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Why HBO didn't pick up Klitschko-Chagaev

As everyone knows by now, Ross Greenburg and HBO have declined to pick up the newly scheduled fight between Wladimir Klitschko and Ruslan Chagaev.  While there are a number of reasons they didn't pick up the fight, including budget, that they don't have a current contract with Klitschko like they used to and that fights between two non-English non-Spanish speakers don't tend to do well stateside, the real reason they didn't pick it up is simply because the fight itself will probably stink.  The stylistic matchup between Klitschko and Haye, two big punchers with shaky whiskers, provided the promise of fireworks; this fight, instead, provides the promise of a cure for insomnia.  There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Wlad can't handle lefties.  This isn't entirely true - he can beat lefties, and he probably has a better resume against lefties than any heavyweight in history.  Twice he's beaten Chris Byrd, who at the time of their second matchup was the #1 ranked heavyweight in the world.  He beat Sultan Ibragimov, a beltholder, to unify titles.  He beat Tony Thompson, a crafty southpaw who was game but just got outgunned.  But he got his ass kicked by Corrie Sanders, and ever since then, he's changed his style against southpaws.  What do the Byrd, Ibragimov and Thompson fights all have in common?  They were all B-O-R-I-N-G.  Rather than even risk being caught by a big left hand, Wlad just pawed out the jab (and I mean literally pawed, not the nice, stiff jab you usually see from Wlad) to keep these guys at a distance, and won rounds by virtue of not letting his opponent mount any offense.  It wasn't that Wlad hit them so much, it was that his opponents threw nothing back at him, simply because they had no clue how to get on the inside.  Not that I want to torture you with this, but here's what I mean, highlights from Klitschko-Ibragimov.  Keep in mind, these are the HIGHLIGHTS, the most exciting the fight got at any point during this complete dud of a fight.

  • Chagaev has looked like crap lately.  Chagaev had a good win over John Ruiz, the only loss of Ruiz's career (other than his destruction by David Tua) that he didn't dispute afterwards.  He also had a solid and clear victory over Valuev, someone who has "beaten" a bunch of fighters because they haven't beaten him clearly enough.  But ever since Chagaev came down with Hepatitis, he's looked lethargic and powerless.  He struggled against journeyman Michael Sprott.  He struggled against nobody Carl Davis Drumond.  He's lacked snap on his punches, and he's lacked the head and body movement that allowed him to get inside on Valuev and punish his body.  A Chagaev who can't get on the inside stands no shot against Klitschko, and a Chagaev stuck on the outside is, well, Sultan Ibragimov.  And once again, that fight stunk.  Here's what I mean by Chagaev looking not like his old self:

  • Even if Chagaev can get on the inside, it will turn into a hugging match.  One more side-effect of training under Manny Steward for years and having a shoddy chin is that Klitschko doesn't even bother trying to fight on the inside.  He knows his strength is on the outside, and he stands more of a chance of catching a shot he doesn't see coming on the inside, so any time someone gets inside on him, he just grabs up and clinches.  It's very effective, but makes for a boring fight.  Chagaev doesn't have the strength to get him to stop, and he doesn't have the quickness to pop back on the outside, like Haye might have been able to do.  The clearest example of these hugfest tactics came in the Brock fight, where EVERY time Brock got inside, Klitschko just smothered him and clinched.  He has a history of doing this to smaller fighters as well.

All of this said, Klitschko-Chagaev is still a significant fight and should be picked up by someone.  ESPN and MSG have both been known to pick up fights on short notice when they can get a good one on the cheap.  Showtime and Versus would each be expected to pay much less than HBO for the fight, although I question whether anything at all would fit into Versus' budget - that horrible NHL contract of theirs has to be bleeding them dry.  In the worst case scenario, there's still enough time to set it up as a pay-per-view.  A fight that will create a new Ring belt holder, and depending on your view of things, possibly the first lineal champion at heavyweight in five years, really should be on TV, even if it projects to be a snoozer.

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