Tenth title-fight win boosts Klitschko's all-time standing
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor

Ocala, FL (Sports Network) - So...any questions?

To those who'd branded Wladimir Klitschko a safety-first, violence-second pretender since a three-knockdown escape from Samuel Peter five years ago in Atlantic City, I hope you were paying attention on Saturday afternoon.

Over 10 punishing rounds on his adopted German home turf, the increasingly confident and subsequently dominant Ukrainian made another flawless defense of the championship status he picked up one fight after overcoming Peter in 2005.

And while I won't pretend Thompson, Chagaev and Rahman are the Frazier, Foreman and Norton that Muhammad Ali dealt with four decades ago, it'd be hard to argue that Klitschko's done everything needed to be labeled among the best in the division since "The Greatest's" reign.

Just look at the numbers.

In 10 fights since the initial near-disaster with Peter, the 6-foot-6 "Dr. Steelhammer" has now gone 10 up/10 down, blitzing 10 unique foes with a combined 317-19-9 record, including six who'd either entered the ring -- or recently possessed -- a title belt deeming them a "heavyweight champion."

Give Wladimir Klitschko another couple legitimate top five guys and it's advantage Wladimir.
When examining the resumes of post-Ali flag-bearers Holmes, Tyson, Holyfield and Lewis, it's clear now that the post-2005 Klitschko stands at least shoulder to shoulder...if not a head above in some cases, their accomplishments.

Here's a champion-by-champion look:

LARRY HOLMES -- While Wladimir is not within quantitative range of the "Easton Assassin's" 20 title defenses, the quality of his foes has generally been a tick or two above the Alfredo Evangelista, Ossie Ocasio, Lorenzo Zanon, Leroy Jones and Scott LeDoux ilk that crowded the early part of Holmes' run between 1978 and 1980.

Should Klitschko add a David Haye or Tomasz Adamek to his victims list over the next few years while packing on overall numbers, the perception gap narrows significantly.

MIKE TYSON -- It's the opposite case with Klitschko and "Iron Mike." Where Klitschko has already equaled Tyson's nine consecutive defenses between Berbick and Douglas, his level of opposition may be a nudge down to most from the collection of incumbent/former champions and high-profile contenders Tyson mowed down in usually violent fashion.

One or two more defenses and Klitschko officially puts him in the rear-view mirror.

EVANDER HOLYFIELD -- Hard to believe, but the "Real Deal" never racked up more than four defenses in any one of his claims to heavyweight kingpin status. His initial run of Foreman, Cooper and Holmes probably exceeds the quality of reign No. 3 and Tyson, Moorer, Vaughn Bean and Lewis, which deserved to end at three defenses if not for an atrocious draw in the first go-round with Lewis.

He doesn't have the big-name cache, but Wlad's already pulled ahead.

LENNOX LEWIS -- The stunning loss to Rahman ended the longest of his three reigns at nine defenses in 2001, while his overall run was stopped by retirement following the bloody war with big brother Vitali in 2003. And while there's Tyson and a couple Holyfields and an unbeaten Michael Grant and a dangerous Klitschko, there are also a few Henry Akinwandes and Zeljko Mavrovics, too.

Similar to the Tyson comparison, give Klitschko another couple legitimate top five guys and it's advantage Wladimir.

* * * * *

For ice hockey, the threshold is the 1980 Olympic gold medal "miracle."

When I work alongside someone who wasn't born when the U.S. team made a household voice of Al Michaels, I subconsciously slip into an "I'm the old guy, you're the youngster" relationship.

I was just a few weeks shy of 11 when the last century's greatest sports moment unfolded in Lake Placid, but I experienced it vividly enough to feel ancient when coming across those to whom it's only the stuff of magazine retrospectives and archival footage.

For boxing, that date is Sept. 16, 1981.

Exactly 29 years ago this Thursday.

That night in Las Vegas, with me rooting vainly from 2,263 miles away, my all- time favorite fighter came up 4 1/2 minutes short in an all-time welterweight "Showdown" with Ray Leonard.

That's Thomas Hearns...for those doing the math at home.

Even three decades and a thousand fruitless replays of those 14 captivating rounds, I still root for the "Hitman" to flurry his way off the ropes and keep Davey Pearl from stepping in.

Needless to say, it didn't happen.

And each year that passes, I'm amazed a generation of boxing fans actually exists that knows the principals only as relics of the 15-round era when bouts were shown on network TV.

Funny, when my dad used to regale me with tales of Graziano, Zale and Robinson, I never thought I'd hit an age where stars of my teen-age years would seem as dusty as those guys did.

And while it'll go over the head of many of today's readers, here's a hearty thumbs-up to the two guys whose fight is as responsible for me being a fan -- and a writer, for that matter -- as anything.

Thanks Ray and Tommy...for giving me a career.

* * * * *

This week's title-fight schedule:


IBO featherweight title -- Las Vegas, Nev. Jackson Asiku (champion) vs. Jhonny Gonzalez (No. 4 contender) Asiku (26-3, 14 KO): First title defense; Unbeaten since 2004 (15-0, 8 KO) Gonzalez (45-7, 39 KO): Seventh title fight (3-3, 1 KO); Held WBO bantamweight title (2005-07) Fitzbitz says: "Gonzalez has thrived at 126 and should be better in a big spot." Gonzalez in 10


IBO welterweight title -- Kempton Park, South Africa Lovemore N'dou (champion) vs. Bongani Mwelase (unranked) N'dou (47-11-2, 31 KO): Second title defense; Held IBF junior welterweight title (2007) Mwelase (14-0, 12 KO): First title fight; Won by first-round KO in last two bouts at 147 Fitzbitz says: "Tall, powerful southpaw makes a dent on the world stage." Mwelase in 7

WBC lightweight title -- Culiacan, Mexico Humberto Soto (champion) vs. Fidel Monterrosa (No. 11 contender) Soto (52-7-2, 32 KO): Second title defense; Held WBC super featherweight title (2008-09) Monterrosa (23-1, 18 KO): First title fight; Lost only career fight outside Colombia Fitzbitz says: "Soto should look good against over-his-head opponent." Soto in 9


Vacant WBC super flyweight title -- Saitama, Japan Kohei Kono (No. 1 contender) vs. Tomas Rojas (No. 2 contender) Kono (25-4, 9 KO): Second title fight (0-1, 0 KO); Unbeaten since 2008 (4-0, 2 KO) Rojas (33-12-1, 23 KO): Second title fight (0-1, 0 KO); First fight in Japan Fitzbitz says: "Kono should pass rugged test on home turf." Kono by decision

WBA super featherweight title -- Saitama, Japan Takashi Uchiyama (champion) vs. Roy Mukhlis (No. 5 contender) Uchiyama (15-0, 12 KO): Second title defense; Five straight wins by knockout Mukhlis (23-2-2, 18 KO): First title fight; First fight outside Indonesia Fitzbitz says: "Uchiyama continues a powerful roll at 130 pounds." Uchiyama in 10

Last week's picks: 3-0 Overall picks record: 228-79 (74.2 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 at www.twitter.com/fitzbitz.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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