Wladimir Klitschko (62-3, 52 KOs) vs. Kubrat Pulev (20-0, 11 KOs)
When: Saturday, November 15th, 2014
Where: O2 World Arena, Hamburg, Germany
TV: RTL Network
Weight Class: Heavyweight Title: 12 Rounds
by Scott of Predictem.com
On November 15th in Hamburg, World Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko will defend his title against Kubrat Pulev, the unbeaten top contender from Bulgaria. Many in the sport are anticipating something other than the typical one-sided Klitschko clinic we have have all grown accustomed to seeing. Many are giving the skilled Pulev a real chance of pulling off the upset.
Pulev certainly has the background, credentials, and talent to justify being categorized as a dangerous contender–even for the utterly dominant Klitschko. Pulev, 33, had a distinguished amateur career and in the mid-2000s, was one of the absolute top amateur heavyweights in the world. He turned pro at the late age of 28 and in five years, has won 20 straight bouts, including a handful of wins over some tough fighters. Hes been the most compelling contender in Europe for the past two years and now he will have an opportunity to achieve something really meaningful.
It wont be easy. Not only is Klitschko on a decade-long unbeaten streak, but its been almost that long since hes been so much as challenged. Were talking about 9 years where its difficult to so much as remember Klitschko being hit hard. Its difficult to remember a time in heavyweight division history where a champion created so much distance between himself and his rivals. But lets face it, that has a lot to do with a heavyweight division that has been in the dumps for over a decade.
But the sorry state of the division is not the only component at play. Klitschko himself has a lot to do with it also. During his ascent to the top, he was knocked out 3 times. He hooked up with the Detroit master, the late Emanuel Steward, who taught him how to fight while concealing his weaknesses. Klitschko, in turn, has run with it. He keeps opponents at arms length, timing them with crisp and powerful jabs, followed by pounding right hands. He also uses his legs to curtail the aggressive advances of his opponents. And thats why its been nearly a decade since anyone has managed to get inside on Wlad and inflict any damage.
The reason some are enthusiastic about Pulevs chances is because of a palpable sense that the challenger is of a higher caliber than recent Klitschko challengers. He is a versatile fighter, capable of long-range boxing and aggressive power-punching. He is smart in the ring and isnt likely to lay on the end of Klitschkos reach all night like recent challengers. Pulev understands range and ring geometry and has an instinctive knowledge of how to fight.
The only problem is that while Pulev is a good fighter, he is neither the long-range boxing master or puncher-extraordinaire needed to beat a champion like Klitschko. Not that you need to be a prime Sonny Liston or George Foreman to beat Wladimir, but it would seem that someone up to the task would need that one great asset in their arsenal to pull it off.
Its difficult to imagine Pulev coming out in the sunny side of a long-range chess match with Klitschko, who is longer and hits harder. And getting inside on Klitschko is one of those things that just looks easier than it is. Theres a reason its been nearly a decade since an opponent has managed to get business done on the inside of Klitschko. When you try to get inside, the Klitschko jab hones in like a heat-seeking missile. And its not a pitty-pat jab, its a solid whack. Soon, you see opponents no longer trying to get inside, knowing the price is too steep. Then its all Klitschko, as he surgically picks apart his tamed opponents from the outside.
Thats been the formula recently and Pulev will need to do something momentous to change that. Still, Pulev is a cut above the retrograde challengers Klitschko has been thriving against in the ring lately. Pulev is not coming off losses. Hes not a one-dimensional fighter banking on only one thing. And most importantly, he will enter the ring on an ambitious quest, showing the kind of hunger to win you want to see if picking against Klitschko. Pulev has a positive and winning attitude and it will take a lot to dissuade him.
Truth be told, Klitschko hasnt really been in the ring with a fighter of this caliber in quite some time. Hes had a couple challengers who were supposed to be tough, but failed to deliver. David Haye was supposed to threaten Klitschko, but proved too meek and one-dimensional. Others may have been talented, but werent well-rounded enough to compete. The one thing Pulev brings to the ring is a vast array of skills. Hes a few inches shorter that Klitschko, but matches up decently size-wise. Hes loose-limbed and has that kind of flexibility you like to see with fighters, especially at heavyweight, where fighters can be somewhat rigid and non-athletic.
Pulev is a handful. Klitschko may be forced to dig down deeper into his bag of tricks than normal. At the end of the day, it may come down to firepower and the nod in that category goes lopsidedly to Klitschko. Look for a spirited challenge from Pulev, at least until Klitschko unravels the big guns, at which point Pulev will be dissuaded.
My Prediction to Win the Fight:
Im going with Wladimir Klitschko at -600 or less. Too much experience, reach, and power for Pulev. And while good, Pulev may lack that extra dimension needed to topple a champion of Klitschkos stature. I look for a late-round KO or a convincing unanimous decision.