Boxing comment: The heavyweight division was once the sweet science’s premier attraction and the United States traditionally lead the way with their array of exceptional prizefighters.
Ever since the first black heavyweight Jack Johnson caused a huge stir among a prejudiced US public, the media have esteemed boxing’s big boys by giving them the attention that their talents deserved.
That pattern was continued by the likes of blistering puncher Jack Dempsey, the longest-reigning champion Joe Louis, the 49-0 Rocky Marciano and the highly controversial and frightening Sonny Liston.
But it was Muhammad Ali and then Mike Tyson who really captured the imagination for both their punches and personality and even in 2013 they remain two of the most recognisable figures in sports folklore.
Contrast this to the present day when the huge demise in US heavyweight talent has resulted in a largely dissatisfied and uninterested audience.
Despite bossing the scene for a decade, the two well-educated and experienced Ukrainian brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko have been repeatedly shunned by the US media, which often cites them as boring and robotic.
One could conclude that this attitude stems from pride, disrespect and jealousy, especially during an extensive lean period where the US has failed to produce a talent able to dethrone them.
Indeed, fight-fans across the Atlantic are longing for the next Mike Tyson or Evander Holyfield — boxers with admirable prowess who are an attractive pay-per-view proposition.
This is further heightened when considering the decades that went by previously when no pugilist outside the US had ever dominated the heavyweights.
History records Sweden’s “Hammer” Ingemar Johansson as only the fifth heavyweight champion born outside the States up to 1959 and in more than 50 years since, boxing has only seen a fledging claim on the golden prize from South African Gerrie Cotzier and the mammoth Russian Nikoli Valuev.
As a result, the Klitschko domination rubs further salt into the painful US wounds when they’ve deeply desired a non-black champion, with both the popular Gerry Cooney and Rocky V star Tommy Morrison failing to become their much-coveted “great white hope.”
Commentators and critics alike see no immediate breakthrough on the horizon, suggesting that many fledgling sporting talents are instead lured by the flattering financial incentives offered in gridiron, basketball and baseball.
Three of the current top 10 US heavyweights, namely Tony Thompson, Chris Arreola and Eddie Chambers, have already fallen at the powerful hands of the Klitschkos, but again these wins weren’t applauded Stateside.
However bias or not, the Klitschkos’ contribution to heavyweight history commands respect, even if it does come during a long period of talent deprivation.
If either Klitschko were a US native those same negative assessments would most likely be replaced with positive affirmations.
The giant brothers boast an astonishing combined 104 victories with 91 knockouts and have competed in 39 world title bouts.
Their ring accolades are coupled together with impressive educational achievements, warm personalities and model disciplined lifestyles that have ensured they hit the headlines for all the right reasons.
Admittedly neither Vitali or Wladimir would be a match for an Ali or a Larry Holmes, but they would have held their own in the post-Holmes and pre-Tyson period, which saw the championship belts shared between the US’s own Trevor Berbick, Tim Witherspoon, Pinklon Thomas and Tony Tubbs.
Amazingly, it appears that British boxers could be the unlikely sources of power which finally close the curtain on the long-running Klitschko world show.
Despite already being humbled by Wladimir in 2011, David Haye remains convinced he has the beating of Vitali, though a note of caution should be added given that the brash Londoner has never beaten a prime top-notch heavyweight.
Vitali has refused to declare his interest so far but eventually money will be his primary persuader and the two will collide at some point later this year. Haye may be beaten to the punch by the equally controversial Tyson Fury who is keen to prove Wladimir’s reign has to end but he shouldn’t rush his big opportunity if his outrageous boasts are to be backed up.
There is also a growing feeling across the boxing world that Liverpool’s David Price has the height, skill and power to bring the Klitchkos down but he first must face live opponents whose threat surpasses their titles.
While Britain could soon be ruling the heavyweight world, the US will still be playing the waiting game unless their media play a vital role by inspiring a young would-be Ali or Tyson to dream again.
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