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Remembering Vitali Klitschko

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Remembering Vitali Klitschko

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Remembering Vitali Klitschko

By Donald “Braveheart” Stewart

I have a brother. Now this is hardly something I have been hiding but he is my big bro and 8 years older than me. I lived in his shadow. Going to high school, I was Mike’s wee brother. I hated it and as I grew into myself it became a cry I heard less and less. After all he was that much older and any teachers who remembered him were beginning to get to retirement age by the time I followed him in school. Mike was no bad ass and he was not the type of guy people feared in the playground; his reputation as not that massive. People soon tired of the analogy between us and moved on – as did I. My reputation as never anything that eclipsed his or caused any real comparisons.

But imagine if your wee brother was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world and all you had achieved was one belt.

Would you feel a bit hard done to? Would you go back to your parents and ask about the unfair spread of the genes?

Hardly but I have often wondered if in the Ukraine at some point, the parents of Vitali and Wladimir sat down to compare their boys…

It’s a comparison that is now far easier to make as Wladimir gets into his comfy slippers for retirement big brother Vitali has been in that sainted phase of his life for some time now. Mind you Vitali, the Mayor of Kiev, has hardly hung up his fighting skills – he is just more likely these days to assault you with words than with his fists. It was a career he had been combining with being the WBC heavyweight champion of the world until his retirement in 2013. He is also a former MP carving a very successful political career over the last 12 years.

Though his achievements may have been eclipsed by his brother, Vitali is a 3 time heavyweight champion, reigned as the WBO champion before Wladimir, from 1999 to 2000 and then again from 2004 to 2005, was as the WBC champion, from 2004 to 2005 and then from 2008 until his retirement and it is the last phase for which Vitali is best remembered.

Vitali was a power. Tall and dominant in the ring, his ring generalship was second to none; his two losses were due to a shoulder injury and a deep cut – he was stopped and not dropped. In his professional career, he NEVER hit the canvas. His knockout ratio stands above many heavyweights of this or any other generation with his granite chin and his proud prowess. The WBC were so in awe of his achievements he is their “Eternal Champion”.

Other milestones for Vitali, included getting a PhD when a boxer, defending his title successfully after hitting 40 years of age and he was one half of the “Klitschko Era” that has now come to a permanent end
As we head towards the May/Mac Circus, Vitali was actually a crossover fighter who was originally an amateur kickboxer. He was quite successful too as he lost in 1992 in the European final, then went on to win the ISKA world championship twice as a heavyweight. Vitali was so prestigious that he was a world champion kickboxer no fewer than six times as both amateur and a professional. He demonstrated a supreme will to win and that carried right into his professional boxing career which lasted from 1996 to 2013.

For Brits, there are 3 stand out fights in which Vitali proved himself – against Herbie Hide, Lennox Lewis and then Derrick Chisora. It means he straddles two massive phases in British boxing.

The fight with Hide did not manage to get past the 2nd round. It was a bold statement and though we did not think Hide was going to give him much trouble, we thought it would have lasted much longer. This was for the WBO title and Vitali went on to defend that title twice. Ironically, he lost it to Chris Byrd who Wladimir fought and beat twice.

Whilst Hide was not the top of our heavyweight tree, the next guy we thought was a principal heavyweight was Lennox Lewis; he owned that damn tree. Late in 2003 we were expecting Lewis to continue his dominance of the heavyweight world but we all knew that Klitschko was going to be the kind of fight that tested our faith. The WBC and Ring magazine titles were up for grabs and Vitali had taken the fight at short notice giving us some comfort that this was going to be a real opportunity for Lewis to do the needful and be crowned a worthy champion once again.

Klitschko came oh so close to breaking British hearts and dominated early, rocked Lewis in the 2nd round before Lewis opened that cut in the 3rd. Whilst Vitali pled for the fight to continue the doctor called it off when Vitali was ahead on all 3 judges’ cards.

The Brits will always believe that Lewis would have gone on to win but the technical knockout was bitter. We did though mark the date as when we became oh so aware of the power of big brother Vitali.

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