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‘Chicken Kiev’ no longer being served

Dec 7, 2004 12:27 AM

One of the problems with betting on heavyweights is having to watch them to ascertain how you’re investment is doing. It’s even worse when you have to pay to watch them and the Dec. 11 engagement between Vitali Klitschko and Danny Williams is a pay-per-view extravaganza.

However, it should be happily noted that this might be one of those rare heavyweight matchups that will be more fun to watch than profitable to bet. Klitschko, the consensus No. 1 big man in the game and at 6-foot-7, 255 pounds, "big" is a very operative word, has been -500 in the halls for some time.

Williams, coming off a career best performance with a knockout of the ashes of Mike Tyson, has been +350. There are arguments to be made for us underdog fanciers. Williams, from the predominately black section of London known as Brixton, has been considered a major underachiever. He has talent.

Williams can move a bit, box a bit and punch a bit. But his nerves would undo him. Most fights, he said, he’d be terrified in the dressing room, often crying.

What the victory in July over Tyson will do for his self-esteem is unfathomable. If indeed he congratulates himself for being able to stand up to Tyson’s furious opening onslaught and then, with the help of a wounded knee suffered by the former champion in the first round, slowly turns the tide and beats the once-feared baddest man into submission.

Klitschko, while perhaps the best heavyweight around, is hardly my idea of an accomplished fighter. What’s more, he has something else on his mind, Ukrainian politics. It is my opinion that no heavyweight concerned with Ukrainian politics has been seen in Las Vegas. This has nothing to do with Nevada being a red state or Vegas a blue county.

Klitschko has made a hurried trip to Kiev, which is Ukraine’s capital as if you didn’t know that already, to join in his little brother, 6-foot-5 Wladimir, in protesting the recent presidential elections there. Vitali has also said he was very close to walking out of this voluntary defense of his WBC title because of his concern for the homeland.

But a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian problems should allow him to concentrate his efforts again on Williams, whose sole qualification for a title bout rests on beating a one-legged 38-year-old Tyson after almost getting knocked out in the opening minutes.

It should be a blowout. "Should," I say, because I’m not sold on Klitschko and I’m hopeful that Williams, a terrific young man I met in Manchester before Tyson fought Julius Francis (a nonentity who owned a victory over Danny) is able to consolidate his stature.

While I think Klitschko’s height, reach and ability to fight tall (making it very

difficult to reach his chin) may be too much, there’s always the memory of Corey Sanders. A semiretired fighter, Sanders seemed more interested in playing golf, yet came within another punch or two of putting away the Kiev giant.

Of course, Sanders is a left-handed big guy himself. Williams is big, but not that tall at 6-foot-1. And of course, Klitschko had many problems with the bulked-up middleweight, Chris Byrd, before quitting on his stool with a bum shoulder. I believe that Klitschko, who refers constantly to "sportsmanship," was shocked by the reaction of us Yanks to his surrender. I immediately dubbed him "Chicken Kiev," but I have since taken the view that he did not understand you’re not supposed to quit.

Vitali thought it was just a game, a sport, and by bowing out when he did, he was assuring himself he would not do further injury to himself. He has since showed his real mettle when cut to ribbons by Lennox Lewis.

Vitali has always been the "good" Klitschko, despite Americans adopting Wladimir for a brief spell. Wladimir looks like he’s a better boxer. He’s more fluid, which is not difficult to attain since Vitali is as robotic as Frankenstein’s monster. But as amateurs, Vitali was chosen as the stronger of the two by Ukrainian coaches.

When they turned pro in Germany, it was Vitali who was picked to be the star. Wladimir’s subsequent unraveling aside, it is clear the Europeans had the brothers pegged correctly.

Chris Byrd, who was beaten rather thoroughly by Wladimir, has long held that Vitali was the superior fighter, hitting harder and defending better. I don’t think Vitali is a sure thing to beat Byrd, Jameel McCline, Hasim Rahman and even John Ruiz, but I’m not sure Williams is in that class.

In the pay-per-view semifinal, there’s an insult to intelligent bettors: Miguel Cotto, everyone’s next big star from Puerto Rico, against Randall Bailey, who can punch a bit, but who should be punched a lot.

Save your money for holiday presents is the best advice I can give.