Klitschko Was Not A Fighting Champion

By Francis Walker
Updated: November 14, 2005

NEW YORK — It was announced that Vitali Klitschko has hung up his boxing gloves for good. Klitschko was supposed to face WBC “interim” heavyweight champion, Hasim Rahman on Nov. 12, but reoccurring injuries to his right knee led to an unprecedented fourth postponement and the end the end of Klitschko’s boxing career. Klitschko re-injured his right knee less than a week before his mandatory bout against Rahman. The injury will require orthopedic surgery and three months of rehabilitation.

“Lately, I have been spending more time with my injuries than with my opponents inside the ring,” Klitschko said in a statement.

“The decision to retire from professional sports was a very difficult one, one of the hardest I have ever had to make,” Klitschko said in a statement. “I love boxing and am proud to be the WBC and Ring [magazine] heavyweight champion. But I would like to end my career at its peak so I am retiring now as the champion to clear the way for my successors.”

Klitschko ended his career with an impressive 35-2, 34 KO record. At 6’ 7,” 245 pounds, Klitschko had power in both fist, had an intimidating presence. However, he was not a fighting-champion. Klitschko’s era among today’s top heavyweights will be long forgotten.

“Vitali retired so there is no question who the champion is,” Rahman said. “I did everything I was supposed to do. I waited through all the postponements. I won the interim title in a fight against Monte Barrett that people said I was crazy to take. Klitschko retired, and I won my title the same way he did after Lennox retired.

“I tried to get the man inside the ring but I couldn’t.”

Vitali, along with his younger brother Wladimir, were once recognized as the future of the heavyweight division. They had plans to become the second brothers in history to dominate heavyweight championship boxing by holding the WBC, WBA, IBF, and even the WBO titles. Although both Klitschko’s held the WBO and WBC titles, they never held a heavyweight championship simultaneously.

Wladimir has been exposed as having a glass-chin after knockout losses in 2003 and 2004. Vitali spent the ladder years of his career trying to prove that he has a championship heart which was widely criticized after his April 1, 2001 fight against Chris Byrd.

“I’m not Klitschko, I’m no chicken,” said WBA heavyweight champion John Ruiz. “Klitschko has always been a quitter He’s quitting again because he couldn’t handpick his opponent to defend his title against. He always quits when the going gets tough.”

Klitschko, was winning the fight against Byrd, a much smaller, light-hitting former middleweight amateur boxer. Klitschko injured his shoulder during the fight and surprised everyone when he quit on his stool. Klitschko did not absorb any punishment to prompt a stoppage to the contest.

“After the third round I had a problem [injured shoulder],” Klitschko said following the disappointing defeat. “I couldn’t withstand the southpaw. There was an old injury but it didn’t inflict [impact] the fight.”

Klitschko had developed the reputation for being a quitter and it would take three years for him to resurrect his boxing career.

Klitschko’s resurgence for redemption and championship glory led to a June 2003 challenge for Lennox Lewis’ WBC heavyweight championship. Klitschko battled Lewis in a bloody slugfest. Klitschko was winning the fight until Lewis landed a solid right that busted Klitschko’s left eyelid and lacerations in his mouth. The fight was stopped in the sixth round.

“There was no way he could finish the fight,” Lewis said immediately after the fight. “Look at his face, he’s lucky the fight was stopped. I was just getting to him, he was deteriorating. He was going to get knocked out. It was only a matter of time. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. I’m tougher than him.”

Klitschko redeemed his career. In the 29 months that followed the Lewis fight, Klitschko fought only three times. All three fights were against overmatched opponents. It was clear that Klitschko did not want to have any difficult fights leading toward the heavyweight championship.

Klitschko scored KO victories against an out-of shape Kirk Johnson, a limited Corrie Sanders, who once TKO’d Vitali’s younger brother Wladimir in April 2003. Klitschko’s only defense of the WBC title in Dec. 2004 was an eigth-round KO of Danny Williams.

The final year of Klitschko’s career was spent fighting injuries and initiating a series of four postponements against Rahman in 2005 (April, June, September, and November).

“I’m not surprised and I don’t think too many people in boxing are really surprised,” Ruiz said. “First it was his hamstring injury from jogging, then it spread to his back, and now it’s his knee. They should really check his heart. HBO, Ring and anybody else that supports this guy as the so-called real heavyweight champion of the world should be ashamed of themselves. Klitschko doesn’t want to fight anybody he can’t handpick. Who has he ever beaten?”

Klitschko’s career expanded during an era in which there are multiple champions for every weight-class who are inactive. Klitschko, although he fought Lewis, did not fight top heavyweights Ruiz, Rahman, Barrett, Evander Holyfield, Shannon Briggs, Mike Tyson, or James Toney.

Klitschko spent his career fighting overmatched, carefully selected opponents. Klitschko’s time at the top of the mountain was well wasted. There is talk of Klitschko pursuing a career in politics in his native Ukraine.

Lamon Brewster, the WBO heavyweight champion added: “I wanted to fight him but he hand picks his opponents. I’m sad about it. He gave up his title to retire [because of] injury.”

Heavyweight Future

Klitschko’s retirement has given boxing promoter Don King full control of the heavyweight division once Rahman, the WBC “interim” heavyweight champion, is declared the newly crowned champion. King promotes Rahman along with Brewster (WBO), Ruiz (WBA), and boxing’s current longest reigning champion of nearly three years, IBF champion Chris Byrd. King hopes to unify the world heavyweight championship next year.

King promoted a heavyweight championship series in 1987 that saw Mike Tyson become the first boxer to unify the world heavyweight championship. He also plans to create a tournament similar to the 2001 middleweight championship series that crowned Bernard Hopkins as the first undisputed middleweight champion since Marvelous Marvin Hagler.

Ruiz is scheduled to face undefeated WBA No. 1-ranked, Nicolay Valuev (42-0, 31 KOs) in Berlin, Germany.

The WBC must decide who Rahman, the newly crowned WBC heavyweight champion, will face next. Rahman could face No. 1-ranked Sinan Samil Sam, No. 2-ranked Oleg Maskaev, or No. 3-ranked Wladimir Klitschko, the younger brother of Vitali. There is also No. 5-ranked, James Toney.

Once the mandatory challengers are out of the way, King will have cleared the path toward unifying the heavyweight championship.