Two weeks after the dramatic and controversial events that surrounded his elder brother Vitali’s WBC heavyweight title defense against Britain’s Derek Chisora, baby brother Wladimir Klitschko defends his WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight title belts against French slugger Jean Marc Mormeck, the former WBC/WBA cruiserweight champion, at the ESPRIT Arena in Düsseldorf on Saturday. Despite Chisora’s scandalous behavior before and after his fight with Vitali, the fight itself was an epic encounter that saw the champion pushed harder than in any other of his title defenses.
Exciting as Klitschko v Chisora was, it was surpassed as a spectacle by last Saturday’s pier-six brawl that saw Russia’s Alexander Povetkin barely retain his ‘regular’ WBA title [Wladimir Klitschko holds something called the WBA Super world heavyweight title] against the ferocious challenge of Serbian born German Marco Huck. Klitschko vs Mormeck will have to go some to match the excitement of either of those bouts, but styles make fights, and if the Frenchman can get into his rhythm and let loose with his big hooks, the bout could be interesting while it lasts.
It will be defense number sixteen for 35-year-old Klitschko [56-3, 49 KOs] in two reigns as world champion. He won the WBO title in 2000, but after five defenses was sensationally knocked out in two rounds by South African puncher Corrie Sanders in 2003. When he suffered another shattering inside the distance loss one year later against Lamont Brewster, big brother Vitali pleaded with him to quit the ring.
Their differences caused the brothers to fall out for a short period of time, and it was not until Wladimir employed the expert services of Hall-of-Fame trainer Emanuel Steward that Vitali was happy with his brother to continue in boxing. The American tightened up Wladimir’s leaky defence and instilled in him a confidence and self belief that had been previously lacking, despite his undeniable talent.
A tricky test came in 2005 when Klitschko had to climb off the canvas twice to outpoint the then unbeaten Samuel Peter in an IBF title eliminator, but seven months later he stopped Chris Byrd in six rounds to become IBF champ.
Since then the 6’7″, 250 lb Klitschko has gone from strength to strength and become a virtually unbeatable fighting machine. Extremely hard to hit, Klitschko’s chin has looked sound when tested – however briefly – by big punchers like Calvin Brock, Hasim Rahman and David Haye, as well as Lamont Brewster and Sam Peter in rematches.
Skilled boxers have fared no better against Wladimir, and Ray Austin, Tony Thompson and Eddie Chambers have all been dealt with effortlessly. Klitschko added the WBO title with a points win over Sultan Ibragimov in 2008, and then added the WBA crown with a points win over David Haye last July.
Possibly his most technically complete performance was his dismantling of a dangerous and undefeated Ruslan Chagaev in nine rounds in 2009, but Klitschko has looked just as proficient in his three subsequent fights against Chambers, Peter and Haye, and shows no sign of slipping.
It would seem that 36 year old Jean Marc Mormeck [36-4, 22 KOs] has an insurmountable task on Saturday, but the Frenchman certainly talks a good fight, and at a press conference said:
”I want his belts. If I want to get them, I’ll have to smash his face. I’ve seen all his opponents, and when they get in the ring, I have the impression that they don’t do what they need to do. They don’t move forward. They don’t take any risk. He has lost three fights and each time he lost them without going the distance. He couldn’t recover each time he got hit. That means he doesn’t take those hits well.”
For his part, Klitschko compared Mormeck to an all-time heavyweight great when he said: ”He is serious about this fight, he knows what he is talking about. I would compare him with Mike Tyson; he is never going backwards like David Haye. He knocked him (Haye) down. It’s something I could not do.”
The 5’11”, 216 lb Mormeck does posses the Tyson-like proportions that are perfect for an offensive heavyweight, and will look to employ the same tactics that served him so well as a cruiserweight – fighting aggressively from a crouch and looking to score with big hooks to the head and body.
Mormeck captured the WBA cruiserweight title in 2002 when he forced five-time world champion Virgil Hill to retire after eight rounds. Four defenses followed before Mormeck suffered a 10th round knockout at the hands of Jamaican O´Neil Bell in 2006. He regained his title the following year with a points decision over Bell and in 2005 defeated Wayne Braithwaite of Guyana for the WBC title.
Mormeck lost his belts in a savage fight with David Haye in 2007. Although the Frenchman had the better of the early rounds and floored Haye in the fourth, the Englishman rallied and came back to flatten him with a huge right hand in the seventh.
Mormeck virtually retired following the loss to Haye, but after a two-year ring hiatus, made the move that virtually every cruiserweight does at some point in their career, and began competing as a heavyweight. In 2009 Mormeck outpointed perennial trier Vinny Madalone, and in 2010 outscored former contenders Fres Oquendo and Timur Ibragimov. Although he has been inactive for more than a year now, Mormeck is ranked 10th by the WBA and WBO and 9th by the IBF.
Evander Holyfield, David Haye and most recently Marco Huck have all proved that a cruiserweight can punch with authority amongst boxing’s big boys, so it is not beyond the realms of probability that Mormeck might land a big right hook on Klitschko’s chin and have the Ukrainian in trouble. The problem is, Mormeck has not come close to stopping an opponent since moving up to heavyweight, and indeed has not KO’d anyone of note since Alexander Gurov in 2003.
Look for Klitschko to open the fight with his customary caution, probing with that massive left jab, before bringing his right cross into play in the third. Mormeck will try and score with looping shots to the head, but will be wary of leaving himself open for counters.
I think Big Wlad’s run-in’s with Chisora may have brought out his nasty side, and I believe he will want to prove a point to Mormeck, so I expect him to try and end it early. After softening him up, I see Klitschko drilling Mormeck with a vicious straight right in the fifth round, putting the Frenchman flat on his back for the full count.