Everyone wants to give humble, funny American underdog Tony Thompson (31-1, 19 KO) a shot against Wladimir Klitschko (50-3, 44 KO), the WBO/IBF unified titleholder.
The two will meet today at 4:30 ET (U.S.), in Altona, Germany.
People want to give Thompson a chance because of his size (6'5", 240-250 pounds). They want to give him a chance because he's a southpaw. They want to give him a chance because of the long-held belief that Wladimir Klitschko has a glass jaw and wilts when pressured.
People want to give Tony Thompson a chance because it'd be a great story if he were to win. Not exactly Braddock over Baer or Douglas over Tyson or old fat Foreman over Moorer, or even Rahman over Lewis or the story that Holyfield over Ibragimov would have been.
But in this great day and age where we are forced to choke down regurgitated stories and op-ed pieces on the lost American heavyweights, the dearth of boxing's "biggest" division, and how it's the fault of the heavyweights that boxing isn't as popular as it used to be, Thompson is just this week's potential savior to American heavyweight boxing fans.
It could've been Lamon Brewster last year, and before that, it could've been Ray Austin, both of whom were destroyed by Klitschko. It could've been Calvin Brock, who made an OK accounting of himself before a cut forced Klitschko to bomb away, sending Brock crashing unceremoniously to the mat with a heavy thud, his body bouncing from the canvas upon impact.
It could be anyone. It could be the next American that fights Klitschko, whatever patsy that turns out to be.
But the reason Klitschko beats these guys isn't so much the fact that American heavyweight boxing is crap these days, although it is. It's that Klitschko is a hell of a fighter. I'm glad more people are starting to wonder if they should give him more credit.
50-3? 44 knockouts? 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist?
Even adjusting for eras -- which is damn hard to do -- it is hard to imagine any heavyweight fighter from any era having anything less than a hell of a tough time with Wladimir Klitschko at this stage of his career, as a fully-matured fighter who is receiving what may be the last great training effort of Emmanuel Steward's decorated career.
Forget the losses to Sanders, Purritty and Brewster. You know what you can say about all three of those fights? He came back and fought on. After Purritty, he went on a rampage. After the fluke loss to Sanders -- let's call it what it was -- he won two fights in a row by knockout. After losing to Lamon Brewster, he has gone ahead and gone on an 8-0 (6) run, capturing the IBF title from Chris Byrd via brutal beating in 2006, and outpointing Sultan Ibragimov this February in a fight that should never be discussed again, winning the WBO strap in the process.
He's a -650 favorite for this fight, and there are a lot of reasons for that.
You know why Tony Thompson isn't going to win?
He's not good enough. With his late start in boxing (which some are trying to paint as some sort of "advantage"), he's still really rough around the edges technically. You can't be against Klitschko. Ask Ray Austin. Four left hooks and that fight was over.
He doesn't have the raw power. He doesn't have the skill. He doesn't have the speed. He doesn't move around well enough. He's not a good enough athlete.
I'm sorry. I like Tony Thompson, too. But he does not have a snowball's chance in hell at beating Wladimir Klitschko later today.
Miracles do happen, though. So you never can say never, I guess. It's just a long way up from Timor Ibragimov, Dominick Guinn and Cliff Couser to Wladimir Klitschko.