The Thin Line Between Prize and Pride
By Don Deane
03.07 - To most boxing fans, the title belts are just a once valued commodity that lacks the luster because of a market flooded with sanctioning bodies. There is a title on the line in seemingly every bout now with world, regional, domestic, county, etc etc. all getting in on the waistband attractions. The fighters have a different credo. It is the same recognition fans gave when there was 8 divisions and 8 champions. The true world championship.
Last Saturday Lennox Lewis once again defended the true heavyweight championship, also called the richest prize in all of sport. Vitali Klitschko made an effort to wrest that title from Lewis. In the end, and keeping with Lennox tradition, Lewis kept the title and the fans left unfulfilled. Klitschko was ahead on the scorecards and was dominating the out of shape Lewis. The only thing that stood in Klitschko's way was the true prize in sport. Being able to fight another day.
Klitschko could have continued and very much wanted to do so, but was it in his best interest? Debate can be made on both sides but in the end is it better to leave knowing your eye can be healed and come back again, rather than take the gamble that you win, but end up with a cut that opens every time it is touched. The fact that this fight was for the right to be called legitimate heavyweight champion played heavy in this fight as I expect that it would have been stopped sooner if it was either a non-title fight or if Klitschko was losing.
Klistchko was given a great chance to prove that he was a legit number one contender and not just some white European freak show. In those six rounds he accomplished just that. But the fact remains no fighter wants to lose, and no fighter ever wants to leave saying "I would have won but
." Vitali was able to keep Lewis off him and then controlled the fight as Lewis tired. It was quite obvious Lennox was in poor condition and came in cocky, while Vitali came in full of pride and motive combined with good conditioning. He left with disappointment and his health. The other option was to leave with pride, pain and that title.
I do believe this situation was handled correctly. The eye was taken care of by the corner and monitored by the ref and the doctor. They took situation into consideration and let it go on as long as they could. Unfortunately, the better man lost that night. And unfortunately a pillar of boxing disappointment is still the reigning heavyweight champion. As we await the end of Tyson, Holyfield and Lewis, we also look forward to ushering in the new breed of heavy. Vitali Klitschko proved to have the class and guts needed to succeed and impressed everybody that saw the fight. The only uncertainty to the rematch is what shape Lennox Lewis comes into the ring in. We know Vitali will come to the ring full of the vigor to claim the prize he covets. His key will be to shake off the disappointment and realize that he should be proud of his effort and not disappointed by the outcome.