What will defeat mean for Wladimir’s legacy in the sport?
By Andy Hill: Father time is an opponent that will one day defeat us all and the world of professional boxing is certainly no exception to this rule with 41-year-old Wladimir Klitschko losing to Anthony Joshua last Saturday night. Unfortunately, more than any, the heavyweight division is littered with tales of fighters who have continued to lace up their gloves well beyond their expiration date. In the most dangerous division of the most dangerous of sports, it is the giants of the heavyweight division that suffer more than any if they fail to walk away from the sport at the right moment.
Before to last night’s showdown at Wembley stadium, there were many who believed that Wladimir Klitschko would fall victim as much to the hands of time as he would to the fists of his opponent.
Prior to his loss to Tyson Fury in November 2015, Wladimir Klitschko had spent ten years at the top of the heavyweight division. Second only to the legendary Joe Louis’ twenty-five title defences, between 2006 and 2005, Klitschko recorded a phenomenal eighteen defences of his world title. Yet despite his success, Klitschko was certainly not beyond his doubters. Accused by many of being a one-dimensional fighter who reigned supreme only during the weakest of heavyweight eras. Klitschko’s critics believed that his suspect chin would have been left shattered had he competed during the more competitive years of the division’s history. The voices of his detractors grew both in volume and number following his lackluster defeat to Tyson Fury and even his fiercest of supporters started to question whether Klitschko was simply too old to compete at the top level.
However, fast forward seventeen months to last night’s record-breaking night at Wembley Stadium and Wladimir Klitschko proved all his doubters wrong during a phenomenally entertaining eleven round war. Klitschko was at times back to his very best and was certainly more entertaining than we had seen him in the previous decade. Both fighters played their part in a classic heavyweight duel that will transcend the sport of boxing and should be remembered with nothing but admiration by the boxing community. I would argue that that last night’s fight was the best heavyweight contest since Wladimir’s older brother, Vitali, encouraged Lennox Lewis that it was time to hang up his own gloves in June 2003. One could even argue that it was in fact the best heavyweight battle since Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield slugged out their grueling trilogy in the early 90s.
While Joshua’s victory will undoubtedly ensure his place as a global superstar, it is perhaps more interesting to consider what defeat will mean for Wladimir. At first glance, it would appear oxymoronic to suggest that Wladimir may have done more for his legacy in suffering defeat to Joshua than he managed during ten years as the undisputed king of the heavyweight division. However, in suffering defeat to Joshua, neither his supporters nor his critics will forget Klitschko’s willingness to put everything on the line and truly go out on his shield against a man fourteen years his junior. This contrasts with the previous widespread perception that Klitschko was unwilling to engage with his opponents for fear of being caught in retaliation. In a sport where success is so often defined only be the tally of victories on one’s record, Vladimir Klitschko reminded us that it is possible to walk away victorious in life even if you suffer defeat in the moment. In doing so, he may well have altered the way that many of us will look back at his career.
They say that the sunset is the sun’s fiery kiss to the night. I for one hope that last night’s epic performance was Wladimir Klitschko’s fiery kiss goodnight to a boxing career that deserves the utmost of respect and recognition.
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