BERN, Switzerland — Three thoughts from Wladimir Klitschko’s sixth round knockout win over Tony Thompson …
1. Well, that was predictable — In 2008, Klitschko knocked Thompson out in the 11th round. It only took six this time around, and after an awkward first three rounds Klitschko started to tee off, putting Thompson down with a crushing — a crushing — right hand in the fifth and dropping him again in the sixth. Thompson beat the count, but couldn’t walk without the help of the rope and the referee wisely stopped the fight.
The outcome was expected: Thompson is 40 and doesn’t have the kind of power a 6-foot-5 heavyweight might be expected to have. Klitschko’s team didn’t want any part of this fight, preferring some fresh meat. But Thompson was the IBF mandatory and Klitschko is never voluntarily giving up a piece of the title. Thompson came, he saw, and he went down, which given his status as a 33-1 underdog, is not at all surprising.
2. Can Klitschko be beaten? — Anything can happen in boxing; Buster Douglas proved that. But Klitschko is so big, so disciplined, so powerful — that right hand he drilled Thompson with in the fifth round was the hardest punch I’ve ever seen — that beating him is going to be more complicated than a Rubik’s cube. At 36, Klitschko has little wear and tear on his body and is poised to be fighting at a high level into his early 40s.
But let’s play the obligatory ‘who’s next’ game, shall we? The pool of opponents is pretty shallow. There is Chris Arreola, who is sending signals that he isn’t interested in fighting Klitschko this fall. There is Tomasz Adamek, who is available but unlikely, due to issues between the two promoters. There is Seth Mitchell, Bryant Jennings and Deontay Wilder, but none of those three are ready for that kind of fight.
There is one intriguing opponent: Dereck Chisora. Chisora, if you recall, was scheduled to face Klitschko twice, only to have those fights canceled for various reasons. Next week, Chisora has a grudge match with countryman David Haye, who he brawled with after his loss to Vitali Klitschko in March. If Chisora wins that fight, he would seem like an ideal opponent for Klitschko.
Klitschko, however, doesn’t sound interested. When I asked him about possibly facing the winner of Chisora-Haye, he answered tersely.
“Two Klitschko losers are fighting,” Klitschko said. “Why should I care?”
3. Got motivation? — There are a couple of things that keep Klitschko training at a high level. First, the undisputed championship. Klitschko’s brother, Vitali, holds the WBC belt, the lone piece of the heavyweight pie Wladimir doesn’t have. Wladimir doesn’t begrudge his brother for having the belt, but those around him say he wants it. Badly. Vitali is scheduled to defend his title in September, after which he will turn his full attention to the Ukrainian parliament elections. It’s possible he could retire, vacating the belt and giving Wladimir the opportunity to become the undisputed champ.
The other thing is his legacy. Joe Louis holds the heavyweight record for consecutive title defenses, with 25. The win over Thompson was Klitschko’s 13th defense. Reaching that mark, friends say, is important to Klitschko, and will help to keep him sharp when it seems like so many of his opponents are overmatched.