By Geoffrey Ciani: When I first witnessed the encounter between Wladimir Klitschko and Lamon Brewster back in April of 2004, I was under the impression that both fighters would ultimately become non-factors in the heavyweight landscape. To quote Mike Tyson, I thought Klitschko and Brewster would inevitably “fade into Bolivian”. Reflecting back on this, I think it’s safe to say I was wrong in my original assessment. In fact, I would now say that Klitschko and Brewster are probably both elite fighters in boxing’s most prestigious division.
It may very well be the case that Klitschko and Brewster were the two best heavyweights on the planet when they met. However, back then, there were too many questions surrounding each fighter for any reasonable fan to arrive at such a conclusion.
Wladimir had just recently suffered a major setback at the hands of Corrie Sanders, and Brewster wasn’t very highly regarded, having already been beaten by the likes of Clifford Etienne and Charles Shufford.
Leading up to their bout, it seemed as though this would be an easy win for Wladimir. At the time, Klitschko seemingly had no interest in a rematch with Sanders. Instead, he chose to fight for the vacant title he had lost to Sanders, who had subsequently vacated the WBO strap in order to become the mandatory challenger for the more prestigious WBC. It appeared as if this fight was being staged for the sole purpose of handing the WBO title back to Klitschko, and many people viewed this as him seeking the path of least resistance. After all, what was more important for his career: regaining the WBO belt, or avenging the loss he suffered against Sanders?
As things turned out, this wasn’t the easy fight many were expecting. After administering a brutal beating on Brewster for four-plus rounds and nearly stopping him in round four, Klitscho was stopped by a rallying Brewster in the very next round. However, at the time, despite scoring an impressive come-from-behind stoppage, this wasn’t perceived as a great win for Brewster. On the contrary, most people just assumed that Wladimir was a chump, and subsequently, Brewster was not given any of the credit he deserved.
A lot has changed since that time.
In the aftermath of the bout, most people assumed Wladimir’s days as a legitimate contender were finished. In two of his previous four bouts, he had been KO’d by a semi-retired golfer and a perennial underachiever. In the span of a year, he went from being “The Heir Apparent” to becoming “The Next Big Bust”. Similarly, Brewster was viewed as someone who had just gotten “lucky”. After all, Klitschko was clearly outclassing Brewster for the majority of the fight until he punched himself out, and got caught by a vicious left-hook (along with some brutal body shots along the way).
The fight’s outcome was so unusual, that some people actually believed there was some type of conspiracy that ultimately led to Wladimir’s “mysterious” collapse. I always found such accusations to be utterly nonsensical; they had no basis in fact, whatever. Conspiracy theories aside, the fact that Klitschko’s stamina had suddenly abandoned him did indeed appear unusual. This was a fight he was clearly winning, and its surprising conclusion led to many genuine questions concerning his chin, his stamina, and his heart. Meanwhile, Brewster was viewed as a talentless hack who had nothing going for him, barring a granite chin and good punching power.
Since this time, the stock of both fighters has risen considerably, with each fighter winning his last three bouts.
With wins over Kali Meehan, Andrew Golota, and Luan Krasniqi, Brewster finally began fulfilling his potential. These wins helped erase the memories of embarrassing losses he suffered against Shufford and Etienne. They also helped propel Brewster into the “Heavyweight Elite”, and he is now emerging as a true star in the division.
To be fair, his win against Kali Meehan was certainly controversial. However, I think this one can probably be written off as a fluke. Brewster and Meehan were good friends, and as a result, Lamon seemed to lack killer instinct in that fight. Regardless, there’s no denying his impressive victories over Golota and Krasniqi. In his most recent bout, Brewster scored a come-from-behind TKO against Krasniqi, and in his bout immediately prior to that, he had faced a menacing force in perennial contender, Andrew Golota.
At the time, Golota was coming off of outstanding back-to-back performances against IBF champion, Chris Byrd, and WBA champion, John Ruiz. The official scoring showed Golota fighting to a draw with Byrd and losing a unanimous decision against Ruiz, but the scoring of both bouts was extremely controversial. Strong arguments can be made that Golota beat both Byrd and Ruiz (I had him beating Byrd 116-112, and defeating Ruiz 114-111). In fact, many people (including myself) had viewed Golota as the unofficial unified champion.
However, despite those strong outings, Golota was totally destroyed by Brewster in a mere 53 seconds. That’s right – 53 seconds! This win was much more impressive than most give Brewster credit for, especially in light of the fact that Golota had just given two champions all they could handle. After beating Golota, it can be argued that Brewster should have been the rightful owner of the WBO, IBF, and WBA versions of the heavyweight crown. In fact, that argument can still be made today, especially in light of the fact that Byrd and Ruiz are quickly fading.
Since his bout with Brewster, Klitschko holds wins over DaVarryl Williamson, Eliseo Castillo, and Samuel Peter. His win against Peter was most impressive, and showed that he was capable of overcoming adversity. Klitschko was knocked down three times against the power-punching Peter, and yet he still managed to win a comfortable unanimous decision (scored 114-111 on all three scorecards). This was redemption for the younger Klitschko. He proved that he can recover from numerous knockdowns, and he proved that he had the stamina to go twelve full rounds. (OK, so Peter probably isn’t as powerful or skilled as Brewster, but this was still a big win for Klitschko; he outclassed an undefeated young heavyweight, who many feel still has a bright future in the sport).
Boxing needs a Brewster-Klitschko rematch!
For Brewster, he needs to prove that his victory the first time around wasn’t a fluke. He was being thoroughly outclassed by Klitschko until his relentless pressure ultimately overwhelmed the giant Ukranian. Can he do it again? Or will Klitschko’s superior boxing skills reverse the outcome?
For Klitschko, he needs to prove that he can do something that he’s never done thus far in his career – avenge a loss. He’s already proven he can rise from Peter’s best punches and still win, but can he do it against Brewster? Or will he once again succumb to the power and relentless pressure that Brewster brings to the table?
Frankly, I’m not sure if Klitschko can ever overcome the psychological advantage Brewster holds over him. Regardless, this is a match that I’d very much like to see. Klitschko is clearly the superior boxer, as can be evidenced from their first bout. Technically speaking, this is no contest. However, Brewster brings forth tremendous power, amazing heart, and an uncanny ability to take a beating like nobody’s business.
A rematch between the two is a logical next fight for each. In fact, I’m not sure that there’s a better potential match-up to be made in the heavyweight division at this time. Both have proven a lot since their first encounter, but a rematch will help further elevate the winner’s status amongst the elite. In the end, I’m not sure that either of them is better than Vitali Klitschko, but surely the winner of the rematch would have a legitimate claim.
Boxing needs a Brewster-Klitschko rematch!
This article was also published at East Side Boxing