POOR Odlanier Solis. The undefeated Cuban heavyweight (17-0 12 KO's) is as unknown a challenger as has ever fought for the heavyweight title and virtually nobody thinks he will win on Saturday night when he challenges Vitali Klitschko for the WBC Heavyweight Championship in Cologne, Germany. In a conference call to promote the upcoming fight, former Heavyweight Champion of the World Lennox Lewis however did praise the style and potential of Solis, though he, like many, seemed to believe Vitali Klitschko would emerge victorious over Solis Saturday night as he has done recently to a string of other similar sounding heavyweight names. Vitali joined the discussion via conference call and seemed very excited about the upcoming fight. When asked, Lennox Lewis went as far as to say he would enshrine both Klitschko brothers in the Boxing Hall of Fame today based on the fact that the brothers both hold the championship at the same time.
Sounds like business as usual in the Klitschko family and Saturday night it looks to be more of the same as the highly dominant style of Vitali Klitschko rolls on to what some critics see as a modern day version of the "Bum of the Month Club." To wit, Shannon Briggs. Albert Sosnowski. Kevin Johnson. Juan Carlos Gomez. Danny Williams. Enter Odlanier Solis. The Klitschko brothers have the heavyweight championship and they are "sharing" it and co-defending it. It's an interesting arrangement and the brothers seem to like it that way and so it goes that interest in the heavyweight division is at an all time low in America, though certainly not worldwide.
The elder Vitali is fighting another unknown title challenger; Odlanier Solis in a fight set to be telecast on the internet so please forgive me if I don't exactly swoon at the prospect of this showdown. Of course I will watch and hope for a good fight but my expectations are understandably low. With that as the setting under which a portion of the heavyweight title will be fought for on Saturday, I could not help but wander back in my mind to the epic 2003 HBO fight between Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko to draw inspiration for my question to the two rival heavyweight champions, Lewis and Klitschko. Simply put, there has not been a Heavyweight Championship fight as good as theirs since, and a case can be made that the true Heavyweight Championship of the World as your Grandfather understood it, continues to be Vacant at this time despite what the brothers Klitschko have done in the ring since Lewis retired as Champion in 2004.
Jeffrey Freeman - "Hi Lennox. Hi Vitali. I think I speak for most boxing fans when I say that boxing hasn't seen a competitive, truly memorable heavyweight championship fight since the fight between the two of you. That said, Vitali, was Lennox Lewis your toughest opponent to date and the same question to Lennox, was Vitali your toughest challenger?"
Vitali Klitschko: "In all my career I never meet so strong an opponent as Lennox Lewis, I never took so many punches, I never look so horrible like this fight. Definitely it was one of the hardest fights, and I'm appreciative that Lennox gave me chance to prove my skills against the strongest boxer of all time, I have a lot of experience as an amateur and professional and I can definitely say Lennox Lewis was the hardest fight in my career."
Lennox Lewis: "When you say hardest fight in my career, he was definitely the, uh... It was a hard hard fight. He was a guy I had to figure out. And when I say figure out, the man wasn't easy to hit. Plus he was WAY taller than me and had longer arms than me. My last major opponent before that was you know Mike Tyson so to adapt to his different qualities such as the height and the reach, was a challenge to me. He was a big challenge, and one of the toughest fights."
Such was among the interesting and spirited conversation today during the Klitschko-Solis Media Conference call with Vitali Klitschko and special guest former Heavyweight Champion of the World Lennox Lewis. We all remember what an all out war those two giant heavyweights waged back in 2003 when then challenger Vitali Klitschko challenged Worlds Heavyweight Champion Lennox Lewis. Vitali was subsequently stopped in 6 bloody violent rounds in a highly entertaining, true championship fight; the fight itself effectively sending Lennox Lewis into retirement and sending the heavyweight championship of the world into a lengthy vacancy.
Much time has passed since that fight and Lennox Lewis seems happy with his legacy and content in retirement. Topics included who Lewis considered to be the "better" of the two brothers and he chose Vitali, stating "obviously the older one is always the better one" though he was guarded in his response when asked by this reporter if Vitali was his toughest title challenger, saying, "He was definitely the, uh, it was a hard hard fight." In contrast, Vitali was quick in saying that he considered Lennox to be his greatest opponent, calling him the "strongest boxer of all time" and he thanked him for the opportunity to fight for the title and prove his skills. Lennox Lewis was a gentleman in every regard and so too was the current WBC Heavyweight Champion Vitali Klitschko who praised his March 19 opponent, the Cuban Odlanier Solis for his extensive amateur experience and success.