x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Oh brothers, why won't thou fight?

The Klitschko brothers refuse to square up against each other, making heavyweight boxing the loser.

Brothers Wladimir Klitschko, left, and Vitali love each other so much that they even wear each other’s shirts. Alexander Hassenstein / Bongarts / Getty Images
Brothers Wladimir Klitschko, left, and Vitali love each other so much that they even wear each other’s shirts. Alexander Hassenstein / Bongarts / Getty Images

When men were boys, they fought. Usually, against their brother. Over a toy, the remote control, their mother's affection. It was natural behaviour, a manifestation of sibling rivalry. 

How ironic that the two men judged as the supreme heavyweight boxers on the planet will not fight … because they are brothers.

Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, by their refusal to square up against each other, are holding the sport's glamour division hostage. Other peerless pairs have ducked their rivals through the years, but egos or squabbles over dividing the purse were usually to blame. 

These guys are concerned over trouble brewing at the next family reunion. Stand in their laced-up, size-15 shoes, and you probably would feel the same. Unless you want to unleash repressed latent hostility because mum always liked him best, you might struggle to work up the violent hatred for your adversary that most fighters need.

Reaching consensus on dividing the money would be painful enough. The deal would likely demand an even split - say, US$5 million (Dh18.37m) apiece - but getting both sides to sign on would be problematic. 

They could throw in sole possession of the chess set that their parents confiscated when the games ended in fisticuffs. Aside from America, which has not had a heavyweight of note since Mike Tyson impressions were routine in a stand-up comedian's set, the boxing universe wants Klitschko versus Klitschko - even if their similar sizes (tall) and styles (dull and robotic) would not augur a bout suitable for ESPN Classic replays.

At least a bro-down would stir movement in the paralysed division and re-engage Americans. For now and the foreseeable future, Wladimir is the WBO and IBF champion while Vitali lords over the WBC. Wladimir, who polished off Samuel Peters a few weeks ago, already has been a champion as far as the eye can see into the past, with 10 straight title defences and no signs of decline. 

An aside: that each ranking omits one Klitschko altogether speaks loudly about boxing's need for an iron-fisted commissioner. As for Americans, they want one of their own in contention. Failing that, they want someone with the showmanship of Muhammad Ali or the crazed brutality of Tyson. The Klitschkos do not measure up, or down.

Pop quiz: what do Chauncy Welliver, Chris Arreola, Derric Rossy, Johnathon Banks, Ray Austin and Tony Thompson have in common? 1. All are US heavyweight boxers; 2. They could all be half-brothers, in a free-for-all between the ropes, and their countrymen still would not tune in, preferring to watch Tyson's bit part in the comedy film The Hangover. If only the Klitschkos could take a cue from the Williams sisters.

So uninspired were Venus and Serena when they squared off early in their careers, it seemed as if a court order had compelled them to play. In time, they realised that the outcome would not trigger a family feud or drive the loser into a vow of silence. Since, they have competed enthusiastically, with Serena ahead 8-7 in the sibling series. 

When Archie Manning's progeny, the NFL quarterbacks Peyton and Eli, have graced the same field, it has been obvious Peyton's sympathy for his brother steals away the thrill of victory. (Twice for the Indianapolis Colts, if you haven't been counting.) In time, Manning the elder might be able to enjoy it.

All we are asking from the Klitschkos is a one-and-done. There is hope if Vitali, four-and-a-half years older and long enough in the tooth at 39, retires, say, after his October 16 gig with Shannon Briggs to salvage his remaining molars. Then again, his body was spared four years worth of blows and pre-dawn training sessions while shelved with injuries. Which makes him, in boxing years, close to Wladimir, 34.

Face it, the Klitschkos are too much alike - twins, almost - to fight. Each holds a PhD in sports education. (Isn't even one of them feeling the tug of teaching PE?) Each favours high-speed recreation, though Wladimir prefers a snow surface (snowboarding, surfing) and Vitali a watery one (wake-boarding, jet skiing). 

Listen, guys, a stagnant heavyweight division is causing boxing to lose ground to the mixed martial arts skill and savagery of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Last year, 11 of the highest 15 buy rates for legalised combat on US pay-per-view television involved UFC bouts. Only three were for boxing while the other was a Wrestlemania programme.

The heavyweights drive the boxing bus, and you Klitschkos have run it into the ditch. Be brothers again, just one time. Can't one of you give the other a wedgie or swipe the allowance money? 

Then, before your anger subsides, how about signing a contract, filming some promotion filled with old home movies, pretending to hate each other at press conferences, pulling on gloves and sharing a ring? 

Sorry. Not a fighting chance that will happen.

sports@thenational.ae