By Dave Lahr: World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Vitali Kitschko (38-2, 37 KO’s) will be returning to action this Saturday night in a title defense against unbeaten American Kevin Johnson (22-0-1, 9 KO’s) at the PostFinance Arena, in Berne, Switzerland. It’s only been three months since the 38-year-old Klitschko last fought and with that kind of short time between bouts, Klitschko could find himself at less than 100% against Johnson. Klitschko is getting up there in age at 38 and has a history of suffering bad injuries both in the ring and in training.
On Saturday, Vitali will be facing a younger fighter with a longer reach and a better jab than his. Vitali’s jab has become his best weapon now that he’s slowed down in recent years. Since coming back last year after a 4 year absence from the ring, Vitali has looked much more stationary and slower against his opposition. He’s continued to win just as before, but has had the good luck of having beatable fighters like Juan Carlos Gomaz, Samuel Peter and Chris Arreola to fight.
Johnson, though, is younger, faster, and has a much better jab and movement. After all these years, Klitschko has finally met up with a fighter that can match his skills. In many ways, Johnson is the superior fighter. The only thing that Johnson is missing is big right hand power. However, Johnson may not punch with a ton of power with his right hand, but his left hook more than makes up for it.
Johnson’s left hook is better than Klitschko’s left hook and a formidable weapon if one of Vitali makes the mistake of getting to close to him. Even if Klitschko doesn’t get close, Johnson has a reach of 82”, two inches more than Vitali and will be able to land shots even when the Ukrainian thinks he’s safe on the outside. This isn’t a fight that is going to be like any of Vitali’s previous bouts.
I take that back. I think it could turn out to be a lot like Klitschko’s bout with Lennox Lewis in 2003. The action in that fight took place mainly the outside with Lewis and Klitschko trading jabs and right hands. Lewis ended up getting the better of Klitschko when they got in close and ripped his face up with a couple of hard right uppercuts that sliced up Vitali’s lips and eyes to the point where the fight needed to be stopped.
Johnson plans on fighting Vitali on the outside because he sees how vulnerable Vitali is when fighting at the distance. However, when the action does get in close, Johnson will be ready for his own equalizer – a nice right uppercut that would make Lewis proud. Once Vitali sticks his chin out while in close, Johnson will nail him repeatedly until Klitschko either backs off, goes down or ends up with a severely lacerated face.
I don’t think Vitali’s face will be able to take the punishment from Johnson’s jabs and uppercuts and I can see this fight being stopped at some point due to cuts.