World heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko didn't get much love for his pitifully easy TKO-4 win over mismatched Jean Marc Mormeck on Saturday in Germany, but let's count the positives:
- He sold some tickets in Germany. I actually think this is a negative, since it gives him no incentive to take tough fights if he can sell that tripe, but it's a positive for him.
- He's still the world heavyweight champion, and even if you lost a few hairs of respect (as I did) for Wlad and his team making that miserable non-fight, he's still respected the world over, even if some of that respect comes with an asterisk or two.
- He can fight pretty much anyone he wants to, basically. He can make the best fights possible.
So what's next for Wladimir (57-3, 50 KO) now that he's notched knockout No. 50 and steamrolled another hapless foe?
First up is going to be a fight Wladimir can't avoid if he wants to keep one of his three sanctioning title belts, and he does want to keep them all, so it's going to happen.
That fight, if you have not already heard, is a rematch with Tony Thompson, probably in July. Klitschko stopped Thompson in the 11th round back in July 2008, with Thompson winning one or two rounds beforehand, and that is, by Klitschko standards in recent years, considered a "competitive" fight. It really wasn't close at all, but Thompson fought as well as anyone has against Wladimir since 2005.
The bad thing about this fight is, well, Tony Thompson hasn't gotten any better, just older. Now 40, Thompson (36-2, 24 KO) has won all five of his fights since the loss to Klitschko, but against marginal opposition. He's been inserted as the IBF mandatory because Eddie Chambers bailed on an eliminator against him that was scheduled for last October. So in effect, Thompson has become mandatory due to wins over Adnan Serin, Chazz Witherspoon, Owen Beck, Paul Marinaccio, and Maurice Harris, plus Chambers being a no-show.
It beats the hell out of Hasim Rahman being WBA mandatory, but that says little. I struggle to remember a mandatory challenger worse than Rahman.
Assuming Klitschko gets past Thompson -- and he will without some freak injury or miracle punch from "The Tiger" -- who's after that?
He won't have to look far after July to start negotiations for a potential fall bout, if the talk is to be believed, and since the talk is coming from Wladimir himself, it should be. Klitschko wants to face another Goossen Tutor-promoted fighter, Chris Arreola:
"Chris Arreola has done enough [to be my next fight]. He tremendously knocked a guy out [Eric Molina] in the first round [two weeks ago]. I think Chris Arreola deserves the fight against me and that's the fight to make."
Arroela (35-2, 30 KO) has had three tough opponents in his career, to be honest, and keep in mind I like Arreola and do want to see that fight. Vitali Klitschko beat him badly. Seven months later, Tomasz Adamek outfoxed and outboxed him over 12.
The third tough opponent? Himself, or rather, his appetite. Arreola has been lauded for getting back into shape, but our own Lee Payton recently mentioned something that I've thought about before too: He's still heavy. He weighed 245 pounds for his win over Molina on February 18, and while I thought his 245 that night looked better than some of his 245s in the past, that's a whole whopping six pounds under the 251 he weighed against Vitali Klitschko, when many blamed his poor conditioning second to the talent difference between the two.
So what makes me like Wladimir vs Arreola? Arreola's a fighter. He'll get knocked out. He'll take shots. He'll get beaten. But whereas Vitali had the gumption to smash him, does Wladimir?
This was covered in Doug Fischer's Monday mailbag at The RING: Why didn't he close in on David Haye last year? Why didn't he put Haye down and out with a great combination the way he did Mormeck? The answer could be that Wladimir still doesn't like taking even a slight risk against someone who packs a punch.
Arreola can punch, and unlike Mormeck, he'll take the shots to get inside, and won't simply let Wladimir clinch up. Wlad will clinch, but Arreola will throw some shots from there and rough it up a little bit. Sure, Wladimir could negate him with his jab, but I really do agree that he's a bit tentative against guys who can bomb, even to the point he doesn't like to commit to the jab that much. So I think it's an interesting fight, and as likely as anything to produce the stunner upset that would shake up the heavyweight boxing world.
If he were to get past both of those fights, and that would be the expectation, there will be new challengers next year and in 2014. Guys like David Price and Tyson Fury were mentioned by Wladimir as future opponents. Price in particular could be interesting if he keeps progressing. And, well, other than that, I guess there's trying to fight Alexander Povetkin again (Povetkin's team says they want it), or maybe some more rematches.