This afternoon in Germany, Wladimir Klitschko will be making the first defense of his Ring Magazine heavyweight championship against Philadelphia native Eddie Chambers, who is getting his first title shot.
If you look at pictures of the two fighters, the first thing that strikes you is the incredible size difference between the two fighters. Wladimir is listed at 6'6 1/2" with an 81" reach, and weighed in at a chiseled 244 pounds, while Chambers is generously listed at 6'1" with a 75" reach, and weighed in close to his career low at 209 pounds.
Unfortunately for Chambers, Klitschko probably uses his height better than any current fighter in the sport. With hall of fame trainer Emmanuel Steward in his corner, Klitschko has been transformed over time into someone who uses his height to his full advantage, pushing out robotic piston-like jabs with regularity to keep opposition away from the inside, and following up with the huge right hand just enough to keep his opponents from trying that method of access. If someone does manage to get inside, he'll clinch, and his powerful grasp prevents his opponent from throwing many punches before the referee resets the action.
Over the course of his last seven fights, Klitschko has used this strategy to win just about every round against six top 10 opponents and three beltholders to become the champion. His methods have become so predictable and boring that Klitschko couldn't get an American TV network to pick up this fight against the top American heavyweight contender.
Klitschko has historically had two weaknesses. All three of his losses came by way of knockout, with his poor chin playing a role in all three and mediocre stamina playing a role in two of the three. Klitschko appears to have cured the stamina issue by lowering his workrate, and relying much more on a low-energy jab and grab style rather than the combination punching he used to exhibit earlier in his career. The chin issues have been solved by simply keeping his opponents away - nobody has been able to touch him cleanly since he fought Sam Peter nearly five years ago.
Chambers, on the other hand, is about as deserving of an opponent as there is out there at the moment, having defeated two top 10 contenders in a row in Alexander Dimitrenko and Sam Peter in order to earn the title shot. Chambers has two massive strikes working against him in this fight - he's predictable, and he's small.
The size has become even more of an issue recently. Historically, Chambers would weigh arounf 220 on fight night, but he would often have problems with conditioning. His only loss, to Alexander Povetkin, came in a fight where he won the early rounds but Povetkin simply outworked Chambers for most of the fight to earn the decision. After he was unable to knock out a prone and exhausted Sam Peter, he realized there were issues, and decided to get more serious about conditioning. For the past year and a half, he's been on a much more strict training regimen, and he retained the services of disgraced supplement supplier Victor Conte to provide him with stamina-boosting help. The end result is that Chambers' stamina is indeed much better - against Dimitrenko, he was able to throw 70 to 80 punches a round the entire fight - but that he's also much smaller, looking more and more like the natural light heavyweight that he is.
Exacerbating the size issue, Chambers fights with a style that won't help him get on the inside, and won't help him outbox Klitschko from the outside. Chambers himself is a jabber who has shown some hesitancy to actually use his right hand. Unfortunately, Chambers' jab isn't as long or strong as Klitschko's. Defensively, he's a slicker fighter than most who Klitschko has faced recently, but he sometimes gets a little bit of James Toney syndrome, where he'll use upper body movement to avoid shots, but not take advantage by using his feet, stepping in, or countering. Furthermore, his favorite defensive move of leaning back to avoid a shot may not work against someone with a six inch reach advantage.
Chambers' last fight against Dimitrenko was against someone with similar dimensions to Klitschko, and Chambers thoroughly routed Dimitrenko. Unfortunately, Dimitrenko doesn't fight as well or as tall as Wladimir Klitschko. Unless Chambers suddenly learns to move his feet to get inside, he'll have problems getting close enough to land punches on Klitschko. On the other hand, Chambers has a good chin, and should be pumping out his own jab with regularity, keeping Wlad just far enough away that he can't get full extension on his punches. For this reason, I'm thinking it looks a lot like Wlad's fights against Chagaev or Ibragimov, and ends with a wide Klitschko UD.