Vitali Klitschko is 37-2 with 36 KOs. He’s going to defend his title on Sept. 26 against Cris Arreola at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Vitali Klitschko, you both have high knockout percentages, should we assume somebody is going to end this fight lying on their back?
“This fight will be very interesting because Cris Arreola is the (WBC) No. 1 contender. He is undefeated, very young, very tough fighter. Right now, I have to defend my world title against the next generation. I am not the youngest one in the heavyweight division. I am already 38 years old, but I feel very good. I have a lot of experience and I am preparing right now for Sept. 26 to show all boxing fans a good performance. Of course, everyone wants a very good fight, especially with two fighters with a very high knockout percentage. The fight will not go all 12 rounds, which means it will be a knockout for one side or the other. I’ll give my best to keep my title as long as possible, and that means I’ll give my best to send my opponent to the floor.”
Talk about the challenges that he (Arreola) presents with his brawling style.
“As world champion, I have to be ready to defend my title against any fighter with many different styles. I have a lot of experience. You can’t buy experience at the store. Experience you take with age. That’s why most fighters in the heavyweight division have good results after 20 years old.
“I’m 6-foot-7, Cris Arreola is 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4. He’s actually a little bit heavier than me and a little bit shorter. He’s a big puncher with very good combinations. I have to be ready for all 12 rounds, which means I need very good conditioning. I try to work in long distance, but I have to be ready for very short distance. I have to be ready to find the mistakes of my opponents and use the mistake to send my opponent to the floor.
“Cris Arreola is not the same height as me. When I fought Lennox Lewis in 2003, he was the same height as me. Usually, my opponents are a little bit shorter than me. I’ve developed my strategy and my plan for the fight and I want to present my strategy in the fight on Sept. 26.”
You mentioned Lennox Lewis and that fight in 2003. Many had you winning that fight but you suffered that devastating cut. Do you find yourself looking back to that fight and what happened that night?
“I appreciate it, Lennox Lewis gave me a chance to prove my skills against the strongest fighter in the world, Lennox Lewis, the legend. He was very strong. I’ve never got (been hit with) as many punches as in the Lennox fight. It was not an easy fight. Everybody thought I was ahead on the scorecards, but I had a huge cut above my eye and the doctor stopped the fight. I’m more that sure that if the doctor didn’t stop the fight I’d have given my best to beat Lennox because it was my goal and dream to be world champion.
“Lennox Lewis inside the ring promised to give me a rematch, and in the next fight I had a very impressive knockout. Lennox thought about it, discussed with his family and decided to announce his retirement. Everybody wanted a second fight against Lennox Lewis, but right now Lennox Lewis is in retirement and I have to fight other fighters from the new generation.”
He seems to be the one guy that when he retired, he stayed retired. In the back of your mind, do you hold out hope that maybe you could still fight him? Have you ever engaged him in the conversation to get him to come out of retirement and fight him once again?
“I’ve talked to Lennox Lewis. I tell him, ‘Lennox, keep your word. You’re a gentleman. If you promised me (a rematch), you have to keep your word.’ One time, he invited me to his office in London and said, ‘I want to talk to you directly, no lawyers, no managers, just you and me.’ I came to his office and in the room was Lennox Lewis and his mom. I talked to Lennox for one hour, his mom looked at me and scanned his eyes for a long time. It was very funny. After that discussion, the next day Lennox Lewis called me and said, ‘you know what, I don’t want to fight you.’ It’s my personal opinion that that wasn’t the opinion of Lennox Lewis, but the opinion of his mom.”
When you came back (from four year retirement), how much rust was there to knock off and what was it like getting your skills back again?
“Almost four years I spent on recovery. I felt good; I took medical exams and decided to come back. I fought against world champion Samuel Peter, I stopped him in eight rounds and I took my title back. You know what? It’s always a huge motivation to make your dream come true. I had a dream with my brother to be the world champion, I did that. Right now, we have three world titles and we almost control the heavyweight division. I hope in the next couple of months we will take the last heavyweight title for our family. It’s not easy, but it’s our dream. I enjoy making my dreams come true.”
It seems incomprehensible to me that you would ever decide to fight your brother. I can’t imagine there’s any amount of money in the world that would get you to consider fighting him. But, did you and Wladimir ever discuss it for even one second and say, ‘could we possibly do this?’
“Of course, everyone wants to know who is the strongest heavyweight fighter? Right now, my brother has two titles. He’s world champion, I’m world champion. Yes, of course, the question is who is the strongest between the two brothers. Many people want to see the fight, Wladimir Klitschko vs. Vitali Klitschko, and who is the strongest one. It’s not a secret that the main goal in boxing is to send your opponent to the floor as quickly as possible.
“The closest person in the world to me is my brother. He’s not just a friend, he’s not just my brother, he’s a very close friend of mine. I like him so much and I don’t want to fight him. Our mom is very nervous when one of her sons fights. Can you imagine if our mom knew that one son was fighting against another one? Maybe one son knocks out another one. It’s too much pressure for our mom, and, to be honest, we don’t want to break our mom’s heart. This way, we play chess, we play table tennis, but we won’t fight.”