Wlad’s still got the big win in him we’ve never seen
By Alex Pierpaoli
Tonight Britain’s Anthony Joshua defends his IBF Heavyweight title against 41 year old former division kingpin Wladimir Klitschko. The bout was a quick sell-out and 90,000 plus will cram Wembley Arena for what is expected to be more of a blood-ritual and a coronation than an actual contest. So heralded is the 27 year old Briton and so equally respected, but disliked is the former champion, Klitschko, that most expect tonight’s fight to be the official start to the Age of Anthony Joshua. That could very well be the case, he is favored to win by as much as 5-to-1, but if Klitschko can banish all remnants of his performance in his last fight, a unanimous decision loss to Tyson Fury in December of twenty-fifteen, Wladimir poses a quantum leap up in clash for the very green young champion.
Anthony Joshua has rocketed to stardom in British boxing and has revived the heavyweight division with his knock-them-cold style; he’s 18-0 with 18 kayos. No one has yet to fight into the eighth round against the twenty-twelve gold medalist for Great Britain. Joshua gets about the business of bashing out his opponents right away, and thus far none have held up for long, with the exception of amateur rival Dillian White who stung him in the second round and lasted into the seventh before ending up horizontal just like all of Joshua’s professional foes. A troubled teen with legal entanglements who used boxing to keep him on the straight and narrow, Anthony Joshua is articulate and handsome and poised to become a very rich man in boxing’s unlimited class. Boxing, especially heavyweight boxing, is where concussive force can and will rule the day. But skill and experience have to count for something.
Like him or loathe him, Wlad Klitschko deserves respect. Sure, some of his biggest wins were among the worst fights this fight-fan has ever seen. But Wladimir’s jab and grab, bash and mash, clutch-for-dear-life style has racked up the wins. Wlad Klitschko was a dominant champion. The division he ruled was certainly not the best and the brightest in heavyweight history but that doesn’t reduce his credibility considering any champion can only fight what’s available to him, and no one would deny that of Klitschko. He holds the second longest reign in the division’s history (Joe Louis 11 years 8 months, W.Klitschko 9 years 7 months) and won 18 consecutive title defenses, only two men have done better than that (Joe Louis 25, Larry Holmes 20). As much as he has never been embraced by the American fight-fan, Wladimir Klitschko is a sure-to-be Hall-of-Famer and was a dominant heavyweight champ.
Isn’t Klitschko too old, his reflexes too blunted? Perhaps. But despite losing the heavyweight Championship in his last fight, he wasn’t beaten up, he was outmaneuvered and out-thought. In terms of conditioning, Klitschko has a lot of mileage on him but he is a consummate professional and is likely to be in the very best condition an athlete of his age could be in. And for an ex-champion, he’s hungry. Klitschko was first denied the rematch with the self-destructive, drug- addicted Tyson Fury who upset the Ukranian in December of twenty-fifteen in the greatest boxing upset you would never want to watch again. For twelve rounds Fury used his reach advantage to befuddle Klitschko with a pawing jab and clever movement. It was ugly but Fury completely diffused Klitschko’s offense and had him spooked about throwing anything for thirty-six minutes. Tonight he is going to be in a fight for his life against Joshua. That could go one of two ways for Wlad. Joshua may find Klitschko’s chin in the opening frame the way Corrie Sanders did and this will be less of a fight and more of a blood sacrifice. But Klitschko turned in what was likely the best performance of his career when faced with a guy who attacked him back in twenty-fourteen against Kubrat Pulev. When attacked on that night, Klitschko fought back aggressively and put Pulev out in destructive fashion. Everyone keeps talking about how Klitschko won’t be able to take Joshua’s best shots, but let’s not forget that the old Ukranian packs quite the wallop himself. This could end up a gun fight in the opening round with two heavyweight monsters firing cannon-blast right hands at each other. That’s why 90,000 people coughed up their cash to see it live and why millions will be watching it on television. Both men can crack.
The late great trainer of Wlad Klitschko, Emmanuel Steward, was often frustrated with Wlad’s hesitancy to use his size and strength. Always concerned about protecting his chin, and perhaps for very good reason, Wladimir Klitschko doesn’t fight like the big man he is. To win tonight he is going to have to fight bold and mean and use everything he’s got. These two guys know each other well and have been downright chummy in the pre-fight meetings. But both guys are pros and that niceness should go right out the window by tonight’s ring walks.
Dull as shit though his reign has been, Wladimir Klitschko has skill. And skill usually beats blunt force trauma. This could very well be one of those night’s where skill gets stretched by predatory, bone-numbing force. It’s actually what I’m rooting for. I want Joshua to drive out those bygone days of Klitschko’s safe but effective victories. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. All those year’s weren’t for nothing.
Klitschko by knockout, in the best win of his life.
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Up this week is one of the greatest heavyweights who never became champion, the incredible Joe Jennette. Born Jeremiah Jennette in North Bergen, New Jersey on August 26, 1879, Joe worked for his blacksmith father, shoveling coal into trucks and delivering it to customers, hard physical labor that paid little. He was was a strong and athletic young man who stood five-foot-ten-inches tall and weighed between 185 and 203 pounds. Joe was light-skinned and strikingly handsome. He was described as “a black Adonis; a magnificently proportioned man” who was “never a braggart nor a clown, but led a quiet disciplined life.” Joe had been a success as a street fighter, and on a dare at the age of 25, he passed through one of the only doors open to an athletic black youth of the age–boxing. He was quite the progeny, despite starting his career late. Jennette was twenty-five and he learned fast as a pro.
After just 3 fights, one of them a stoppage loss to Black Bill (Claude Brooks), Jennette fought Jack Johnson in their first of 10 fights, and finished his career at 1-2-7 against the Galveston Giant. Their contests were always competitive but Johnson prevailed and sadly, once champion, Johnson never granted Jennette a shot at his title, claiming he was the first Black Heavyweight Champion and he intended to be the last.
Locked out of the Championship, Jennette had to settle for the Colored Heavyweight Championship of the World which was all that was available for heavyweights of his pigmentation. At that time, there among the heavyweight contenders were two other great black fighters who were in the same situation as Joe, they were Sam McVey and Sam Langford. Jennette, McVey and Langford, unable to challenge Jack Johnson, were left to sort things out among themselves, meeting about 30 times combined.
In April of 1909, Jennette and McVey met for the third time in Paris in a Finish Fight that may have been one of the most brutal, grueling boxing matches in history. For 49 rounds Jennette and McVey rumbled against each other. Throughout the course of the bout Jennette was dropped 9 times and rose again and again only to rally in the final ten rounds. McVey came out of his corner at the start of the 49th and shook hands with Jennette, succumbing to the punishment he had absorbed for 48 rounds. The French magazine L’Auto described McVey’s appearance at the end of the bout as “he no longer wore a human face.”
Jennette and McVey would meet 2 more times with a final tally of 2-2-1 (1) in favor of Jennette. Against the great Sam Langford, Jennette finished at 2-5-7 through the course of their fourteen encounters.
After boxing, Jennette served as a boxing referee and a judge. He ran a garage in Union City, New Jersey and upstairs from that he trained neighborhood kids in the Manly Art. In 1946, Jennette described Sam Langford as the greatest of the Big Four, calling him “the toughest of the lot.”
Jennette married Adelaide Atzinger, a white woman, in 1906 and the couple had two children, Joe Jr. and Agnes. Jennette died at the age of 78 years old in the North Hudson Hospital in Weehawken, New Jersey. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York in 1997 and a historical marker was placed in his honor in Union City, New Jeresy a few blocks from where his gym and auto-service station stood.
Here he is in action against the incomparable Sam Langford. Jennette and Langford fought 14 times. This is their tenth encounter.
This week we’re talking about former Heavyweight Champion of the World, Neon Leon Spinks! Spinks had a career record of 26-17-3 (14) as a professional and won amateur championships at Light Heavyweight including a Bronze Medal at the `74 World Championships, a Silver Medal at the Pan Am Games in `75 and a Gold Medal at the `76 Montreal Olympics where he was part of one of the two most famous and successful classes of American Olympic boxers in history(The other being the class of 1984). The 1976 Olympic Team in Montreal Canada included Leo Randolph(flyweight), Howard Davis(lightweight), Ray Leonard(light welter), Michael Spinks(middleweight) and Leon Spinks(light heavy).
Leon Spinks turned pro as a Heavyweight (the Cruiserweight division hadn’t come into being yet and later in his career he did fight as a Cruiser) and he got a shot at Heavyweight Legend Muhammad Ali in only his 8th fight. He was six-oh-and one, the draw a ten rounder with rugged Minnesotan, Scott Ledoux.
Leon weighed just 197 and a quarter pounds when he upset Ali by fifteen round Split Decision at the Las Vegas Hilton in February of 1978. He was the King of the World at just 24 years old and soon there were fur coats and fast cars and the fast life of a young boxing champion.
Unfortunately, he lost the Championship just 202 days later in a return match with The Greatest which leaves Leon with the dubious distinction of third shortest rein as Lineal Heavyweight King.
“125 days Shannon Briggs
197 days Micheal Moorer
202 days Leon Spinks
209 days Hasim Rahman
235 days Marvin Hart ”
Leon Spinks went on to tangle with fighters like Larry Holmes, Bernardo Mercado, Carlos De Leon, Dwight Muhammad Qawi, and Alfredo Evangelista in his 18 year career as a pro.
Leon is in rough shape these days but he is still a fighter at his core and maintains the quiet dignity of so many elder lions of blunted tooth and claw who bear the visible effects of years of wear and tear.
Listen tomorrow morning for more on Neon Leon!
This is a nice fan-made tribute to Leon Spinks from the YouTubes