On November 15th, 2014, Wladimir Klitschko did what most observers of the Heavyweight division expected him to. The IBF, WBO, WBA, IBO and RING Champion retained his numerous belts after he knocked out challenger Kubrat Pulev in the 5th round. Official scorecards at the bout’s close in Hamburg, Germany, which counted a total of four knockdowns, were matched at 40-33.
The previously unbeaten Pulev deserves credit for showing the desire to not just fight, but to topple the mountain – quite literally – that is Klitschko. Unlike the recent Klitschko vs Leapai, this was a fight where the challenger had eyes on the prize, at least.
That said, it didn’t take long for the first knockdown to arrive when a heavy, thudding left hook dropped Pulev in the 1st round. And not long after that, a second came. The opening round was a tough welcome from Klitschko, but Pulev showed his mettle by climbing off the canvas twice to fight on.
And fight he did. Pulev asserted himself better in the 3rd round, not landing much clean, but still getting in Klitschko’s face. He was then to suffer a knockdown for his troubles, however, again courtesy of a ‘Dr Steelhammer’ left hook – a highly effective punch Pulev just couldn’t seem to evade.
In the 4th, Pulev dug deep to land a nice right-hand, and also a one-two combination. Props to him for that. His success ended in the 5th, however, when Klitschko leaped in with a crunching lead left-hook. The brave Pulev couldn’t recover, and so Klitschko’s 17th world title defense and 21st consecutive win was inked in. (Klitschko vs Pulev Highlights)
So what now for Wladimir Klitschko? Realistically, there’s only perhaps four Heavyweights out there who pose a threat.
With Klitschko vs Pulev Over, What Serious Challengers Remain?
First off, we have Britain’s loud, self-marketing machine Tyson Fury. His boxing isn’t textbook, and his mouth doesn’t have an off switch, but the man can punch and draw crowds. At 6′ 9″ with a hefty 85″ reach, he wouldn’t be craning his neck to meet eyes with Klitschko. His best chance to win would likely be by taking Klitschko by surprise in the early rounds.
Next, there’s the obvious choice, America’s very own Heavyweight hope. Deontay Wilder needs no introduction in terms of power, but has yet to showcase his boxing smarts and distance game. Wilder may well possess all these qualities; his 32 knockout victories just happened too early for anyone to find out.
Following the outcome of Bermane Stiverne vs Wilder, set for January 2015, we may well get an idea. Like Fury, Wilder is also a rather large human being; 6′ 7″, athletic, and always highly conditioned, he would no doubt bring danger to the ring.
The aforementioned Stiverne, who hails from Haiti, is also a possibility. Not in his youngest years, he still carries great endurance, dynamite in both hands, a solid chin, and exceptional timing. Klitschko could run into some obstacles with this guy. However, Stiverne’s slow pace and patience could well be a his downfall.
Finally, we have Anthony Joshua, Britain’s Gold Olympic medalist. Like Wilder, he is a big lad standing at 6′ 6″, and is always in tip-top shape. He of course possesses a tremendous amateur pedigree, something that will pay dividends against elite opposition. Whether he’ll get a crack at Klitschko before he retires is up for debate; Joshua is still fighting domestically, and wouldn’t be gunning for a world title shot until at least the closing quarter of 2015.
Time isn’t just running out for the young Anthony Joshua, however. Now pushing 40, the wealthy and undisputed Klitschko could hang up his gloves whenever he likes. The window to topple one of boxing history’s greatest Heavyweights is closing – and fast. If any of the above Heavyweights seriously believe they can cause an upset, they need to start making those fights happen.
What did you think of Klitschko vs Pulev? And what of the victor’s future Heavyweight challengers? Who has the best chance of putting an end to Klitschko’s seemingly endless winning streak?
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