Boxing: Klitschko can prove true king of clout

Ukrainian giant of the heavyweights risks it all against dangerous but erratic American challenger

Foreman also says Muhammad Ali was not The Greatest, ranking the man who rumbled him in the jungle 31 years ago a lowly seventh in his personal list of all-time heavyweight champions, below Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, John L Sullivan and Jack Dempsey.

Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Foreman? The trouble with Big George is that these days he will say anything to get his name in print and boost the sales of his Lean Mean Grilling Machine. Old heavyweights never die, they just go on talking, often through their hat. Foreman was doing that in town last week and Tyson arrives next week, exercising his vocal chords to help pay his debts.

Sandwiched between these bouts of bankable loquacity is a genuine heavyweight title fight, one which the American promoter Bob Arum calls the most significant in the division for many years. Well, he would, wouldn't he? Because for once this is one not promoted by his ubiquitous rival, Don King.

According to Arum, Rahman is the only heavyweight around with a chance of toppling the Ukrainian Goliath. He says: "I look at Klitschko as a true champion and I look at Rahman as the throwback to a real good fighter who, when he's right, could have competed with anyone, even Ali. This is a quality fight, not a nonsense one plucked out of the alphabet soup."

There are those who believe that Klitschko, whose education extends beyond his left, incorporating four languages and a PhD, is an underrated champion. For one who some dismiss as dull and robotic, he can be painfully handy. Williams and Lewis, who was lucky to beat him on cuts, would concur.

Rahman, 32, from Baltimore, is best known for the big punch which temporarily relieved Lewis of the heavyweight title in 2001, the Briton taking both him and Johannesburg's rarefied air too lightly.

Klitschko, 34, has not fought since dismantling Williams, having had surgery on his back, but he says: "I feel great, in top form and really hungry right now because the break was so long". Interestingly, although there is a huge disparity in height (Klitschko officially measures up at 6ft 8in and Rahman at 6ft 2in), the American, aka The Rock, actually has a six-inch reach advantage. "I'm a six-feet- two guy with a six-feet-six guy's wingspan," he says. "Tall people need a lot of room but I am not going to let him keep me on the outside." While Rahman may bother Klitschko, I doubt he can beat him.

Then it is on to the next big heavyweight fight, which is likely to be in court between Arum and King to contest who has the options for the winner's first defence. With Frank Warren and Ricky Hatton enlisting the assistance of the bewigged brigade to settle their widening differences, and John Ruiz threatening to sue James Toney, who defeated him but was then stripped of the WBA title because of a positive drugs test, it seems that boxing these days is all a matter of writs and wrongs.

The anatomy of a heavyweight champion

Head

An academic doctor with an analytical brain. Yet to be severely tested, appears to box solely on instructions from the corner, rather than instinctively. Reminiscent of a former heavyweight champion, "Big" John Tate.

Hands

Boxes with them held high, to protect his largely untested chin. Doesn't seem to have crippling one-punch power; his stoppages tend to come as a result of accumulation. Heavy hands, but perhaps doesn't punch as hard as he should.

Upper body

Strong and chiselled. Very little in terms of side-to-side movement, uses a big, wide chest to present a big target to his opponent. Questions still over his "heart"; quit on his stool after damaging a shoulder, and forced to dig deep when badly cut by Lennox Lewis.

Movement

Not much, actually. Adopts a wide stance and plants his feet firmly on the canvas. Diametrically different to that most graceful of linear champions, Muhammad Ali. Strong legs, though.

Gary Lemke

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