Photo © Frank Franklin II / AP
What was the highlight of Saturday night's heavyweight unification between IBF/IBO champion Wladimir Klitschko and WBO champion Sultan Ibragimov?
Was it the 10th round off-balance tackle of Klitschko by Ibragimov? Was it Klitschko literally slapping Ibragimov's pawing right hand the entire fight? Or was it the highlight clips of John Duddy's bloody majority decision victory over unknown Walid Smichet?
We'll talk more about Duddy later. For now, let's focus on what was a truly dreadful fight between the two heavyweight "champions."
Calling many of boxing's titleholders "champions" is fairly erroneous. But we can now -- for the millionth time -- fairly assert that the heavyweight division is the worst in the sport.
For those waiting for the resurgence of the heavyweights, stop waiting. Just give up. The division will never be the pinnacle of the sport again, no matter how much history anyone wants to talk about, what being 'heavyweight champion of the world" used to mean, or name-checking Ali, Louis, Marciano, Foreman, Dempsey, Johnson, or Frazier.
The division is a joke. The fight featured next to no action whatsoever, was roundly booed by the surprisingly large crowd at Madison Square Garden (a testament to the great fights the venue has seen from lighter weights in the last year) and was so utterly dull that HBO's Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman spent the latter half of the fight mostly talking to Lennox Lewis about his heavyweight fights.
And, oh yeah, Klitschko topped Ibragimov via unanimous decision, with scores of 119-110, 118-110 and 117-111.
Number of effective punches landed by Ibragimov: 0. The man laid a goose egg in the most important fight of his career, showing none of the hand speed and boxing skill that has been his calling card since he hired Jeff Mayweather to train him after a mind-numbingly bad draw against Ray Austin in 2006.
14,011 people paid for the privilege of seeing what was a first-rate bad fight. Whatever they paid, for wherever their seat was located, was exactly that many dollars and cents too much.
It cannot be stressed enough how bad this fight was. This is not one that HBO will be going out of their way to show again past the usual replays in the coming week. Ibragimov barely fought and was never once effective, winning two rounds on my scorecard simply because Klitschko did even less in those two rounds.
Klitschko was berated by trainer Manny Steward for much of the fight, as Steward made clear his opinion that Ibragimov had no business going 12 rounds with "Dr. Steelhammer." But after a solid two minutes or so of the fight being nothing but Ibragimov flicking his right hand out only to have Klitschko swat it down, I had a bad feeling about the fight, which I actually thought was going to be fairly entertaining going in.
Silly me. Never trust the heavyweights. Remember last year, after Peter obliterated James Toney in their rematch, and everyone was high on Peter as the future of the division? He got his ass kicked around the ring by Jameel McCline later in the year before he was able to squeak out a decision. Come on.
Chris Arreola was hyped as America's hope in the division. He continues to fight sub-journeymen. It raises a red flag -- his handlers don't think he's good enough to move forward in what is a terrible division.
Alexander Povetkin is considered perhaps the No. 1 prospect in the division. But have you watched him fight? The only American TV he's received was in January against Eddie Chambers, a fight he won, but it was just so unimpressive. More than anything else, Chambers beat himself. I'm not saying Povetkin isn't good, only that he looks more like a very workman-like heavyweight who could probably win a title or two with the way things are. It's not a ringing endorsement.
The division has nothing to offer. Klitschko is a hell of a fighter, and I truly believe that, bad fight or no. He owned the ring against Ibragimov, seemed to clearly intimidate his opponent, and was never in anything remotely close to danger.
He's become a good boxer, always has thunderous power in his right hand and left hook to get him out of a tough spot (remember, Calvin Brock was doing fairly well before Wlad decided to turn up the heat), and never presses trying to do too much anymore.
On one hand, that makes him a better fighter. On the other, it makes his fights garbage.
For the third straight fight, Wladmir Klitschko entered and left the ring as the best heavyweight in the world, by far. And at the same time, he left us feeling disappointed that we even tried to care about this abysmal wreck of a division.
It's too bad that HBO paired their wonderful Joe Louis: America's Hero Betrayed documentary with this stinker of a bout. It did nothing but remind us again that today's heavyweight division is pathetic.
On the non-televised undercard, John Duddy posted his 24th win in as many pro fights, outpointing Walid Smichet on cards that read 98-92, 98-92 and 95-95.
How can anyone consider Duddy a legit contender? In his sixth fight at MSG, Duddy was badly bloodied by Smichet (17-4-3), another in a long line of tune-up opponents, and a fairly big step down from Duddy's last fight, when he took on Howard Eastman and was able to barely score a win on points.
With Pavlik-Trinidad having fallen through, Duddy is again the front-runner to take on Youngstown's middleweight champion in Pavlik's first title defense in June, at Madison Square Garden.
If that fight happens, what are you calling? Pavlik TKO-5 sounds about right to me. He will maul John Duddy. It will be like watching de la Hoya-Gatti all over again. One guy will be the real deal. The other guy will be the plucky fella that doesn't have the goods.
Prospects Johnathan Banks, Peter Quillin and Joe Greene all won on the undercard as well, and all by knockout. Greene scored a 10th round TKO, Quillin dropped Thomas Brown in the second frame, and Banks got rid of Imama Mayfield at 1:49 of the first round.
The saddest thing is that I really do think it's time to just forget about the heavyweights. You will not get good fights out of the division's biggest cards. You just won't. Most of the guys aren't willing to fight each other -- something Wlad and Sultan do deserve props for, since they allegedly did fight last night -- and when they do, they almost all get too tentative, too fearful of what a loss could do to their careers. That's why an action heavyweight fight on ESPN2 once or twice a year always gets such praise, like Terry Smith-Kelvin Davis last May. When the guys actually fight, it makes it seem like a million bucks.
Instead, we are routinely treated to garbage. I say no more expectations -- period.
Let's now look forward to what's coming. You know it, you're pumped for it just like I am, and it can't come soon enough. We'll be here all week waiting for it: