Boxing: Klitschko lives in fear of 'slick' Johnson

There was a raging debate over Kirk Johnson's weight here yesterday that was only surpassed by the arrival of a blizzard and six inches of snow.

Johnson jumped on and off the scales wearing three layers of clothing to protect him against the cold and it was announced that he had weighed 260lbs, which is about 20 more than most people expected him to be for tonight's main event at Madison Square Garden against Vitali Klitschko.

The fight at the historic venue is for the right to be called the best acting heavyweight in the world and until Lennox Lewis makes a decision about his future this spurious title will remain.

The problem with Johnson's weight is that if he is actually 260lbs then it is obvious he has not trained and has therefore not taken Klitschko seriously.

However, there are many in the New York boxing business that smell a rat and they remain convinced that underneath the padded jackets and multiple sweat tops Johnson is actually much lighter. "I weigh what I weigh,'' claimed Johnson but he was unconvincing and refused to remove any of the layers and take his boots off.

If Johnson is fat and slow at 260lbs then tonight's fight will be a simple slaughter in favour of Klitschko but if the Canadian's true weight is closer to 240lbs then his ability to move, his noted slickness and his decent chin could ruin Klitschko's grand night.

In theory Klitschko is the favourite and a good win will entice Lewis to end his sunny exile and return to the ring and give the towering Ukrainian a rematch. The pair met in June in Los Angeles and Lewis was trailing on points before Klitschko's face started to shred and a doctor called a humane halt to the bloody fight.

Klitschko's wounds, which required over 60 stitches to close, healed miraculously and within days he was demanding a rematch to finish what he had started but Lewis had already dusted off his flip flops and vanished into the nether world of luxury resorts and exotic places.

Johnson had originally been Lewis' opponent for the June night in Los Angeles but he pulled a muscle and tumbled swiftly from the reckoning and is extremely fortunate to find himself in the proposed loser's corner this evening. If the weight gain is a ploy and if Johnson does win it will further confuse a chaotic division but oddly a Klitschko victory will actually look respectable.

There is an interesting co-main event and it features a boxer who is probably responsible for most of the 11,000 confirmed ticket sales. There is unlikely to be a walk up, as they say in the boxing business, unless there are three or four thousand fans of the noble art who also possess a pair of cross country skis. Joe Mesi is unbeaten in 27 fights and in his hometown of Buffalo, in up state New York, he regularly attracts crowds of 14,000 at the basketball arena. Tonight is his big night in the Big House, which is the nickname for the Garden, and he has clearly captured the imagination of the fans.

Mesi is a heavyweight stuck in a tacky position because once he had won more than 10 or 12 fights he was instantly branded as the new Great White Hope. He has, as all Great White Hopes have done in the past, insisted that he is just a heavyweight but there has been a degree of calculated media coverage of his career.

Mesi is Italian, smart and a good talker but the jury is still out on whether he can fight as well as he speaks or looks.

Tonight Mesi will meet local fighter Monte Barrett, a one-time contender, in a fight that will move him closer to the respectability that he believes he deserves and that he believes he is denied because of his skin colour. If Mesi can add Barrett to the list of men that have so far failed to last the distance and if Klitschko can beat either a fat or a thin Johnson then the two big white guys will be main attractions next year.

There was a rumour last night that this city's most famous heavyweight, Mike Tyson, would be at the fight. Tyson like many people here at this time of year will be looking for a good Christmas bargain. Klitschko or Mesi would be ideal fights for him next year and would alter considerably his current bankrupt state.

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