Unlike the recent Hozumi Hasegawa vs. Fernando Montiel fight (which hadn’t the benefit of an available television broadcast), fans without an available internet stream [Editor’s note: By no means are Maxboxing or its affiliates condoning or encouraging illegal internet streaming] will get to see the heavyweight titleholder Vitali “Dr. Ironfist” Klitschko, 39-2 (37), (and the best heavyweight in the world not named Wladimir Klitschko) take on European heavyweight champion Albert “The Dragon” Sosnowski, 45-2-1 (27), live on pay-per-view, from Veltins Arena in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany this Saturday night. Despite returning to the sport in 2008 to lift the WBC strap from Sam Peter and successfully defending that belt three times in 2009, something has kept Vitali from making believers out of the U.S. networks every time out.
Whether it is the slow-to-start style, or the way Vitali shuts out his opponents into unconsciousness or submission, that intangible spark that seems to go hand in hand with heavyweight greats the American public gets behind, has eluded the Ukrainian fighter. A strange turn of events, given his following in the rest of the world, the way he fights often and has taken apart any challenge in front of him for years.
“I am ready to fight anyone,” Klitschko told the media during a conference call this week. “We want to fight everyone to show that the Klitschkos are the strongest boxers in the world in the heavyweight division. Who is next? Wladimir knocked out the best American fighter in his last fight. I just fought against Chris Arreola, and Kevin Johnson. Right now, there is a problem in that there is not a big name. Right now, there is no big name like Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson. So we have to wait.”
That problem exists only on U.S. soil where the top contenders have now finished running a gauntlet at the Klitschkos and come up short. But in Europe, former cruiserweight champions Tomasz Adamek and David Haye would make for, if not interesting challenges, a huge gate. Adamek, who hails from Poland but has a huge following in the States, New Jersey, specifically, as well, makes sense but was set to fight Arreola when Vitali made the fight with Sosnowski, following yet another attempt at getting David Haye in the ring.
Haye has endlessly linked his name to both Klitschko brothers, but has yet to make a deal. He had one last year to fight Wlad but when his promoter Setanta went belly up, Haye said he had a back injury and pulled out of the fight. An understandable conundrum but, since then, Haye has gone back at the Klitschkos in the press, while avoiding them at the negotiation table. This has made the fight with either brother even hotter. Vitali wants the fight for two reasons.
“I want to fight David Haye to shut his mouth,” he said. “It would be good to show my skills to everyone in this fight. Everyone who works with me in preparation time, at every stage, knows I get better and better. That is what I will show in that fight. Experience. I want to show in that fight what it is to have experience in boxing. I have more experience. I have more power. I am very sure this fight will be very interesting, not just for those who want to see it, but for me because I want to show my best performance in this fight.”
The only other fighter at heavyweight who appears to be a threat to Vitali is his own brother Wladimir. They are nearly the same size at 6’7½” for Vitali to 6’6½” for Wlad. But they have contrasting styles, weaknesses and strengths that would make the bout one of boxing’s best ever. But it is not to be. When asked how long the 38-year-old fighter would continue fighting, Vitali answered that question and spoke on a possible fight with his brother.
“You want to send me into retirement?” Vitali said with a laugh. “I feel very well. I defend my title three times. I feel in great shape. I have the power to show my skills to all boxing audiences. If I feel I don’t have power or [am] dangerous anymore. I will retire. But right now, nobody sends me to retirement. I don’t see somebody who can do that right now except my brother. But I don’t want to fight my brother because he is not just my brother. He is also my friend.”
Until a big name fight comes along, the important thing for Team Klitschko is to keep fighting and keep winning while securing their future legacy. While the name Albert Sosnowski doesn’t ring any American bells, he has a following in Europe and has helped fill the 60,000 seat Veltins Arena. It’s hard to argue that any members of Joe Louis’ “Bum of the Month” club could do that. And watching tape of Sosnowski, he actually can fight.
A 6’2½ ” mover with a 77” reach (Vitali’s is 80”) and solid boxing skills in the European upright mold, Sosnowski is a young 31 with seemingly fresh legs, seems to always be in great shape and, listening to him speak, has a will to win. But he and his manager, Christopher Tbarski, know all too well, when it comes to Vitali Klitschko opponents, the pre-fight opponent talk is usually better than the actual performance.
“We think [with] the latest opponents of both brothers, they do not want to win,” said Tbarski. “We’re going to fight. [The Klitschko’s] did the preparation and training for someone else. What did he come [with] to the ring? How many punches did he throw? We’re going to fight. We’re going to put the punches well and exact in the fight that the momentum will allow. We’re going to try and we are going to win. There will be no living heavy bags in the ring on Saturday. So that will be the difference. We will be throwing punches. Not trying to survive the rounds.”
“It’s not about paycheck. It’s about winning the world championship,” said the Polish-born and raised Sosnowski through a translator. “I don’t want to lose this fight in the locker room and I will not lose it in the locker room. Whatever presents itself in the ring, body punches, head punches, I will try to win. So it is hard for me to say what [I] will exploit. I will not lose the fight [how] those guys lost. They lost before they got to the ring. I will not do that.”
Though Sosnowski has not fought for the world title yet- his biggest wins are over Paolo Vidoz and Danny Williams- he is a solid fighter with, as Vitali puts it, nothing to lose. The question now is will he be able to perform on the night. All the hours of hard preparation will be for naught if Sosnowski is not mentally ready. In breaking down Vitali’s style, the work appears to be done, but the question remains.
“He is fighting in a very unorthodox way; the way he leaves his body open after he punches gives me some idea of what I would like to do,” said Sosnowski. “Some defensive things is [what I] would like to exploit. Of course I have to watch out for punches from both hands because he is a guy who can knock out anybody with his left and right hand. I am prepared. The question is ‘Can I do it in the ring’”?
At age 38, every fight for any fighter becomes that much more dangerous. You can’t cut corners in the gym like maybe you could in your 20s. The hours in camp are spent as much trying to preserve your body as prepare it. Watching tape, getting the right sparring partners and doing all of it to perfection becomes even more essential. Few fighters understand this like Vitali.
“I change my style with every opponent,” said Vitali. “I know Sosnowski will attack and give pressure. I have prepared for that and will adjust. My last fight with Kevin Johnson was not impressive, but he did not want to fight. I was prepared to knock him out. He was the second fighter I have fought all 12 rounds in my whole career. I know Sosnowski is a tough guy and will give pressure and we will want to win the fight. That is why I expect a very tough fight. I know his style is very good; if I was preparing for the fight against Herbie Hide (who Vitali KO’ed in two, almost 11 years ago). He is the same size. Almost similar style. That was a good fight to prepare for Sosnowski. I think this will be a very interesting fight for everyone who tunes in.”
One thing that separates Vitali from the rest of the pack is his need to continue to grow and learn how to fight more effectively. Always pushing his limits, Vitali is a fighter, even at this last stage, who seems unsatisfied with what he knows. It is this drive that he claims will push him to another win on Saturday.
“I make progress in training and everybody who worked with me can see that,” said Vitali. “I am happy with my performance and ready to give great show Saturday. [Sosnowski] is, in young guy, very hungry. He has nothing to lose and is in good shape. This is a good opportunity for him to win world title. I know his style. I know he is mentally ready for performance. I know he is hungry for the fight. This will be a real heavyweight battle.”
Most experts are picking Vitali to win and should he, the question turns to where and when he will finally get a challenge. The hope from his end of things is to fight Madison Square Garden at some point in the near future and so the “when” appears to be the United States. The “who” is a whole other matter.
“I am ready to come to the United States to fight anyone,” declared Vitali. “Who will be ready?”
“Fists Of Steel,” presented by K2 Promotions and Klitschko Management Group, is being distributed in North America by Integrated Sports Media for live viewing at 3 PM /ET (12 PM/PT) on both cable and satellite pay-per-view via iN Demand, DIRECTV , Avail-TVN and DISH Network in the United States, as well as Bell TV, Shaw PPV and Viewer’s Choice in Canada, for a suggested retail price of only $24.95.