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Vit and firing

Klitschko will be tested - but not beaten - by enigmatic Cuban, says Jim

Jim Watt Posted 17th March 2011 view comments

The fact Vitali Klitschko took a nearly four-year hiatus from boxing and has come back at the top of the sport is great testament to the man.

When he returned in October 2008, he didn't have any warm-up bouts. He just went straight into a WBC heavyweight title clash with Samuel Peter, disposed of him and became a champion again.

He has been so consistent in his belt defences since then and the discipline he shows - both in the ring and in everyday life - is tremendous. He's nearly 40 but is in superb shape.

No glitch for Klitsch: Vladimir won't lose his strap to former amateur star

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Of course, a couple of things have helped him enjoy such a successful return. Firstly, his awkward fighting style. He doesn't work with razor-sharp reflexes or put punches together in a thrilling manner, so age hasn't really caught up with him in that respect. He's mastered a technique and hasn't lost it.

The poor state of the heavyweight division has also been a bonus for him. It wasn't as if he came back from his break and was fighting guys of the calibre of Mike Tyson or Larry Holmes; he's been battling a lot of average contenders.

Vitali doesn't work with razor-sharp reflexes or put punches together in a thrilling manner, so age hasn't really caught up with him in that respect. He's mastered a technique and hasn't lost it.

Jim Watt
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Vitali Klitschko v Odlanier Solis
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Both he and his brother, Wladimir, have been head and shoulders above everybody else for the last few years. I'm not taking anything away from what he has achieved, but he hasn't really been tested since he has been back.

Nothing to prove

If Wladimir pulls out of his planned summer showdown with David Haye, then Vitali will take his place. But I don't think the Londoner will come into his thoughts this weekend when he takes on Cuba's Odlanier Solis.

People may watch the fight hoping to witness Vitali put on a "show" and to try and prove something to Haye - but I just don't see it.

The Klitschkos have never cared about producing entertaining fights; they just want to win - a view that is shared by their army of German supporters.

The fans in that country have taken them to their hearts; they absolutely idolise them, and they have a different mentality to British and American fans.

They have seen the Klitschkos have some pretty drab bouts but still they cheer every punch. They don't criticise if the fight is one-sided or if the action is not dramatic; all they care about is their athletes winning.

Terrific

Vitali's opponent on Saturday, Solis, was a fantastic amateur and garnered a terrific list of accolades. He is an Olympic gold medallist, a three-time World Amateur Champion, beat Felix Savon twice, David Haye once and won 347 of his 359 amateur bouts.

But since he has stepped up to the professional arena, he hasn't set the ring alight. He is unbeaten in his 17 fights but is still waiting to deliver a standout performance.

It isn't rare that guys jump up from the rookie ranks and find it tougher; the amateur system and the professional game are like two entirely different entities. Boxers are so used to the three-round format and accumulating points through big, single punches, that they don't know how to pace themselves.

Pro boxing is not a sport; it's a business and a livelihood. It takes a hell of a lot of discipline which is why the Klitschkos are so good and other talented individuals - Audley Harrison being a prime example - struggle.

Solis has been questioned for being too bulky and that could show a lack of dedication to his profession. Vitali has only ever had four or five pounds difference in his weight throughout his entire career, Solis is not like that.

Hard yards

Cuban boxers seem to have this mentality where they think natural talent is enough, and they are not prepared to put in the hard yards. I'm not saying that's the case with Solis but it may be a reason for his less-than-stellar recent performances.

His last fight against Ray Austin, which he won via disqualification, was a really scrappy one. He lost a few rounds and it wasn't quite the performance he wanted to carry into this fight against Vitali.

But he's talented, quick and has the style to cause the Ukrainian problems; he's certainly got a better chance than many of Vitali's recent opponents. Too many of them are beaten before they enter the ring but Solis doesn't seem the type of guy to be intimidated.

This is the biggest chance of his life so I'm sure he'll come in at a sensible weight and if he gets his tactics right, he could do well in the first half of the fight.

But the longer it goes on, the more it will suit Vitali - and I would expect him to secure a points victory or even a late stoppage.

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