by Johnny Walker
It seemed apparent following world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua’s recent TKO win over long-time reigning former champion Wladimir Klitschko, that the other member of the famous boxing siblings who dominated the division for over a decade, Vitali Klitschko, still had some passionate bloodlust in his soul for the sport he left behind for politics.
The current Mayor of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, Vitali saw, to his horror, his brother come back from a knockdown early in his fight in Joshua’s homeland, only to floor the Brit, who barely made it to his feet after a generously paced count from the referee, in round six.
Vitali now says he feels guilty for telling his brother to slow down and grind out a wind over the heavily muscled Joshua, expecting the latter man to tire.
He now feels that his advice may have cost his brother the fight.
“I feel a bit guilty, because I told to Wladimir in the corner please don’t be so active in round number six when Wladimir sent Joshua to the floor, Vitali said in a recent interview with Fight Hub TV.
“I expect a big-muscled athlete to not recover, I was surprised, Joshua recovered so fast and stopped Wladimir, he continued.
Those who saw the excellent Klitschko documentary would not have been surprised to see Vitali come close to taking a poke at both Joshua and promoter Eddie Hearn after his little brother had been stopped by the giant Brit. Things were close to getting out of hand.
Vitali was indeed livid, as he was when Wlad lost to the late Corrie Sanders, who Vitali later beat to a pulp in Los Angeles to reclaim the WBC heavyweight title.
After all, it was big brother Vitali who had been assigned by the brothers’ employed mother to take care of his little brother as the military family moved around the former Soviet Union.
“She never told me to stop,” Vitali said of his mother’s orders.
And indeed he hasn’t.
While Vitali stops short of saying he will definitely be fighting Joshua, he doesn’t exactly say he won’t consider such a fight, either.
Citing other times one of the brothers have beaten up on fighters who have defeated the other (Wlad KOing Chris Byrd, who beat an injured Vitali who was far ahead on the scorecards; Vitali thumping the aforementioned Sanders), Vitali says that he still maintains a boxing regimen every week, jumping rope, using the medicine ball, sparring, and so on.
He also makes it clear that his life’s love is boxing, not politics, and that it is still boxing that provides him with the will to move forward in life.
Vitali cleverly leaves the question hanging out there? Was Joshua “lucky” to have survived against Wlad?
“I feel that I could knock out Joshua,” Vitali slyly admits to his interviewer. But alluding to his current mayoral duties, Klitschko adds that he can’t do this Joshua mega-fight “right now” (as opposed to “never”).
Them’s fighting words.
And indeed, Joshua fighting against the Klitschko brother who has never hit the canvas (much less been knocked out), who came back after a 3 1/2 year layoff due to injury to make then-feared WBC champion Sam Peter quit on his stool, reclaiming the crown in his first fight back: this proposed fight would be an earth-shaking affair in the boxing world. Vitali would be putting much of his reputation on the line at an age older than the current record-holder, the 45-year-old George Foreman.
It would sell out a venue like Wembley arena instantly.
And while Father Time is also a major foe for Vitali, he still is in such good shape, and always has been, that he actually looks younger than the 29-year-old man who defeated his brother prior to the Joshua fight in a rank, dull affair, Tyson Fury, who since that time seemingly retires and unretires from the sport depending on the day of the week.
Vitali’s great size of course is still there, and power is always the last thing to go. The defensive skills he picked up from Wlad’s late trainer Emanuel Steward, utilized expertly during his undefeated “comeback era” that began with his dismantling of Sam Peter, would also make this an even more interesting puzzle for “AJ” to solve.
How to get close to his opponent without first being tagged by “Dr. Iron Fist”?
Until now, there was one fighter who Vitali Klitschko swore he would re-enter the ring against at any time, at any age: Lennox Lewis, who he was beating on the scorecards when stopped by an eye injury at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles incurred after being clipped from the side of Lewis’s glove during their classic brawl.
Vitali was then publicly promised a rematch, one which a hesitating Lewis, after taking a year to mull it over, then decided to turn down — though it would have been the biggest purse in boxing history up to that point in time.
No doubt Lewis won’t be back, though he has publically toyed with the idea over the years.
But with the Klitschko name and brand on the line, should the circumstances present themselves and the stars align, we *could* see the great, sure-fire Hall of Fame heavyweight Vitali Klitschko against seeming new kingpin Anthony Joshua, as long (as Klitschko puts it) as the Brit “wins his next couple of fights.
Perhaps the final chapter of boxing’s Klitschko era has not yet been written. Only time will tell.
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