|Dr. Steelhammer speaks politics and pugilism|
With Vitali now fighting a different battle, one for political reform in Ukraine, the younger Klitschko has been left to fend the board himself against Alex Leapai on April 26 and later against a budding crop of rising stars that include undefeated American Deontay Wilder. At 38, he is still going strong in defense of his legacy and his titles, but as new pieces sprout up on the opposition’s board, new opportunities have arisen on his side as well. Claiming that his biggest battle is still to come, one must wonder whether or not the defining fight in his career will come in his native country, fighting not for sport but for a brand new start in Ukraine—once again, alongside his brother.
KO Digest's Joel Sebastianelli: This very special KO Digest interview is being conducted on April 10 the 10th anniversary of your lowest point in boxing, the KO loss to American Lamon Brewster. It looked like you were done in boxing, your brother Vitali advised you to retire, fans lost hope and all looked lost. What a difference a decade makes, 10 years later, you are undisputed world heavyweight champion having beat anyone and everyone and on the verge of another title defense, this time against Alex Leapai, an unknown opponent. What were the key elements of this decade long transition that saw you possibly being down and out to now being undefeated for a ten year span?
|Wlad lost the fight and he lost respect|
KOD: Alex Leapai isn’t viewed by much of the world as a real challenge to you. How do you feel about your opponent’s skillset and worthiness of fighting for the heavyweight title against one of the most dominant champions ever: you?
|The pure violence of Alex Leapai|
WLAD K: Through the years, you have to get flexibility to fight tall guys, short guys, skinny and a little heavier, and with good technique or pure violence like Leapai. A lot of different guys that were as technical as David Haye— Haye was really, really technical in the fight, the same as Ibragimov. Very quick and very technical, same as Chris Byrd. Or strength and confidence from Sam Peter in 2005. His confidence was as big as a building, and he was just tremendously strong and a heavy handed guy. Anyway, there are different guys with different techniques, including southpaws and different tactics so I would say probably the Queen because the Queen can move anywhere—if you know about chess. A combination of the Queen and the horse, a Queen that sits on a horse, because I think that makes perfect sense with the figures that I chose this flexibility—you need to make moves that are unexpected. Many guys when they fight me, they see only robotic and one side of me, which is good probably because it’s better to be underestimated than overestimated.
KOD: For both you and Vitali, your “secret weapon” was, for a long time, each other. Without Vitali in your camp and without him in the sport of boxing at all, how and why do you continue your career in the absence of your brother?
WLAD K: It’s a déjà vu because I’ve been in this situation before. In December 2004 after the Danny Williams fight, Vitali retired. He was absent for four and a half years until he came back. So for four and a half years, I was the only Klitschko fighting. And now it’s kind of the same situation. Now he’s retired again and the focus is on me. I’ve been there and done that, and it’s repetition again. Do I miss my brother being in the sport? Yes. But, I think right now, he’s having much more complicated goals that he wants to achieve in politics. I admire his desire, his courage, and what’s he’s doing. He’s definitely someone who needs to stay focused on the politics in Ukraine, especially with all the circumstances we have in the country. You can’t do both and sit with one butt in two chairs at the same time simultaneously, so he chose to retire and continue his life with politics. But, I’ve been there before and I'll continue to defend my titles. I don’t want to talk about the future too much. The first and next step is Leapai and that’s what I’m focused on right now.
KOD: Upon venturing to America professionally, both you and your brother met with promoter Don King in 1996 and decided to reject his contractual advances. In a foreign land and having the largest sum of money ever thrown at you, why did the two of you elect to stay away from King? Has your perception of him changed at all over time?
|Klitschko shows no emotion for Don King|
KOD: As an indirect result of rejecting his offer, you gradually forced King from the upper echelon of the heavyweight title picture, but for the first time in years, he has possible in-road back into the division with his WBC title challenger Bermane Stiverne. Do you feel any responsibility or need to defend the division, the titles, or yourselves against King?
WLAD K: I have nothing to do with Don King—fortunately, because he never was my promoter. He was the promoter of other guys I fought, so we had some fights and some contracts with Don King Promotions. I’m not going after Don King in this case. I’ve never had anything to do with him and I am totally emotionless in regards to his name. I care about fighters that I fight, that’s it. But just to take away the opportunity from Don King to hold one of the titles, that’s probably the idea, to hold all the titles under one name, but who stands behind the fighter as a promoter—that’s important in negotiation and eventually when you negotiate not with the fighter, you deal with his manager and promoter, but honestly, I have zero emotions in regards to Don King. I’m not interested and I don’t care.
KOD: Looking at the rest of the heavyweight division, three other names I would conclude have the most potential and would perhaps be deserving of a title shot are Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, and Kubrat Pulev.
What’s your take on each of those fighters?
|Klitschko respects Wilder for his knockouts|
KOD: You’re a dominant and dangerous giant of man. Do you ever worry about seriously hurting an opponent and to your knowledge have you ever? How would you even know if you were seriously hurting somebody? Nobody seemed to notice that Magomed Abdusalamov was being internally destroyed in the ring against Mike Perez in November.
|Haye disrespects Klitschko with his antics|
KOD: Growing up in a Soviet Republic, the world was a different place, particularly in regards to the USSR’s relationship with the United States. Many kids in schools were taught a very different reality of life in the States, and although the boundaries and ideologies of nations have shifted over time, some Cold War sentiments remain among individuals old enough to remember this time period—with that being said, your relationship with America is rather enigmatic, because in boxing, it seems that you love the US but the US does not necessarily love you back. Why does this relationship exist? Does this have more to do with the fact that you are viewed as a Russian fighter who beat all the best Americans and killed the heavyweight division in America—a traditional American domain—and took the title overseas? Is it because of residual Cold War feelings, or is it something else? Why are you not embraced in the States?
|Klitschko and his American fiancée at a Miami Heat game|
KOD: To what extent were you influenced by the film Rocky IV? Who did you root for?
KOD: You’re greeted by loud cheers and over 50,000 fans at your fights in Europe. Your last fight in the US in 2008 against Ibragimov was not met with many cheers, and despite holding the heavyweight championship of the world, many Americans even in the media don’t seem to latch on to you like they have other heavyweight champions like Ali and Tyson. What do you think about the American boxing media? Do you feel as though you’re misunderstood?
WLAD K: I’m not done with my career. I can’t really look back and say what was good and what was wrong. Hopefully I’ll be back fighting in the States soon. Florida is my home state in America. There’s another line: “you have it, you don’t care about it. You don’t have it anymore, you miss it.” There’s a lack of competition and good names in the States. Deontay Wilder and Bryant Jennings are both undefeated fighters from US and they’re building up themselves. That’s something that’s eventually going to come up with a fight for the title. It’s very complicated when you don’t have challengers. If David Haye had been from the States, it would be a different story but he's British. There’s a difference on the promotional side as well. Or, maybe it’s a boring style. But I was influenced by the American style through Emanuel and I still have American culture with Jonathan Banks who is following in Emanuel's footsteps.
KOD: In your childhood, your family was small and closely knit—mainly just your mother, your father, your brother Vitali and youreself. Even as your career moved overseas and progressed professionally, your team was kept small. But in the last few years, that team has diminished slightly, as both Emanuel Steward and your father tragically passed away. How have you carried on through those losses in your personal life, and in particular, how has the transition to Jonathan Banks been carrying on as the spiritual heir to KRONK and as your head trainer?
|The world heavyweight championship coach|
|Manny lives on through Mr. Banks|
KOD: Despite Vitali being gone, the name Klitschko still holds the heavyweight division in check.
But for how long can this go on? When you eventually do retire, what do you see in life after boxing?
WLAD K: It is too early for me to say anything right now but I am preparing myself for that period of time. I don’t want to say something that is going to affect anything in my official life after sport. Just wait for it and you will know about it.
KOD: If things don’t go according to plan politically, do you think your brother would consider a return to boxing?
|Brother Vitali now fights on the front lines in Ukraine|
KOD: For a while, your brother was pursuing Ukrainian Presidency but is now seeking the role of Mayor in Kiev. What don’t Americans see about what’s going on in Ukraine? We can view the television reports, but there’s always something that’s lost in translation through the media. From what you see of what’s happening in Ukraine, what would you want people around the world to know and understand about the situation in your country?
|King Klitschko's most difficult fight lies ahead|
KO UPDATE: (5/25/14) - Wladimir's brother Vitali was elected Mayor of Kiev, Ukraine's capital city.
|The Future of Boxing|
KO Digest Interview conducted by Joel "The Future" Sebastianelli
Joel joined KO Digest in January 2013 and has been a fixture on press row in the New England area for three years. In 2012, he served as the host of “The Boxing Fix” on Leave it in the Ring Radio. Sebastianelli is the future of boxing journalism and broadcasting.
Joel can be found Tweeting on Twitter @JJSebastianelli