the entire fight with a stinging jab and powerful right hand. It seems that trainer Emanuel Steward may be on the verge of finding Wladimir's true potential.
Now, with that said, to declare Klitschko "officially back" is overreacting, plain and simple. Let's face it; Byrd didn't have the strength to give Klitschko a hard time six years ago the first time these two met, so why would the result of the rematch be any different? That brings me to the original question: What did Wladimir prove against Chris Byrd? Well, he proved what we already knew; if you put a small and weak fighter in front of him, Klitschko will dominate. He knew he could do whatever he wanted because no matter what mistakes he made, he was never going to pay for it.This is not to say Byrd is a terrible boxer; it's just a bad match-up for him, and he provided the ideal opponent for Klitschko.
He'll be declared the best heavyweight by default, but there should still be some doubt. For example, what would happen in a rematch against Lamon Brewster? First of all, let's put Brewster's most recent bout (in which he lost to Serguei Lyakhovich by unanimous decision) into perspective; he was overweight, and you'd be a fool to say you didn't notice. His focus was not
there, and the surprisingly skilled Lyakhovich took advantage. In a likely rematch between Lamon and Serguei, the money should be put on Brewster because he won't fall asleep against the same guy twice. Once that obstacle is passed, Lamon and Klitschko should have a rematch. If the first fight, Wladimir was having his way until he inexplicably ran out of gas and
eventually lost by 5th-round TKO. In that battle, both of Wladimir's main flaws came into play: his chin and stamina (or lack thereof). If he truly is the best heavyweight, Klitschko will find a way to win the fight.
Being as tall as he is (6'6), it's likely that Klitschko isn't comfortable with fighting people bigger than him, but what happens when a 7-foot giant like Nikolay Valuev is put in front of him? Granted, Valuev hasn't yet proven he's a legit contender, but his size alone would give anyone problems. Klitschko tends to use his jab and keep the smaller opponent at a
distance, but when he's fighting a taller opponent, what does he do then?
Let's not forget perhaps the biggest threat in the division, Hasim Rahman. We're all in agreement that Lennox Lewis was the last dominant heavyweight, and ironically, he shared a lot with Wladimir....even his weaknesses. Lewis was constantly criticized for having a glass jaw, and Rahman put that into play five years ago when he knocked Lewis out in the 5th round. Well, Klitschko is known for having a weak chin, too. With that in mind, fighting someone with 33 knockouts like Hasim "The Rock" Rahman should not be too high on his priority list.
In general, there's nothing wrong with Wladimir Klitschko dominating a world-class fighter like Chris Byrd the way he did, but it shouldn't lead you to believe he's answered all his critics and fixed all his problems. There's still a long way to go before he can be comfortably named the #1 heavyweight in the world.