• Steve Bunce

Hungry Wach a true test for Wladimir

Steve Bunce November 6, 2012
While others wait for the Klitschkos to retire, Mariusz Wach, right, has stepped up to the challenge © PA Photos

Wladimir Klitschko's latest world heavyweight title defence is live and exclusive on ESPN this weekend. For details on how to subscribe, click here.

We have a situation in the heavyweight division where any fighter with a half-decent record, if he waits a few months, will end up getting a fight against one of the world champions.

That's because the Klitschko brothers have dominated so thoroughly for so long that they have simply run out of opponents.

Some of the best heavyweights in the world are waiting for one, or both, of the Klitschkos to retire. One of them, Wladimir, is 36, the other, Vitali, is 41, but in boxing years, they're quite a bit older - and in theory they could announce after any fight that it is their last.

That's why a lot of the so-called 'better' challengers are staying clear of the Klitschkos. They've worked out that in six months' time one or both of the brothers will be gone and they can get a shot at a vacant title - so why get knocked out by Wladimir in 10 rounds or bludgeoned by Vitali in nine when you can wait a few months, fight a bum somewhere and get a vacant title shot?

On German TV the Klitschkos do staggering figures. It is not unusual for them to have 14 million people watch their fights, and they have agreed a five-fight deal with their broadcaster. But that deal is split between the two of them.

We know that Vitali hasn't got five fights in him - in truth he probably hasn't got three fights in him - so everybody has to assume that that means three fights for Wladimir and two for Vitali. But whatever the split, they won't last that long. My gut feeling is that both Klitschkos will be gone by January 2014 - and when they are gone things will get crazy, because there are dozens and dozens of fighters out there waiting in the wings.

That is why someone like Mariusz Wach needs to be applauded. The giant Pole could quite easily stay at home and protect his 27-fight unbeaten record, wait for the phone to ring and walk into a vacant title fight. But he's not - he's taking a great risk by getting into the ring with Wladimir in Hamburg on November 10.

There are still plenty of fighters waiting for a Klitschko fight. David Haye wants to get back in the ring with either Wladimir or, more likely, Vitali. That's one option. Then of course there is Tyson Fury, who is gunning for the No. 1 position with the WBO. If he gets that spot, he should be able to force Wladimir to the negotiating table, which is a good way to go about business.

However, Haye is going to be in the jungle for I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, and Fury has a really hard fight on December 1 against the unbeaten Russian Denis Boytsov.

If Fury comes through the Boytsov fight, and if Haye comes out of the jungle having not lost 3st, then I would expect one of those two to be in a Klitschko fight before next summer.

This Saturday will be a test for Wladimir. The danger that Wach brings to the ring is the danger of the unknown. One of the things we do know is that for the first time in his career - 61 fights since he turned pro - he will be the shorter opponent. Let there be no doubt: the 6'7" Pole is a potential banana-skin.

It's easy fighting the old veterans who have been recycled, most of whom a Klitschko has beaten previously or at least sparred with. But when you get a guy who appears to have come from nowhere, who is young and hungry, they're the fights where you have problems.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.