And we’re paying to see Wladimir fight!

Apr 12, 2005 3:00 AM

Thanks for nothing, or, in TV boxing terms, sometimes you get what you pay for.

There are no fights worthy of our attention on the April 16 weekend, but there are two televised cards on April 23 and sometimes free can be costly.

The "free" fight, if you already subscribe to HBO, is a real heavyweight dud, a battle of baby brothers between Wladimir Klitschko and Eliseo Castillo. Let’s not confuse them with their siblings. Wlad’s big brother is Vitali, holder of the WBC heavyweight and the pride and joy of the Ukraine.

Castillo’s big brother is Eliser, which is just as confusing. They both escaped Cuba. Big Brother had the rep, just as with the Klitschkos, but fizzled in the pros. Baby Brother is so far undefeated in the pros, but when you allow an out-of-shape Michael Moorer to last 10 rounds, you are not about to be called one of the game’s great punchers. That’s the point to this HBO exercise in trash recycling.

In his last two HBO appearances, the man once thought by the network’s suits to be the savior of the heavyweight division, has been thoroughly knocked out by that murderer’s row of Corrie Sanders (a golfer just playing through) and Lamon Brewster.

How this qualifies Wladimir for another HBO date — on a network that last we looked didn’t have a slot for a rematch between Erik Morales and Manny Pacquiao — is simple: The suits can’t admit they were wrong.

Castillo, a little guy who can be somewhat awkward, doesn’t figure to scare Wladimir too much. There is a much better heavyweight fight April 23. You’ll have to pay for undefeated Calvin Brock finally moving up to the big boys and facing Jameel (Big Time) McCline.

But for your $30, you’ll get two title fights plus Sugar Shane Mosley’s return to the welterweight division against a live longshot in Angelo Dundee’s David Estrada. Atop the card from one of boxing’s great venues, Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, will be Antonio Margarito’s WBO welterweight title defense against undefeated bomber Kermit Cintron. Juan Diaz, the undefeated college student from Houston, will defend his WBA lightweight belt against Ebo Elder in what should be a cut-rate thriller for as long as it lasts.

More about these fights next week. Let’s concentrate on the April 23 heavyweights now. You shouldn’t want to bet on the HBO garbage from Dortmund, although without a rooting interest, you probably won’t want to "watch" it.

The younger Klitschko was briefly thought to be better than Vitali. He was smoother, less robotic, but there were a lot of opinions all along that Big Brother was better. First, the Soviet team chose Vitali to be its superheavyweight Olympic representative and it was only after Big Brother failed a steroid test and was ineligible for the 1996 Games that Wlad stepped in to win the gold. But even with the gold, Wlad was relegated to prelims when the brothers agreed to be promoted in Germany.

Finally, even Chris Byrd — who made Vitali quit and lost a lopsided decision to Wladimir — said Big Brother was better, hit harder and tougher to reach.

Wladimir’s last notable victory was over a frightened and tentative McCline, who is coming off a near-victory over Byrd. In the second round, the giant McCline dropped the IBF champion with a chopping right hand and almost had him out. By fight’s end, though, he was gasping for air.

He’s dumped the guys who brought him this far this fast. He was once 3-2 and a sparring partner I once saw knocked out in the first round by Gary Bell, who bounced a horizontal McCline off the canvas back up to his shoulders. Johnny Bos, his former agent, took over and kept him from sparring for a year. Bos then put him on the Southern circuit for two years to build confidence.

But despite clever matchmaking, McCline’s chin has not really gotten better and Brock, if nothing else, can punch. He was listed last time I looked as a 7-5 choice against a better-known guy, who is well ahead of him in almost all the rankings.

I think the smart money is on Brock. He isn’t a lock. McCline can punch, too. But he’s had more problems with shorter guys like Brock than with giants. Don’t go crazy, but I think Brock is the logical choice. But you don’t have to bet on this fight to have action April 23.

And, watching it will give you another excuse not to look at the Wladimir Klitschko-Eliseo Castillo match.