Fight Preview: Klitschko-Brewster II

THE CHANCE TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT

Wladimir Klitschko was destroyed at the hands of Lamon Brewster three years ago in a battle for the vacant WBO Championship. Suggesting foul play and offering countless conspiracy theories, Klitschko seemed unable to cope with the defeat that placed his career in jeopardy and had virtually every boxing critic writing him off as finished. As, one by one, his excuses were gunned down, Klitschko finally set out to salvage his career the right way: in the ring. Now, widely considered the top heavyweight in the world, Klitschko seeks to erase the blemish left by Brewster from his record in “The Rematch.”

WHAT WE KNOW

In April of 2004, Klitschko had Brewster beat. Or so we all thought.

Ahead by five points going into the shocking fifth round after scoring a knockdown in round four, Klitschko seemed to have the fight well in hand; however, he was gasping for breath every time he returned to his stool. He was throwing a ludicrous volume of punches for a heavyweight, averaging nearly 80 a round early on, a pace no man of Klitschko’s stature can maintain. Sure enough, the longer Brewster hung in there, absorbing the punishment, the more the hands of Klitschko, not Brewster, came down.

When Brewster found his opening, the impact was devastating. A left hook sent Klitschko stumbling around the ring and crashing into the ropes, where he received a standing 8-count from Referee Robert Byrd. Brewster was unable to finish Klitschko off with a follow up attack, but, as it turned out, he didn’t need to. Klitschko collapsed more or less from his own exhaustion, completely spent. By the time he made it to his feet and started to saunter to his corner, Byrd had seen enough and waved off the fight.

The battle was a wild affair, one of the more unpredictably entertaining heavyweight bouts in recent years, but certain circumstances lended a hand in creating the level of suspense and the exciting final twist.

No, this isn’t in reference to Klitschko’s frantic search for a scapegoat, ranging anywhere from having too much Vaseline applied to his legs to having been poisoned outright. This is about the performance of a lifetime from “Relentless” Lamon Brewster, who revealed that some fighters are aptly named.

Brewster received an unhealthy amount of punches (more than 100 shots in four rounds according to Compubox) from the hard-hitting Klitschko, who also doesn’t bear his nickname, “Dr. Steelhammer,” just because it has a nice ring to it. Widely considered the hardest puncher in the division and thus in boxing, Klitschko rained punches on Brewster’s defenseless face for four brutal rounds, the last of which saw Brewster wobbled and eventually on the canvas from the punishment. Had Brewster showed even the slightest signs of fading, the fight could have and probably would have been stopped.

But he hung in there.

Despite the knockdown, Brewster took the shots and tried to come back with his own on the few occasions Klitschko allowed him to do so. Klitschko’s attack was ruthless, but Brewster was relentless as advertised.

At the time, most attributed Brewster’s show of heart to the passing of his trainer and father figure, Bill Slayton. In emotional outpourings comparable to those surrounding James “Buster” Douglas’ unthinkable upset over Mike Tyson in 1990, Brewster showed all the signs of a man driven more by passion than personal success. Five months later, that looked to have been the case during the Klitschko bout as Brewster was pummeled by unknown challenger Khali Meehan several times throughout a twelve round duel that Lamon eventually pulled out by split decision. On his way to the close cut victory, Brewster looked uninspired and completely unlike the fighter that took Klitschko apart in all but one aspect: the chin remained.

In the 8th round of the fight with Meehan, Brewster was served a ridiculous helping of punches as he lay against the ropes, looking out on his feet at times, but his chin bailed him out once again and allowed him to continue the fight and ultimately retain his title. Then, a year later, Brewster was losing on points to Luan Krasniqi in Germany before scoring a come from behind knockout. Brewster may have been in danger of losing that contest before his heroic efforts, but he was never in danger of being stopped. Then, yet again, Brewster’s chin held up in a hellacious war against Sergei Liakhovich, but, unfortunately, another part of him didn’t. A detached retina said to have occurred as early as the first round most likely hindered Brewster’s performance and cost him his WBO title that night in April of last year, his last fight to date.

Brewster hasn’t fought in over a year, sitting out the rest of 2006 and half of 2007 to allow his retina to heal. He has been cleared to compete, but will he be able to compete against the current IBF Champion? Klitschko has been on a roll the last couple years since the loss to Brewster, winning a decision over Sam Peter and scoring emphatic knockouts over Chris Byrd, Calvin Brock and Ray Austin. The disparity in activity alone makes one question whether to give Brewster a legitimate shot at upending Klitschko.

Then again, Brewster experienced the longest layoff of his career before their last encounter, having sat out a year and a day, waiting for Corrie Sanders to fight him in 2003 and then dealing with the loss of Slayton. It’s quite possible the year off helped him withstand the pain the last time around. Can Brewster now come back from the longest layoff of his career to prove he is as resilient as ever?

WHAT TO EXPECT

The feeling is that Klitschko will fight a much more intelligent fight the second time around and continue what he started over the first four rounds three years ago. Emanuel Steward, who was working his first fight with Klitschko for that encounter, will not let his charge tire out as he did last time. Klitschko will punish Brewster at a pace he is more accustomed to, and, if the knockout possibility isn’t there, he won’t pursue it. Brewster most likely won’t see the final bell regardless of how aggressively Klitschko chases a stoppage victory late in the fight. The way Klitschko is fighting now is the way he should have fought his entire career, but better late than never.

Too many jabs and straight right hands will seal the challenger’s demise, ending Brewster’s night somewhere before the championship rounds. His chin will keep him in the fight and therefore make him dangerous but only in the sense that Mike Tyson was a danger to Lennox Lewis late in their 2002 superfight. Fans will recall Steward’s presence in Lewis’ corner that night, screaming at his fighter to take Tyson out before “Iron” Mike could land a lucky bomb and turn the fight around. Steward knows the danger of keeping a puncher around, and he’ll convince Klitschko to erase Brewster in similar fashion. This fight could prove to be a mirror image of the bout between Tyson and Lewis as Brewster makes his move early but is eventually turned back by the power and precision of Klitschko en route to being stopped.

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