The Wladimir Klitschko career has now come to an end but what an incredible run it’s been. Lets take a stroll down memory lane.
As you’ve most likely heard by now, former heavyweight champion and future hall of famer Wladimir Klitschko has decided to hang up the gloves for good.
Following a valiant yet punishing knockout loss to IBF, IBO, and WBA champion Anthony Joshua, he was entitled by contract to a rematch, wanted to think it over, and ultimately opted for retirement. This abrupt departure from competition marks the end of nearly 27 years of boxing for the Ukrainian legend.
How does the boxing community remember him? Social media was abuzz at the message that Klitschko was leaving the sweet science, at least in an active ring role. It was a career which had so much achievement yet little acknowledgement. Many pundits had signalled an end was near soon, and that Klitschko would be better remembered after retirement and that his status as an all-time great fighter would be better recognized. Well, it looks like that’s happening, immediately. Admiration and well wishes poured in from all over the world, recalling the accomplishments and some frustrations from the “Klitschko Era,” yet all the posts could be soundly summarized by a tweet from fellow heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, simply:
READ MORE: Hearn reacts to Klitschko retiring
Unfortunately for Wladimir, he did not get to retire at the top as he wished, sadly the way most boxers depart, he suffering back to back defeats, the latest from Joshua at Wembley Stadium and the former in a stunning upset to British boxer Tyson Fury in Dusseldorf, Germany.
Fury’s reign was brief eventually giving up all the belts without a single defense amid mental health problems and a still ongoing doping investigation. That loss signalled the end of an amazing period of dominance by Wladimir Klitschko, rarely even losing rounds let alone matches.
Over a period of roughly nine and a half years (9 years, 7 months and 7 days), Klitschko would defend his belts 19 times – defeating former or current world champions, undefeated fighters and one other Olympic gold medalist culminating in the second longest reign in heavyweight boxing history. He has the second most number of defenses career-wise at 23 (both records behind Joe Louis), fighting a total of 29 title fights, the most of any heavyweight fighter and holding the record for defeating the most number of undefeated fighters at 12, also defeating 10 current or former world champions. Before professional competition, Klitschko won a gold medal in the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, in the super heavyweight division
His website server initially crashed due to overwhelming activity he said via Facebook account. The announcement came as initially a surprise because many thought due to the compensation of a rematch and the close competition of the first bout (both fighters being knocked down during the contest), Klitschko would’ve have given it one more chance to retire as champion. He had hinted before that if he did elect for the rematch with Anthony Joshua, then that (the rematch) definitely would have been his final match.
READ MORE: Boxing world reacts to Wladimir’s retirement
While not a superstar in America per se, Klitschko’s most sizeable fan base was in Germany. His bouts sold out large soccer stadiums, which drew nearly 60,000 people per fight and were watched by substantial audiences on television worldwide. His time period is not regarded as the best for the heavyweight division, not having the kind of rivalries and talent of the 1990’s which witnessed the title reigns of superstars such as Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, and Mike Tyson. Wlad’s competition, while not weak, was not what the public had wanted, containing mainly international competition largely lacking any famous American or British opponents.
Many in the boxing world had also criticized Klitschko’s style of fighting after joining up with legendary trainer Emmanuel “Manny” Steward. Stewart, who remained with Klitschko until his death in 2002 and helped develop a more hit-and-hold style which help eliminate stylistic weaknesses which some of Klitschko’s earlier foes who had defeated him had exploited. While more tactical and cerebral in boxing with Steward’s guidance, Klitschko remained a fearsome power puncher, finishing with a career record of 64 wins 5 losses, 54 KOs in 69 total bouts. He seemingly had little to no difficulty in dispatching any opponent up to Tyson Fury, with people losing interest in the heavyweight division as a result. It certainly says something about Klitschko’s dominance while still being a knockout artist, when everyone was waiting for him to leave.
Wladimir Klitschko never became officially the undisputed champion unlike the champions of the previous decade mentioned above. While he held the WBA, IBF, IBO, lineal championships and The Ring Magazine championship belt, the WBC belt was held by Wlad’s older brother Vitali. Formidable in his own right, Vitali had never been knocked down in any professional contest and whose only two defeats coming from injury stoppage. The Klitschko reign was the first of its kind where two brothers held every championship in the heavyweight division, and it would stay between the two specifically because both brothers had made a vow to their mother never to fight one another.
In what turned out to be his final fight, in front of a sold-out record second crowd in post-WWII Britain in Wembley Stadium, a crowd which gave Klitschko a standing ovation before his post fight interview in his defeat to Joshua, Joshua had this remark about his vanquished opponent, sparring partner and supporter – which perhaps sums him up best:
“A massive shout out to Wladimir Klitschko for taking part, I’m not going to say too much, in terms of the boxing hall of fame, he’s a role model in and out of the ring. He’s a legend.”