When is the character and dedication of a Boxing Champion measured? Is it when he is standing on top of the fighting world, basking in the glow of the Championship of his weight class? Or is it after he falls from the mountain top, having to look himself in the mirror, wondering if he is ever going to reach that peak again?
Wladimir Klitschko captured the Ring Magazine Heavyweight Championship and the Lineal Heavyweight Crown in 2009 with a convincing knockout win over Ring #3 contender Ruslan Chagaev. In 2013 he beat Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (TBRB) #2 contender Aleksander Povetkin by a wide decision, becoming the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion. Up until that point TBRB had recognized Klitschko only as its #1 contender for the vacant Heavyweight Throne.
On Saturday, 28th November 2015 Klitschko lost his Undisputed Championship to TBRB #2, Ring #3 contender Tyson Fury. By all accounts the Champion fought a terrible fight. He looked out of place and befuddled with an opponent who was bigger than him but was not willing to trade punches from the distance Klitschko wanted. Instead, Fury`s strategy of moving laterally, bobbing and weaving, throwing awkward potshots at the Champion worked to perfection in confusing the Ukrainian legend. Shockingly Klitschko could not find a way to unload on the moving target out of his normal reach, ending up on the losing side of a unanimous decision. It was his first loss in more than eleven years and it came in an ugly and disappointing way.
Eleven years and seven months ago Wladimir Klitschko was not in a good place. In fact, his career was in shatters. He was a loser with a brilliant future left behind via two crushing knockout losses in a 13 month span against Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster. Before the Sanders fight in 2002-03 Klitschko had been rated as the Ring #1 contender for Champion Lennox Lewis`s Throne. Many considered him to be Lewis`s heir apparent. After the KO losses the boxing media labeled the younger Klitschko damaged goods beyond repair.
Two weeks after Wladimir`s Brewster defeat his older brother Vitali won the Ring Magazine Heavyweight Championship by beating Corrie Sanders. Wladimir Klitschko appeared finished, doomed to be remembered as the little brother that had all the tools but couldn`t.
But he could after all. Klitschko rebuilt and retooled himself with the tutelage of legendary trainer Emanuel Steward. As a result in April 2006, two years and twelve days after the Brewster loss, one of the more remarkable turnarounds in the history of heavyweight boxing was completed. Wladimir Klitschko pummeled the Ring #1 heavyweight contender Chris Byrd into submission during seven completely one-sided rounds. Seven months before the Byrd fight Klitschko had unanimously decisioned feared and previously unbeaten Nigerian KO machine Samuel Peter despite being knocked down three times. With oft-injured Vitali Klitschko retiring in 2005 leaving the Heavyweight Throne vacant, Wladimir was now the #1 contender to seize it.
For the following nine and a half years Wladimir Klitschko was the best heavyweight on the planet, ruling over six of those years as the Lineal Champion. Now he faces the sting of defeat for the first time in more than eleven years. The media asks the same question as it did back in 2004. Is Wladimir Klitschko finished?
The situation now is much different than the one over a decade ago. Wladimir Klitschko of today is 39 years old having been a professional fighter for 19 years. He is a husband and a father. He has his health and an infinite amount of wealth. His trainer is Jonathon Banks, not Emanuel Steward. Will he be able to rebuild and retool himself from the dreadful showing he gave against Tyson Fury? Will he be able to adapt to Fury`s style that rendered his vaunted right cross useless over twelve ugly rounds?
The history of heavyweight boxing has seen only four Champions who have regained the Lineal Championship after losing it. Floyd Patterson (1956-59, 1960-62), Muhammad Ali (1964-71, 1974-78, 1978-79), Evander Holyfield (1990-92, 1993-94) and Lennox Lewis (1998-2001, 2001-04) all had multiple Championship reigns, being able to recover from crushing losses and reach the mountain top again.
Wladimir Klitschko stated right after the disappointing result of the Fury fight that he is going to excercise the rematch clause in the fight contract. Year 2016 hopefully lets us know if Wladimir Klitschko is able to join Patterson, Ali, Holyfield and Lewis as the fifth Lineal Heavyweight Champion to come back after losing his Championship. One thing is for sure. The former Champion has to take a long hard look in the mirror and decide how much he wants his Crown back. He has to take the measure of a Champion.
December 4, 2015