By Graham Houston
Being a boxing fan can be a frustrating experience. On Saturday in Germany, Wladimir Klitschko defends his heavyweight title against Eddie Chambers, a fight where an American challenger for once has a serious chance of beating the towering champion from the Ukraine, yet there will be no TV coverage in the U.S. HBO subscribers in the States have been able to watch Klitschko outclass the likes of Ray Austin, Tony Thompson and sadly faded ex-champs Lamon Brewster and Hasim Rahman. His fight with another boxer from the former Soviet Union, Sultan Ibragimov, was also shown on HBO. Another all-Eastern European fight, with Ruslan Chagaev, found a home on ESPN Classic. Yet on Saturday, a match with a talented, young and motivated American opponent isn’t being shown on American TV, although there will be PPV internet coverage.
If I understand it correctly, HBO sports president Ross Greenburg is saying that because Vitali Klitschko made a comeback, American boxing fans cannot differentiate between the two brothers and therefore have no real interest in Saturday’s fight. That’s one of the strangest things I’ve heard in a long time. Boxing brothers have long been a part of ring history. Of course, it is not a TV network’s duty to show boxing matches, and sometimes it is not feasible for certain fights due to be televised due to things such as schedules and funding allocations, but it just seems odd that the best fight in a long time involving Wladimir Klitschko won’t be seen on American television (in Britain it will be available on Prime Time PPV).
Klitschko is obviously a clear favourite. He is a veteran champion with a string of successful title defences, and he towers over Chambers as well as outweighing him by 35 pounds, Klitschko coming in at a ripped 244 pounds while the challenger weighed 209. If Chambers wins, it will rightly be considered a major surprise.
Chambers can be considered a live underdog, though. He is a talented boxer with fast hands, and although not considered a very hard puncher he can hurt his opponents with sharp, accurate blows. In his last fight, Chambers demonstrated how a smaller man can dominate a bigger one when he pasted the 6ft 7ins Alexander Dimitrenko.
I believe that Chambers learned a lot from his only defeat, when he was clearly outworked and outpointed by Alexander Povetkin two years ago. Chambers started brightly but then laid back and allowed the unbeaten Russian fighter to pile up points with a busy, swarming attack. It was as if Chambers lost confidence in himself. He covered up, punched back only sparingly, and allowed round after round to drift away from him. “I got lackadaisical, and once you lose focus everything falls down, your form can break down, your stamina, everything falls off,” Chambers told me in a telephone interview for Boxing Monthly when talking about the Povetkin fight. “I let bad thoughts creep into my mind and it really got to the point where I didn’t care what I was doing. … All of a sudden I look up and I’m down — not down on the floor but down in the fight by a certain amount of rounds and I needed a knockout to win.”
Chambers said he has moved on from this disappointing performance. He outpointed the heavy handed Samuel Peter and then earned the right to meet Klitschko by defeating the unbeaten Dimitrenko in an IBF eliminator. Chambers came in looking his trimmest in years for the fight with Dimitrenko, and he is just three quarters of a pound heavier for Saturday’s fight. His weight is right and his mind seems to be in the right place, because he has by all accounts been exuding a quiet confidence as the big night approaches.
Klitschko, though, is very accustomed to boxing in big events and he is a vastly experienced fighter who had a deep amateur background capped by winning an Olympic gold medal. He has faced a variety of styles and, at 33, is arguably boxing at the peak of his prowess.
Many will say that Klitschko is a boring fighter, but after three stoppage defeats he has become disinclined to take chances of running out of stamina or getting hit by a haymaker.
Each fight of Klitschko’s now resembles the one that went before — the steady application of the jab, an occasional hook or well-placed right hand, all the while building up a commanding lead on the scorecards. It is only when an opponent has been worn down to the point of no longer posing any type of threat that Klitschko will open up and try to conclude matters.
Klitschko’s trainer, Emanuel Steward, tells me that “Dr. Steelhammer” will be looking to make a statement in this fight and seek to be more exciting, which means applying pressure sooner. Steward believes that Chambers will be out of his depth against the most accomplished, powerful man he has ever faced, and he doesn’t see the American boxer making it to the final bell.
Chambers boxed beautifully against Dimitrenko, but that was against a big and capable but, in terms of world class, somewhat limited fighter. We can never be sure the level an unbeaten boxer will reach in a fight, and we discovered that Dimitrenko was a bit flattered by his run of victories. Klitschko is far superior to Dimitrenko.
If Chambers can make Klitschko uncomfortable, if he can slip inside and trigger off combinations, he can be very competitive. Yet I see Chambers having real problems getting past Klitschko’s long-reaching jab. Chambers will also have to be wary of Klitschko’s right hand. If he gets caught and hurt, it might make him hesitant — and if Chambers starts to think defensively, the fight will be over.
I like Chambers and I respect his skills and the way he has given himself the best chance of winning by getting himself into tiptop condition, as he did for the Dimitrenko fight, but I just believe that Klitschko will present too many difficulties for him. I cannot see Chambers outjabbing Klitschko, not in a consistent way. If Chambers starts to press in behind his high guard and try to unleash bursts of punches it could bring success but he will also be putting himself at risk of getting countered while he is letting his hands go. The fight could, then, settle down into a pattern that sees Chambers scoring in spurts but Klitschko throwing the greater number of punches, even if hitting arms and gloves much of the time, to win most of the rounds.
The so-called safest pick, I suppose, is Klitschko on points, but I believe he can wear down Chambers to the point where he can force a stoppage late in the fight, perhaps in the 11th round — and whatever happens, I do not think the fight will be a dull one.