Heavyweight bout

Mar 16, 2010 7:12 PM

Jean-Pierre Coopman, the Lion of Flanders, whose agent was asked by Fast Eddie Schuyler the night before the fight with Muhammad Ali if the Belgian challenger had a chance (the agent replied, "Are you crazy?!?"), needed the champion’s help, literally, to stand up in the ring. He was shown on network TV.

Lorenzo Zanon, an Italian scallion, who was so nervous the night before he challenged Larry Holmes (that day he watched Danny "Little Red" Lopez have his face turned into a mask of blood by an unknown Mexican named Salvador Sanchez of whom it was said, "Although he’s ranked No. 1 by the WBC, he can fight"), he was shown on network TV.

Zeljko Mavrovic, a nondescript Balkan journeyman who never boxed again (unless it was oranges in his native Croatia) after losing to Lennox Lewis, he was shown on American TV.

Yet next Saturday, there’s an American challenger with a 35-1 professional record, facing a vulnerable champion, and no United States television outlet has deemed this fight worthy of airing.

It is not a sad commentary on Fast Eddie Chambers, not Schuyler, against the 8-1 favoritism of Wladimir Klitschko (the more famous Fast Eddie would probably be facing longer odds, especially since he is now 75 years old) but on the entire heavyweight division.

Boxing may not be dead, but with its flagship division flagging, don’t tell me it’s healthy.

The problem is that Klitschko, 33, and his big brother, Vitali, constitute the two-headed chairmen of the (sic) bored. Vitali is a lot more entertaining; Wladimir, whose three losses against 53 victories were all by knockout, fights as if he were scared to take a punch. It may be Emanuel Steward’s finest training feat to convince the 6-foot-6 1/2 doctor from Kiev (to differentiate him from Vitali, the 6-foot-8 doctor from Kiev) that he has enough stamina to survive and prosper in his chosen profession.

He should have little fear against this Fast Eddie. Chambers, 27, can box, and does have impressive hand speed, but he is not a slugger.

Plus he’s so much smaller and not only because of his 6-1 height.

Wladimir has an 81-inch reach to Chambers’s 75. The reach advantage also helps Baby Brother to tie up anyone who does get inside his fine jab and other accurate punches. Wladimir normally weighs in the 240’s; Chambers came in at 208 1/4 in his last start, although he figures to be around 220 here.

Chambers, despite his 35-1 record with 18 knockouts (Wlad is 53-3 with 47 stoppages), has not created a major fan base. He was born in Pittsburgh but lives across the state in Philadelphia. He does not figure to have much of a rooting section in Dusseldorf for this endeavor.

With buyback odds of around 5-1, he could be a tempting stab. Wladimir, after all, has been stopped by such as Ross Puritty (when Klitschko wore himself out), Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster. Chambers owns a decision over the durable Puritty and he’s also beaten a couple of Wladimir’s more recent victims, Samuel Peter and Calvin Brock. In his most recent start, Chambers outpointed Alexander Dimitrenko, who was 29-0 at the time. He’s beaten Dominick Guinn, once considered a highly promising American heavyweight. His only loss was to Wladimir’s undefeated mandatory challenger, Alexander Povetkin, who is now trained by Teddy Atlas (a fact we throw in at no extra charge).

The problem is Chambers’s most notable victories – and even some of his less proficient displays, like the 10-round decision over Louis Monaco, who was earlier knocked out in one by Butterbean – all came on points. In Germany, where the Klitschkos have been fighting since turning pro, Chambers will be the real outsider.

I think I would rather watch Fast Eddie’s efforts on television than back them with any hard-earned coin. Oh, well, there’s always college basketball.