Short Man Stands Tall

I should have concluded that statement about Michael Buffer with “…it’s probably happened, probably in a Klitschko fight.”  In fact, the more I think about it, the more familiar the “good try, credit for effort” speech from Klitschko-Adamek seems.  I think even the most jaded heavyweight fans realized Adamek’s demonstration of heart and physical durability was inspirational.  So did Michael Buffer.  But the truth is Adamek’s punch stats and success in the ring yesterday, were at best, similar to those produced by the larger heavyweights who the Klitschkos have been fighting for the past few years.

While matches against walking targets like Briggs and Rahman were perfunctory, even the cowardly David Haye against Wladimir and peak-of-flabbiness Cris Arreola against Vitali kept the crowd involved most of the way through their fights. Even so, those fighters, who had the advantage of much larger physical frames than that of Adamek (Tomasz Adamek is 6’1”, Cris Arreola is 6’4”) made similar punchstat results much less impressive.  When Haye fought Wladimir he was transparent in his false bravado and mostly seemed to think he could win by calling fouls.  By the end of his fight against Vitali, Cris Arreola seemed to rouse himself to an ineffective, feverish pace, flabbing all around the ring and landing more shots on a Klitschko than possibly anyone since Lennox Lewis.  But then immediately after the bell rang, in the post-fight interview, Arreola started sobbing and whining like a big 300 pound crybaby.  That sure changes the character of the fight for an admiring fan. Personally, I have a lot of respect for Arreola and my faith remained steady through the period when he refused to get in shape.  Having boxed at the amateur level a few times, I know how passion, nervous energy and a wounded ego can overwhelm a fighter’s emotions.

But come on.

Adamek looked terrified in the first round, but started using his jab to the body to find position in the 2nd.  Though he was caught squarely more often than some of Vitali’s other opponents, Adamek was able to spring back to his feet after almost all of the knockdowns he suffered.  The first knockdown was actually scored in round 2, but the referee let the fight continue because the ropes held Adamek as he fell and because he so immediately sprang back at Klitschko with a spirited left hook.  Ironically, it was in this round that Adamek had started to find offensive opportunities, but he quickly realized, like all other Klitschko opponents, that trying to take advantage of those opportunities just isn’t worth it.  It was clear by then that Adamek was making a sincere effort.  After two more knockdowns at the end of Vitali’s punishing right hand, Adamek’s determination shifted.  Instead of trying for an offensive opening, Adamek set his focus on standing his ground, refusing to run or look for ways out of the fight, like others have in the past (Haye).  I would have been surprised if Adamek had been put down for good because he is such a sturdy fighter, but it was clear that Vitali could have made that happen if he had wanted to risk it.  In reality, it may have been one of the easier fights for either of the Klitschkos but when boxing fans look back at the performance these opponents put on, they should remember the heart and courage each of them showed.  If they’ve been watching, they’ll remember that none of them stood as tall as 6’1” Tomasz Adamek.

Robert Schlesinger/EPA, from Associated Press

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