Wladimir Klitschko isn’t as glib as Muhammed Ali. He doesn’t look as impressive in the ring as Mike Tyson. He’s not as unbeatable as Rocky Marciano. But, it’s an easy bet that the reigning WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO and The Ring Champion is the smartest and most eloquent heavyweight in the sport’s history.
The owner of a Ph.D. in Sports Science, the Olympic Gold Medalist holds a professional record of 57-3 with 50 knockouts. But, despite his impressive record and well-spoken media savvy, Klitschko has struggled to capture the passionate imagination of boxing fans due to a methodical, but effective fighting style.
“Dr. Steel Hammer” doesn’t float like a butterfly and he doesn’t hit with the raging fury of Tyson or George Foreman. Klitschko tends to stand upright, with his weight on his back foot – using the natural advantage that comes with his 6’6” height to keep him out of an opponent’s range. Klitschko waits behind his big jab and the occasional left hook – always trying to drive his opponent toward his powerful right hand.
It’s not visually exciting, but it’s earned Klitschko the linear heavyweight championship held by Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, etc. That title is disputed only by the WBC belt held by Wladimir’s brother, Vitali.
The heavyweight champ took a break from his training in the Austrian Alps for his title defense against Tony Thompson to discuss his place in history and what the future looks like for big men’s boxing.
CraveOnline: What’s your training routine as you get ready to defend the title?
Wladimir Klitschko: I train six days a week for four to five hours a day. I like to keep the same schedule when I’m in camp for every fight. It’s beautiful up here and a great place to train.
CraveOnline: To play devil’s advocate, there are critics out there who say the heavyweight division has lost its drama and star power. As the linear heavyweight champion, how do you feel about those claims?
Wladimir Klitschko: I have to defend my title against whomever the next challenger is. For this rematch with Thompson, I’m facing a guy who gave me one of my toughest fights. He’s a good opponent and I think it’ll be a great fight.
I always remind people I have 50 knockouts in 57 fights. There’s nothing boring
CraveOnline: With the emergence of bigger, taller heavyweight like you and Lennox Lewis, there’s a concern amongst boxing lovers that we’ve lost those great heavyweights on the shorter side like Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson. Should there be a separation of the weight classes to drive the super heavyweights up – to get the smaller heavyweights back in the title picture?
Wladimir Klitschko: I don’t think so. Look at a guy like Mike Tyson and the power he was able to generate even at his height.
CraveOnline: But would a Tyson have a shot against you with your reach advantage?
Wladimir Klitschko: It’s not my place to compare myself to greats like Tyson, Frazier or men like that. But I would look at a fighter like Evander Holyfield. He’s a great heavyweight who worked his way up through the weight classes to become champion and had to beat bigger men along the way.
CraveOnline: This will be your 58th fight. How much longer do you see yourself fighting?
Wladimir Klitschko: I feel good. I’m in good shape. But I realize I’m 36, not 25. And my opponents are getting younger. I understand it will be over at some point, but this won’t be my last fight.
CraveOnline: At 36, are you concerned about concussions – as so many in sports are these days?
Wladimir Klitschko: There are risks for everyone in every profession. If you’re a rock star, you have to worry about drugs and alcohol. If you’re a politician, you have to look out for somebody putting a bullet in your head. There’s always risks. And I consider politicians to be a danger for my opponents.