Wladimir Klitschko vs. Jameel McCline
2002-12-07 : Wladimir Klitschko 241 lbs beat Jameel McCline 263 lbs by RTD at 3:00 in round 10 of 12
- Location: Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
- Referee: Jay Nady
- Judge: Duane Ford 98-91
- Judge: Jerry Roth 99-90
- Judge: Nelson Vazquez 99-90
- World Boxing Organization Heavyweight Title (5th title defense by Klitschko)
By Richard Hoffer, Sports Illustrated, December 16, 2002
It may turn out that Wladimir Klitschko, younger of the wild and crazy Ukrainian brothers, will rule the heavyweight division one day. But judging from his performance last Saturday against Jameel McCline, that's going to be a little further down the line than we thought. Klitschko is huge, is a skilled athlete, has a Ph.D. and speaks in the kind of garbled syntax mat reporters love to quote. At the moment, though, he's just not much of a performer inside the ring—and that's after he knocked out McCline.
Truth is, until the 10th round, when Klitschko landed a left hook that crumpled the former gunrunner and caused McCline's corner to throw in the towel before the next round, the fight had been a largely desultory affair, slow enough that fans were reconsidering their investment of time and money (not to mention Klitschko's reputation). Even the Ukrainian picked up on it. "I hear in fight, somebody a little unhappy," he said afterward, as agreeable as always. "It was little bit boring, made frowns."
A few frowns, anyway, although it's hard to assign the fault entirely to Klitschko. McCline, whom you might have thought was used to living dangerously after a stint in New York state prison in the early 1990s, was instead the picture of caution in Las Vegas's Mandalay Bay Events Center. He refused to bring any fight to Klitschko and reacted to aggression primarily with fits of blinking. He appeared to be a victim of Tourette's at some points, almost seizing up.
But the 26-year-old Klitschko, who is thought to be the better athlete of the brothers (Vitali, older by five years, is set to fight Lennox Lewis for the WBC title next spring), did little to press his considerable advantage. He was content to employ his athleticism in jabbing and circling McCline. It was a splendid display for a man who is 6'7" and weighs 240 pounds, but if fight fans preferred ballet, they'd have been yelling "Bolshoi!" instead of, well, something else.
Klitschko, while acknowledging his caution, didn't find fault in it, at least not to the extent the audience did. "Have to be very careful," he explained. "Don't want to prove my head, how hard it is."
His promoter, Klaus-Peter Kohl, was a little more apologetic. Kohl, who has been spoon-feeding the Klitschkos for several years (Wladimir was riding a crest of enthusiasm after destroying 41-year-old Ray Mercer last June), begged tolerance for his prodigy. "Give him a little more time," Kohl said, "he will be greatest."
Well, he's pretty good, nobody's disputing that—and he could get better. It's just that Saturday's bout didn't prove anything except that Klitschko is a charmer with an 81-inch reach. He has a terrific jab, which seemed to keep McCline off-track all night, but nobody this side of Transylvania is going to pay to see Wlad the Impaler. He'll need to explore other ways to impress people with his gifts than to stick and move.
Yet based on the box-office potential of Klitschko, the fight was billed as the main event over the rematch between lightweight champion Floyd Mayweather and Jose Luis Castillo. Mayweather, undertaking the second fight after critics complained of his decision over Castillo in their first bout, soundly outboxed Castillo this time, winning a noncontroversial decision in a fight that had more action than Klitschko-McCline. Such is the popularity of heavyweight boxing, though, that the more appealing bout was mere warmup.
Heavyweights these days may not be better (not with dinosaurs like Evander Holyfield lingering in the division, long past their primes), but they are certainly bigger. And as they grow (few under 6'5" seem to be valued as contenders any longer), expectations follow. There is a lot at stake in the development of the Klitschkos—who takes over Lewis's mantle once he retires?—so it's no wonder they've been nursed so well. But to make true believers, they need to fight with more heart than they have so far. 
W. Klitschko vs. Mercer
| WBO Heavyweight Title Fight
W. Klitschko vs. Sanders