Somewhere there is a parallel world where the Klitschko Brothers were able to make the blockbuster matches they tried to put together last year.
Whether it was Vitali’s doomed pursuit of fellow giant Nikolai Valuev, Wladimir’s longtime mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin openly ducking the WBO, IBF and IBO champion or both brothers failing to persuade WBA champion David Haye to meet them in a unification match, 2010 was a year where the biggest fights didn’t get made in heavyweight boxing.
Thankfully, it looks like 2011 is going to be different. Indeed in all probability 2011 will be the biggest year in heavyweight boxing since Mike Tyson fought Lennox Lewis back in 2002.
The first superfight came about when Tomasz Adamek said he would welcome one of the Klitschko brothers to Poland in September for what will be the country’s biggest sporting event ever. Already plans are far advanced for the fight to be the opening event in one of the soccer stadiums being built for next year’s European Champions (co-hosted, coincidentally enough, with the Klitschko’s homeland of Ukraine) and for it to be Poland’s first major pay-per-view broadcast.
While few give the small Adamek much of a chance against ether Klitschko, the two-weight world champion is a genuinely popular figure on both sides on the Atlantic and has managed to have exciting contests with even the likes of Chris Arreola and Michael Grant.
However, before either Klitschko can defend against Adamek they have to meet opponents in matchups that are also worthy of the “superfight” tag. After once again cancelling his keep-busy fight against British champion Derek Chisora due to his abdominal injury, Wladimir is scheduled to meet WBA champion David Haye in the long-awaited unification match on either June 25 or July 2. With German television fees and ticket sales plus British pay per view buys it is expected to be the biggest money match to ever be held on the other side of the Atlantic.
It will also finally bring to a head an increasingly bitter feud that has seen the brash Haye deride the Klitschko brothers’ accomplishments, ambush them in press conferences and wear t-shirts showing both of them with their heads decapitated. It will also give Wladimir the chance to claim a third major belt and bring all the recognized championships under the control of the Klitschko brothers.
Of course, before then big brother Vitali needs to defeat unbeaten mandatory challenger Odlanier Solis. Since returning in 2008, Vitali has dominated everybody put in front of him. Despite fading athletic powers he still has a formidable boxing brain and a simple but effective style that both stifles and punishes his opponent. Even at heavyweight it’s rare to see champions celebrate their 40th birthdays, but one struggles to imagine Klitschko not wearing his WBC belt as he blows out the candles July 19.
That said, Odlanier Solis is Klitschko’s toughest opponent of his second reign. The Cuban heavyweight is not the most athletically imposing figure to ever set foot inside the boxing ring, but he does have the advantage over Haye and Adamek that he is not a converted cruiserweight or light heavyweight with a 6-foot-2 frame that is better suited to standing toe to toe with Dr. Iron Fist, particularly when it comes to reach.
Solis also has a genuinely excellent record in the amateur game, with three world titles, an Olympic gold medal and victories over Felix Savon, Sultan Ibragimov and David Haye. While he has not always looked impressive since turning professional, he certainly has all tools to give the aging champion a real run for his money.
Vitali Klitschko vs. Odlanier Solis is the first truly credible heavyweight title clash since Wladimir’s defense against Eddie Chambers back over a year ago, but with both Adamek and Haye waiting in the wings it is by no means the only major heavyweight title match we will see this year.
Business has certainly picked up in what was once boxing’s premier division.