Boxing: Klitschko's victory leaves New Yorkers unimpressed
Monday 25 February 2008
It was, like most heavyweight title fights, not a classic, but Vladimir Klitschko won a rare unification title fight on Saturday night. The crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York know a thing or two about the heavyweight game and they were not impressed with Klitschko's safety-first – but still wide – points victory over Sultan Ibragimov.
However, Klitschko is an honest and decent fighter at a time when far too many world champions come and go in the blink of an eye. The towering Ukrainian has been at the top of the heavyweight division or thereabouts for eight years and he now holds both the International Boxing Federation title and the World Boxing Organisation version, which he won from Ibragimov.
The heavyweight division is still a long way from glory, but with one unification fight over and serious plans for another one later in the year, there is a chance that by early next year there will once again be just one recognised champion.
There were few highlights on Saturday night and that is not surprising because Klitschko has too often in the past fought with his heart on his sleeve, which has led to disaster.
Ibragimov, at 32, is a year older than Klitschko, but is far less experienced and was simply unable to overcome a five-inch reach disadvantage, and the fact that he was two stone lighter than his rival.
Klitschko's trainer, Emanuel Steward, acknowledged that his fighter's victory did not meet expectations.
"It's not that satisfactory to him or anyone else," Steward said. "This is one of those nights that we will chalk up as a win over a very difficult opponent and just move on and let it go."
It was a missed opportunity for Ibragimov, who said, "All fight I waited for his right hand, but his right hand was not coming." He added that his own left was weak after he injured it on a sparring partner's head.
"I have been saying for many years that heavyweight boxing needs just one champion, just one leader, and I believe I am that man," said Klitschko, whose older brother Vitali was recognised as the best heavyweight in the world two or three years ago before injury forced his premature retirement.
In theory, the winner will wait on the sidelines to see if the World Boxing Council champion, Oleg Maskaev, and the World Boxing Association incumbent, Ruslan Chagaev, can agree terms for a fight in November, assuming they are both still in possession of their belts at that date.
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