As recently as 15-20 years ago, the sports world, if not the entire world, would stop when the heavyweight boxing champion defended his title. Names like Joe Louis, Muhammed Ali, George Foreman, Joe Louis and Mike Tyson could get sports fans to ignore whatever other sporting event was going on.
Obviously, it is a different world tonight. The biggest boxing event on Saturday is the Floyd Mayweather – Robert Guerrero fight from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. But, and this may come as a shock to some of you, Wladimir Klitschko (59-3) will be defending the heavyweight championship of the world on Saturday in Manheim, Germany. I’m sure if you told boxing fans 50 years ago that no one would care about a dominant heavyweight champions 15th consecutive title defense because their focus was on a welterweight championship match they would laugh in your face.
Even more laughable to those boxing fans of yesteryear: Klitschko’s bout on Saturday was being considered to be a televised lead-in to help promote the Mayweather fight. Dan Rafael of ESPN reported that when HBO was negotiating to air the Mayweather – Guerrero pay per view, it asked Klitschko to agree to face American heavyweight prospect, Bryant Jennings, and it would purchase the fight to air it on HBO in the afternoon as a way to promote the evenings pay per view. Of course, Mayweather signed with Showtime and HBO no longer had interest in Klitschko’s next bout. Just imagine that though: the heavyweight championship fight as a preliminary bout!
Instead, Klitschko will take on the unknown and untested Francesco Pianeta (28-0-1). The Italian is 6’5 so the 6’7 Klitschko will not tower over him like he does most opponents but he will still have advantages in most, if not all, important boxing categories: size, speed, skill, punching power, defense, etc. Heck, Klitshcko’s ring entrance will be 10 times cooler than Pianeta’s walk to the ring. Pianeta is also taking a massive leap forward in competition. A review of his record makes it difficult to determine what his best win is because his opponents are mostly middling heavyweights sticking around for another pay day. If I had to pick one, I would choose Pianeta’s 2012 decision victory over 47 year old Oliver McCall. I think that pretty much sums it up.
Of course, Klitschko could make the fight exciting if his fragile chin is tested or if he lands a monster punch that produces a highlight reel knock out. Either way, it should be quite a scene in Germany. Despite the lack of interest in the United States, the Klitschko brothers regularly pack arenas and soccer stadiums and draw monster television ratings in Europe and especially in Germany. Indeed, there is a peculiar interest in this Klitschko title defense given the circumstances surrounding his next bout. One of the organizations that recognizes Klitschko as champion called a purse bid for a mandatory defense by Klitschko against Alexander Povetkin, an undefeated Russian. Suprisingly, a Russian boxing promoter bid $23,000,000 for the fight and plans to stage it in Moscow. Basically, if Klitschko loses against Pianeta, he will lose out on a $17,499,997 pay day against Povetkin. That is not a misprint… if Klitschko wins, he stands to make $17 million for a fight against Povetkin (a fight, by the way, he should win easily).
The good news for US boxing fans that are preparing their houses for May Day pay per view parties is that they can watch Klitschko – Pianeta live on Epix at 4:30 pm Eastern while they do so. There is a chance that there may be more intrigue in that broadcast than in the May Day pay per view later the same evening.
Tags: Boxing, Wladimir Klitschko