COMMENTARY | On Saturday, November 10, at the O2 World Arena in Hamburg, Germany, Wladimir Klitschko will face what some are calling the loftiest challenge of his career.
In this case, the word is used quite literally, as in, "Adj. - Of imposing height," as opposed to figuratively, signifying a particularly tough or difficult assignment.
Klitschko's opponent, Mariusz Wach, stands at a towering 6' 7 1/2", giving him more than an inch in height advantage over Klitschko the Younger, the first time in his career that Wladimir has faced a man taller than himself.
Since the fight was signed, Klitschko has been consistent in warning of the dangers he faces and the unique challenge that Wach presents. Of course, it's his job to sell the fight, and also to keep himself motivated in training camp, so that's to be expected.
Beyond the height advantage, though, Wach is an entirely ho-hum opponent, and one that Klitschko should have no problem dispatching in concussive fashion. He's nowhere near the top 10 of the heavyweight division, a ranking which isn't entirely hard to crack if you have any noteworthy victories on your ledger.
The problem is that Wach, 32, does not. His last three opponents were his best, and it's a list that include Kevin McBride, Jason Gavern and Tye Fields. Not exactly inspiring material.
Wach has been protected and moved along slowly, all for the very purpose of this payday. At 27-0, with 15 knockouts, the undefeated Pole known as "The Viking" will be a big draw in Europe, where he meets Klitschko this weekend and will help to sell out the O2 World Arena; not that Klitschko usually needs much help regardless.
The real challenge underlying Klitschko vs. Wach is Emanuel Steward's recent death. This will be Klitschko's first fight without the legendary trainer backing him in nearly a decade, dating back to December 2003.
Together, Klitschko and Steward reached the pinnacle of the division and remained a dominant and near impenetrable force. After losing their first fight together by KO to Lamon Brewster, Klitschko has since gone 16-0 with 13 knockouts.
During that span he's really only been tested once, in his first meeting with Sam Peter in 2005, while running off a string of wins over current and former titlists, and eight fighters with either an undefeated record -- Eliseo Castillo, Sam Peter, Calvin Brock, Sultan Ibragimov and Ruslan Chagaev, or just one prior loss -- Tony Thompson, Eddie Chambers and David Haye.
While Klitschko should have long since mastered all of the lessons Steward painstakingly taught him, and Wach is the perfect unchallenging opponent to go up against in such an instance, the real threat is simply how recently Steward's death was, just two and a half weeks by fight night.
In the midst of training camp, Klitschko surely hasn't been able to take time to properly grieve his close friend and partner. The emotions could potentially spill over and cause a lack of interest on fight night, or worse, an over eagerness to sloppily attack and win the fight early, leaving himself vulnerable in the process.
In truth though, Wach is a pushover, and Klitschko will run right through him. The bigger they are... and all of that.
The fact that Klitschko is mourning Steward's death will only add fire in his belly when he perhaps would not have had any, making the 13th defense of the title they won together in April 2006.
Considering the run that Klitschko has gone on, and the dearth of challengers remaining, opting to defend against Wach is certainly acceptable, if largely uninteresting.
Meanwhile, EPIX is televising a co-feature with Robert Helenius (17-0, 11 KOs) prior to the Klitschko match. So if the television networks have their way, then we may just see Klitschko take on another "lofty" challenge next.
Helenius, "The Nordic Nightmare", stands 6' 6 1/2", himself with a slight edge on Wladimir, and would carry an undefeated record and high European profile into the match. Of course, that same profile also fits quite nicely with the undefeated Tyson Fury, even taller at 6' 9", and with a similarly glimmering if unsubstantial record of 19-0, 14 KOs.
Jake Emen runs the boxing news website ProBoxing-Fans.com, where you can find breaking news stories, interviews, rankings and more. You can also follow Jake and ProBoxing-Fans.com on Twitter, @ProBoxingFans.
- Sports & Recreation
- Wladimir Klitschko
- Mariusz Wach