By Sean Crose
How does one not respect heavyweight kingpin Wladimir Klitschko? Not only is he a masterful ring veteran who, whether you like his style or not, has logged on a record to be remembered, the guy is a gentleman, an individual from a sound family whose own brother gave up a wealthy ring life to help his oppressed countrymen. On top of all that, Klitschko brings a true sense of dignity to the boxing ring. Indeed, the man is a true credit to his chosen profession.
Which is why it should come as a surprise to no one that Klitschko has found himself butting heads with one over the top character after another during his title reign. The man is simply too nice, too straightlaced and too refined to escape boxing’s odd array of characters. Still, it’s hard to think of another champ in recent memory who’s gone up against such an utter tempest of weirdness.
Let’s start with the esteemed Mr. David Haye. After getting a highly publicized fight with Klitschko in Germany, the British knockout artist proceeded to don a shirt showcasing the severed heads of Klitschko and his brother Vitali. Haye also refused to shake his opponent’s hand before the bout and actually caused Klitschko to exude genuine rage during an episode of “Face Off” on HBO.
And what did all this lead to? Haye dropping to the mat over and over again during the enormous superbout – without benefit of Klitschko’s punches (and you thought Mayweather-Pacquiao was a letdown). What’s more, after losing a unanimous decision, Haye pointed to – wait for it – a broken toe as a major reason why he lost.
Now, of course, Klitshcko is preparing to face the illustrious Mr. Tyson Fury, an Anglo-Irish loudmouth of nearly unfathomable proportions. When he’s not serenading a live audience with his singing voice after a bout, Fury can be found tossing over furniture at a press conference or generally shooting off his mouth to whoever will listen. Remember Klitschko’s last opponent, the industrious and soft spoken Bryant Jennings? Yeah. Fury’s not like him at all.
Even Fury, however, can’t hold a candle to the living wonder known as Mr. Shannon Briggs. Scratch that, Fury and Haye combined can’t compare to Briggs. The former champ truly acts that nuts. Briggs doesn’t only want a crack at Klitschko, he stalks the man like crazy.
He’s interrupted numerous public events involving Klitschko. He’s pretty much attacked Klitschko while the champ was paddleboarding. Briggs even sat down with Klitschko at a public restaurant and started eating Klitschko’s lunch. Klitschko responded by calmly pouring water of Brigg’s heads. Needless to say, Brigg’s reaction was straight out of the WWE.
Some say at least one or more of these strange happenings was staged. Maybe. Maybe not. One thing is certain, however, Klitschko is the straight man in the grand comedy that frequently is professional boxing. Like a character from an old Monty Python episode, Klitshcko is the proper guy trying to get by in a thoroughly absurd and undignified world. Unlike someone played by John Cleese, however, Klitschko gets by quite well. Insanely well, in fact.
Still, his struggle to keep a stiff upper lip in a circus atmosphere is worth a chuckle…and our admiration. Because, in a sense, the guy is kind of like the rest of us.