Next Saturday (March 10, 2007) in Germany, Ray Austin will challenge Wladimir Klitschko who many feel is the best heavyweight in the world today. The fight will be for Klitschko’s International Boxing Federation heavyweight title.
First of all, I like Ray Austin. He is from my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio and he has done enough to earn a shot at the heavyweight championship. He has met anyone willing to face him. He has ducked no one. Ray has only three career losses. The last loss came in 2001 when he was stopped in nine by Attila Levin. That means it has been nearly six years since he has lost a fight!
Since the loss to Levin, Ray has compiled a 9-0-4 record against mostly “A” level competition. He fought draws with the one time highly rated Lance Whitaker and the capable Zuri Lawrence. He stopped touted prospect Jo el Scott in eight rounds. He then drew with long time contender Larry Donald. He pounded out a close decision over Owen Beck and in his last fight he drew with Sultan Ibragimov after twelve rounds in an IBF title eliminator. Ray rallied after a slow start and came on to do what many felt was enough to get the verdict over Ibragimov. Sultan then decided to challenge World Boxing Organization heavyweight titleholder Shannon Briggs leaving Ray as the # 1 challenger for Klitschko.
Wladimir is 47-3 with 40 knockouts. He and Ray are both 6’6”. Klitschko’s reach of 81’ exceeds Ray’s reach by one inch. This time Wladimir won’t enjoy the huge size advantage he has held over many of his opponents. In his last fight he overwhelmed the cagey but much smaller Chris Byrd to win the title. Ray is a big strong guy.
He sports a record of 24-3-4. He has sixteen knockout victories. The loss to Levine was Ray’s only KO loss. Wladimir’s three losses have all come via the KO route. In two of those knockout defeats Klitschko was pounded badly by Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster. Obviously he did not inherit George Chuvalo’s chin. DaVarryl Williamson and Sam Peter have also had him on the floor.
The early rounds should go to the better skilled Klitschko as he works behind his fine left jab. I seriously doubt that Ray is going to fall early. Therefore as the fight wears on, Ray’s chances get better and better. Nevertheless if Wladimir can keep Austin at the end of his jab it will be a long night for Ray. To have a chance at winning Ray must jab with Klitschko and work his way inside. When on the inside Austin needs to pound the body and rough up Wladimir who is not a very good infighter. If things are not going his way Wladimir has a tendency to lose confidence. This is when Ray must press his advantage and let his hands go. If one of Ray’s heavy punches land on Wladimir’s fragile jaw the whole complexion of the fight could change. Will Klitschko fall apart like he did when hurt by Sanders and Brewster or will he hold together like he gamely did against Peter? This could be the key to the fight.
Hopefully the fans will get their money’s worth from the fight. Most feel that this will be a walk in the park for Wladimir. Please do not be too sure of that. We will soon find out.