Boxing
 
        === Miles from Las Vegas, Klitschko looks for career-definer ===
 
 By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Boxing Editor
 
 (Sports  Network) - When  all eyes are trained on mid-ring at the MGM Grand in
 Las  Vegas this  weekend, what could be  the most important fight in the sport
 this year will actually be three more weeks away.
 
 On  Oct.  5 in Moscow,  consensus heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko gets
 another  chance to prove himself more than a Ukrainian automaton when he faces
 consensus  No.  1 challenger and  dubious title claimant Alexander Povetkin at
 the stadium originally built for the 1980 Summer Olympics.
 
 The fight will mark Klitschko's 15th defenses of the IBF and IBO titles he won
 from  Chris  Byrd in 2006, the  11th defense of  the WBO crown he grabbed from
 Sultan Ibragimov two years later and the fifth risk of the WBA "super" belt he
 captured from David Haye in 2011.
 
 Povetkin will walk to the ring with the WBA's suspect "regular" jewelry, which
 he  acquired  via 12-round decision over  Ruslan Chagaev -- exactly two years,
 two  months  and seven  days  after  Klitschko  had stopped  the  German-based
 Uzbekistan native in nine rounds.
 
 Useless  trinkets  aside, the fight  is the most important  in years in a long
 moribund  division, in  which  complete title  unification  has been  rendered
 impossible  by  Klitschko's insistence he  won't pursue  the one major belt he
 doesn't own -- the WBC title that's held by older brother Vitali.
 
 Short of that, this one is as good as it gets.
 
 With  that  in mind,  we chased down  Randy Gordon, the  former New York State
 Athletic  Commission  chairman and ESPN/USA  Network fight analyst, to discuss
 the  importance of the fight and where the oft-criticized Klitschko fits among
 the recent heavyweight greats.
 
 Q:  It's been  a while since a  heavyweight fight was the fight in boxing. How
 important is it for this one to be memorable?
 
 A: It would certainly be wonderful if the Klitschko-Povetkin fight turned into
 a  fight we'd  like  to see  more  of. We  haven't  had much  of  that in  the
 heavyweight division in recent years.
 
 Q:  What is your level of interest in this fight? More or less than other Wlad
 fights lately?
 
 A: Personally, I am anxiously awaiting this fight. I have wanted to see it for
 a  long  time and now  it's finally  upon us. I,  for one, anxiously await the
 opening bell.
 
 Q: Is Wlad underrated compared to champs of the past?
 
 A:  I  believe that, outside  of the boxing  media, many fans, despite knowing
 little about both of the Klitschkos, tend to vastly underrate them.
 
 Q:  How do you think he would have fared against the best from the 70s, 80s or
 90s?
 
 A:  I  often think of  what the result would  have been had Wladimir Klitschko
 faced  the  likes of  Muhammad Ali,  Joe Frazier,  George Foreman, Ken Norton,
 Michael  Spinks, Evander Holyfield, Riddick Bowe, Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis.
 I  can see  Wladimir beating Norton, Spinks, Holyfield, Bowe, Tyson and Lewis,
 while  losing to  Ali, Frazier  and Foreman.  I find  a matchup  against Tyson
 intriguing,  especially in  the first four rounds, when Tyson was at his best.
 If Wladimir could get the fight into the fifth, I see him dominating Tyson and
 stopping  him. I think Frazier would be able to get under Wladimir's long arms
 and hurt him early.
 
 Q:  Why hasn't he become a giant U.S. star? Because he's not American? Because
 he's  not had great opposition? Because he's not an action fighter? After he's
 retired,  do you think people will appreciate him anymore than they do now? Is
 this  the defining fight for him, or is there another he could have that would
 elevate his stock?
 
 A:  Wladimir not being an American is not what has kept his popularity down in
 the  U.S. What has hurt him has been his lack of visibility on U.S. television
 and  the one-sidedness of  his fights. Emanuel Steward told me a long time ago
 that  Wladimir  Klitschko is  a  great  fighter.  Steward said  that  Wladimir
 possesses  more offensive  tools than  any fighter  he has  ever worked  with.
 Wladimir  wins  and he wins  easy and seemingly without  much effort. I have a
 feeling he may finally have his defining match next year, against someone like
 Deontay  Wilder,  a big,  strong puncher  who actually  out-sizes him. When he
 does,  and if the fight becomes the first of a sequel, I think you'll see fans
 appreciate Wladimir even more. No matter what, his defining moment takes place
 soon  against  Alexander Povetkin. Even with  his vast array of skills, I give
 Povetkin little chance of beating the younger Klitschko. Wladimir may just win
 so  convincingly  that we'll all  come away  shaking our heads, realizing that
 after  all these years he wasn't just another heavyweight champion. We'll know
 he was a great heavyweight champion.
 
 
 This week's title-fight schedule:
 
 SATURDAY
 
 IBF junior middleweight title - Las Vegas, Nev.
 
 Ishe Smith (champion) vs. Carlos Molina (No. 2 contender)
 
 Smith (25-5, 11 KO): First title defense; Thirteenth fight in Las Vegas (12-0)
 
 Molina (21-5-2, 6 KO): First title fight; Third fight in Las Vegas (1-0-1)
 
 Fitzbitz  says: "Hometown  hero Smith  is  a sentimental  favorite, while  the
 rugged  Molina  has  finally  reached  main  stage  after  years  of  battling
 circumstance. The latter is due for a belt." Molina by decision
 
 WBA/WBC super welterweight titles - Las Vegas, Nev.
 
 Floyd Mayweather Jr. (WBA champion) vs. Saul Alvarez (WBC champion)
 
 Mayweather (44-0, 26 KO): First title defense; Twenty-second title fight in
 five divisions (21-0)
 
 Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KO): Seventh title defense; Third fight in Las Vegas (2-0)
 
 Fitzbitz  says: "Alvarez  is a younger, bigger and stronger edition of the guy
 who's  been groomed to defeat Mayweather for years, but has always failed. The
 result doesn't change here." Mayweather in 10
 
 WBA/WBC super lightweight titles - Las Vegas, Nev.
 
 Danny Garcia (WBA/WBC champion) vs. Lucas Matthysse (unranked)
 
 Garcia (26-0, 16 KO): Fourth WBC/third WBA defense; Tenth fight in Las Vegas
 (9-0)
 
 Matthysse (34-2, 32 KO): First title fight; Eleven straight wins by stoppage
 
 Fitzbitz  says:  "The early impression  at the  Peterson fight was that Garcia
 looked  a little unnerved  by Matthysse. It says here that he's found a way to
 cope in the last four months." Garcia by decision
 
 Last week's picks: 1-0
 
 2013 picks record: 50-30 (62.5 percent)
 
 Overall picks record: 513-182 (73.8 percent)
 
 Lyle  Fitzsimmons  is a veteran  sports columnist who's written professionally
 since  1988 and covered  boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and
 posted  online  for  clients  in  North  America  and  Europe.  Reach  him  at
 fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him on Twitter: @fitzbitz.
 
 09/11 16:34:43 ET

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