Interview with Wladimir & Vitali Klitschko
National Conference Call Transcript
WBO Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko,
Former WBO Heavyweight Champion Vitali Klitschko,
Klitschko Brothers’ Trainer Fritz Sdunek,
Tuesday, December 3, 2002
Wladimir Klitschko (39-1, 36 KOs) will make the fifth defense of his World Boxing Organization (WBO) heavyweight title when he faces mandatory challenger Jameel “Big Time” McCline (28-2-3, 16 KOs) Saturday, Dec. 7, on HBO, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Wladimir’s brother, Vitali (32-1, 31 KOs), who is the World Boxing Council (WBC) No. 1/WBO No. 2/World Boxing Association (WBA) No. 3/International Boxing Federation (IBF) No. 6 heavyweight contender, is coming off of a 10th-round TKO over Larry Donald on Nov. 23 in Germany, and may next fight Lennox Lewis. Also featured on the call were Fritz Sdunek, the brothers’ longtime trainer, as well as Bernd Bonte, head of boxing at Sportfive, the Hamburg, Germany-based company that represents the Klitschkos in public relations and marketing.
Question: Will the success of one of you mitigate the success of the other?
Vitali: We (Wladimir and I) would like to see our parents healthy. Fighting between the brothers would break our mother’s heart. I see no reason to fight my brother because he is five years older and stronger than me.
Wladimir: It will be perfect when Vitali fights Lewis. I am more than sure that he will win the fight. It is our dream to be world champions at the same time, and this fight will help make that happen.
Question: What are your ages?
Vitali: I am 31 years old, and Wladimir is five years younger.
Question: Wladimir, how can you both be champions at the same time?
Wladimir: Because there are four different organizations – IBF, WBO, WBA and WBC.
Question: What is your mother’s name?
Question: Did you ever fight against each other as kids, or did you ever spar?
Wladimir: Vitali is five years older, remember, so when I was 15, he was 20. I would not have had any chance against him back then. Of course we have sparred against each other. The last spar was like eight years ago. We do not do it anymore because we are too strong for each other. We do train together and give tips to each other.
Question: Vitali, what age did you first get involved with boxing?
Vitali: I was 14 years old. I brought my small brother to the gym.
Question: Did you participate in any other sports growing up?
Vitali: I have so many favorite sports. I was a world champion many times in kickboxing. I beat everybody in kickboxing, and, after that, I made some goals to do well in boxing.
Question: Wladimir, can you talk about your upcoming fight with Jameel McCline?
Wladimir: Actually, I cannot say it will be a difficult fight. Every fighter in my career was difficult, and every fighter can bring some surprises. My opponents always come to beat me. But, I have trained well enough that I give no chance to my opponent. McCline is in great shape now and he has beaten some very good names. The fight will be very interesting for the fans. I will make my job simple. Right now, I am 26 years old. I am growing up. Every single year, every single month, every single day, I feel stronger and stronger. This is my time.
Question: Can you talk about fighting a guy who is just as big and strong as you are?
Wladimir: If you see McCline, he looks like a body builder. Of course, being strong is an important point, but not necessarily in boxing. Strength is important, but in boxing it is important, to have experience and be a professional. There is also technique and tactics and things like this. He (McCline) showed he was in very good shape in his last fight, and he will be in good shape for this fight against me.
Question: Have you thought about who you might want to fight next?
Wladimir: I think like Americans say, “we will take it step-by-step.” We have to focus on our next fights – my fight against McCline and Vitali’s fight against Lennox Lewis. Then we can make a choice about guys like Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, if they are still in the sport. It would be interesting to fight against these guys.
Question: Vitali and Wladimir, which is harder on your emotions, fighting an opponent in the ring, or sitting ringside and watching your brother fight?
Vitali: For me, it is much easier to fight against my opponent, but much more difficult to be the second to my brother. Fighting is much, much easier.
Wladimir: I have the same opinion completely.
Question: Wladimir, which of you is the better chess player?
Wladimir: We just played 12 hours ago against each other. The game was about two or two-and-one-half hours. The result was a draw. Vitali taught me how to play when I was 12. Growing up, I would always want to play against my teacher (Vitali). Of course, playing the teacher was tough. I have had many dreams about beating my teacher, but the teacher is tough. The teacher holds a slight edge.
Question: Whom have you been sparring with, and how do you feel about fighting in the United States?
Wladimir: I arrived in Las Vegas one week ago. It was an amazing feeling to be here again. For me, it is a real good opportunity to stay here and to fight here. Of course, America is a Mecca for boxing, and fighting here is very important for every boxer, especially in the heavyweight division. I have had seven or eight sparring partners, guys like Corey Sanders, Julius Long, Ty Fields, and others.
Question: Do you plan on fighting more in the U.S.?
Wladimir: Boxing is a global sport. Muhammad Ali fought in Africa. Mike Tyson fought in Japan. This sport is international. We will fight in the United States, but also in Europe, Japan and maybe Africa, too.
Question: Does being a chess player help you implement fight plans in the ring?
Wladimir: Through chess, you learn mental preparation and the importance of making plans. Chess is a great game.
Question: Bernd, were there any discussions about which brother would fight Lewis first?
Vitali: I have the chance to fight against Lewis, and I will take my chance. I want to beat him. I know he is the best heavyweight now in the world, and he has more experience. I have to fight against him, and I want to beat him. I am in good shape right now, and I really want this big fight against Lennox.
Bonte: They did not discuss who would fight Lewis first. Vitali is the WBC No. 1 contender, which is why he is fighting Lewis.
Question: Wladimir, did you put on more weight for the McCline fight?
Wladimir: For every single fight, you have to just make real good preparations. If I were to fight Chris Byrd, I would be a little lighter to be a little faster. For McCline, I can take on more weight, and it will work well. Right now, I weigh about 111kg, or between 245-250 pounds.
Question: Fritz, how was the preparation for Wladimir’s fight on Saturday?,
Sdunek: We had a very good preparation for this fight. We had really good sparring partners. Wladimir is in really good shape. I am very positive our tactics will result in a win Saturday night. We do not just want to react. We want to act.
Question: Wladimir, could you talk more about some of the things you do outside of the ring, and how you got started with it?
Wladimir: We wanted to do something for society and something for children. We have worked with this fund in the Ukraine for the past eight years. Then, we wanted to do something more global, and that is when we heard about Project Education for children in need. We are very proud to work with this project. It is very important and very good.
Bonte: They (Wladimir and Vitali) will visit a special school project in Brazil. They have schools there that are for kids living in the street. Hundreds and thousands of kids live in the streets there with absolutely no education. UNESCO supports those projects so that children with no education get a chance to go to school. They also will meet Acelino Freitas there. Freitas is one of the biggest Brazilian stars, almost as popular as some soccer players. In his last fight, 91 million Brazilians watched on TV. When he heard the Klitschkos were coming and supporting these projects, he said he had to be with them.
Question: Wladimir, you spoke a lot about McCline’s strength, but what about his height? Have you ever fought someone that tall?
Wladimir: I have had experience in my sports career fighting someone like this. I am 100 percent prepared for this fight. It will be a very good experience for me. I am ready to fight and I hope people will enjoy it.
Question: Wladimir and Vitali, who would win if you guys were to fight each other?
Vitali: You know, money is very important in life, but it is not the most important factor. There are things in life that money cannot buy. You cannot buy a mother or a brother, and you cannot buy family. We will never fight each other.
Question: Why do you think you can beat Lewis?
Wladimir: Why not? If you are going into the ring, you have to be ready to fight and ready to win. We will never change our mind about it. We just think about winning every single fight, whether it is Lewis or some other guy.
Vitali: We have the goal to be world champions at the same time. I was a world champion, and I want to be a world champion again. I will do my best to hold a world title in my hands, and take it to my family. It is very important to me and for Wladimir. We have our dreams and we want to make our dreams come true.
Question: Wladimir, how difficult would it be for you to fight someone who is taller than you?
Wladimir: It is not important how big you are. It is important how good you are. For example, Tyson is pretty small, but he fights against guys who are much taller than him. You have to change your style based on whether you are fighting a big guy or a little guy.
Question: Vitali, do you feel Lewis will overlook you?
Vitali: You will get your answer after the fight. It is good when Lewis underestimates me.
Question: Wladimir, do you think beating McCline will silence some of your critics?
Wladimir: We have a few more days until the fight, and then you can see and decide for yourself what you think of my heart and me.
Question: Vitali, how is your back and shoulder? How are you feeling physically?
Vitali: I feel very well. I feel great. I proved my health in my last fight. I am in good shape.
Question: What is your game plan for pulling an upset over Lewis?
Vitali: I do not want to reveal my strategies for the fight against Lewis. My preparations right now are top secret. I will present my strategies and my plans in the ring.
Question: Wladimir, how have you prepared for McCline’s power?
Wladimir: Every single heavyweight is very strong. They all punch very hard. In boxing, power is not everything. You have to throw your punches at the right moments.