The Pugilist

Can Wlad and co brighten up the summer?

The Pugilist

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Klitschko and Thompson face off again

With industry insiders forecasting a 'summer of discontent' for the sport, the next two weekends could provide a welcome break from the gloom.

Starting with Saturday, a festival of squared circle action gets under way and with recent headlines being consumed by performance-enhancing drugs, questionable judging decisions and up-and-coming promotions being cut from television, there are widespread hopes that the mood will lighten up with a host of captivating bouts.

It kicks off in heavyweight fashion, as multiple world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko defends his collection of gold against Tony Thompson for the second time in a Berne battle which threatens to provide more than the tired re-tread of old ground for a title-holder running out of avenues to venture down.

The Ukrainian's dominance is doing little to excite heavyweight fans with living memories of golden eras past —even a 50th career knockout in March provoked more groans than wows — and a title defence against a 40-year-old he has already defeated does little on paper for anyone.

But a look back to that night four years ago in Hamburg suggests that even another routine Wlad win will come at an intriguing cost: the champion found himself in a rare position that night.

Struggling to make much headway with his trademark jab against a rugged Thompson with an equal (if not slightly superior) reach and after incurring the sound of boos in his home nation away from home, he finally dropped the American after opting to throw bombs with the right.

Adding further fuel to the fire of an eventual downfall of the dynasty, it was confirmed earlier this week that Wlad's brother Vitali would defend his WBC heavyweight title against little-known German Manuel Charr in September — a fight which may retrospectively end up being the older brother's last, pending electoral results in Ukraine the following month.

So, though The Pugilist cannot see any winner other than the incumbent in the Swiss main event, expect the tough veteran Thompson to draw more Klitschko out of his usual defensive fortress for a heavy-hitting finish.

PUGILIST PREDICTION: Klitschko d. Thompson in rounds 7-9

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Klitschko-Thompson II

To whet the maximum-weight appetite (and perhaps even offer an insight into the future for Dr. Steelhammer), British behemoth Tyson Fury continues his path towards eventual world title contention with a bout against Vinny Maddalone in Somerset.

Despite growing rumbles that the Manchester-born boxer is being kept clear of fellow towering prospect David Price for the time being, Fury has impressed with his performances after documented struggles with mental health issues, and stuck to his ambitions of becoming the first man to win the English, Irish, British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles — something Fury viewed as his key to the world stage.

Two of those titles, the British and Commonwealth, came in a superior display last summer against Dereck Chisora — a man who has already had his chance at a world title, and is set to make a monster payday on a Luxembourger license based on his actions outside the ring as opposed to inside.

And a tactical risk which proved successful in his last fight with Martin Rogan to claim the Irish belt and complete the foursome saw Tyson grow into southpaw status enough to create an opening and devastate the ageing Ulsterman with body blows.

In Maddalone comes another veteran who may not have shown the sort of form across his 43 previous fights to suggest a victory in the Southwest, but as a fringe world title boxer with experience against men who have competed at the level Fury aspires to (in defeats to Evander Holyfield and less impressively, Jean-Marc Mormeck) as well as against someone taller than Tyson (7'1" Julius Long) and is expected to educate the English-Irishman, even in defeat.

One of course can only assume that Mr. Fury is back to full focus after a surreal recent distraction.

(Be sure to keep an eye out for Chris Eubank Jnr and Ricky Pow on the undercard in Clevedon...)

PUGILIST PREDICTION: Fury d. Maddalone in rounds 4-6

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Fury v Maddalone

And stepping down the weight classes, a potentially cracking domestic card emanates from Sheffield with undefeated Kell Brook continuing his own charge towards world title contention against Carson Jones in an IBF title eliminator.

Oklahoma's Jones has shaken off the journeyman tag in recent fights and, aged one year younger than Brook at 25 with an eight-fight winning streak behind him, will have no intention of playing the role of stepping stone with similar aspirations of his own.

Although both boxers have clocked up numerous early stoppages in recent fights, The Pugilist cannot help but feel this seminal clash in both men's career paths will bring out the marathon man in each, with Brook continuing his unblemished run via the scorecards.

PUGILIST PREDICTION: Brook d. Jones via unanimous decision

The Brook-Jones undercard also comes highly recommended, with two intriguing European championship fights: Kerry Hope defends his middleweight strap in a rematch against former champ Grzegorz Proksa, while fellow Welshman Gavin Rees puts his lightweight title up against England's Derry Mathews.

Keep up to date with LIVE round-by-round coverage of all three marquee fights, plus results from the undercards, on the Yahoo!-Eurosport website and mobile applications this Saturday evening.

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