Wladimir Klitschko duly retained his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO World Heavyweight titles by recording a fifth round knock-out in defeating Australian challenger Alex Leapai. Yet the fact that his brother Vitali has relinquished the WBC version of boxing’s most cherished prize still poses questions as to whether the Ukrainian champion can unify the division.
Leapai was not considered the most dangerous opponent for Klitschko but by beating the previously unbeaten Russian Denis Boytsov in his previous fight, it allowed him the opportunity to challenge for the World belts. An opening round knockdown did not help his cause and the Ukrainian dominated the remainder of the fight with the fifth round ending of the contest confirming Klitschko’s nineteenth successive win in the ring.
Confirming his superiority in the heavyweight division would entail Klitschko needing to fight for the vacant WBC version of the title but recent events would suggest that the North American authorities intend to take advantage of the Vitali Klitschko retirement by maintaining control of this belt.
On May 10th, USA boxer Chris Arreola will fight Canadian Bermane Stiverne for the WBC Heavyweight title and this will be a rematch of a previous encounter when Stiverne won on points. Arreola also lost to Vitali Klitschko in 2009 and neither boxer is considered a serious threat to Wladimir should the winner wish to participate in a unification bout.
That eventually seems even more unlikely with unbeaten American Deontay Wilder being earmarked to challenge the victor. Wilder won his final eliminator by stopping Malik Scott in one round during March, although several pundits suggested that Scott was beaten before he entered the ring as the first clean shot by Wilder was sufficient to send him tumbling to the canvas.
Such is the reputation now enjoyed by Wilder that he appears to be spreading fear throughout the American heavyweight division in much the same way as a young Mike Tyson followed suit when in his prime. None of his opponents have lasted more than four rounds, with the result that his boxing skills have never been really tested.
When Wilder fights for the WBC title later this year, it will be his most defining bout as a professional but he is expected to win and possibly set alight the American heavyweight scene. That may also present a few more problems.
Will the WBC authorities insist that Wilder defends his belt against one of several other potential American challengers or declare that a unification bout against Wladimir Klitschko is required?
It is the ultimate showdown which many boxing fans wish could happen but somehow boxing politics may intervene and the two fighters may be kept apart for the foreseeable future.