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Wladimir Klitschko retires from boxing

Anthony Joshua Wladimir Klitschko

By Scott Gilfoid: As I expected, former heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko has chosen to retire and end his long 21-year pro career rather than fight a rematch against IBF/WBA heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.

I saw this coming a mile away for the 41-year-old Klitschko (64-5, 53 KOs), who was stopped in the 11th round on April 29 by Joshua at Wembley Stadium in London, England. The 1996 Olympic gold medalist Wladimir has decided that he wants to focus on his other career outside of the boxing ring. Wladimir has made a lot of money in boxing, and he doesn’t need the sport to make a comfortable living any longer.

Joshua and his promoter Eddie Hearn were hoping to get Wladimir to sign off on a rematch for November 11 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Wladimir had other ideas, as he chose to go out on a high, if you want to call it that, from almost knocking big Joshua out last April. The fact that Wladimir was able to expose Joshua and show how limited he is after having been out of the ring for close to 2 years, it speaks volumes for the talent of Wladimir.

The retirement of Klitschko leaves a big hole in the heavyweight division, because there are no real names and talented fighters to fill in for him. Joshua obviously isn’t the one. He’ll be popular in the UK, but his time as a champion is clearly going to be a short one. Whoever eventually fills Wladimir’s shoes is out there somewhere, but not one of the current top contenders or champions.

Joshua isn’t the guy, and I don’t think any of the other champions have the talent to replace Wladimir either.

“I deliberately took a few weeks to make my decision, to make sure I had enough distance from the fight at Wembley Stadium.,” said Wladimir in a prepared statement on his retirement decision.

It must have taken a lot of soul-searching for Wladimir to make this decision to retire, considering that he had a good chance of beating Joshua in the rematch if he’s made a few minor corrections to his game. All Wladimir would have had to do for him to beat Joshua is the following:

– Move constantly

– Jab

– Don’t clinch

– Don’t let Joshua get close enough to land his uppercut

– Keep Joshua at long distance. Don’t let him get in medium to close range, which is where he lands all of his punches. Joshua can’t fight on the outside due to him being too muscular to throw punches from long range.

If Wladimir had continued to fight, he would have needed to be mentally motivated enough to do that. I didn’t see that motivation there. To be honest, I don’t think Wladimir was even motivated for the Joshua fight last April. Wladimir looked like a fighter that was going through the motions, but who didn’t have the love for boxing that he needed for him to be successful.

When Wladimir had Joshua ready to be knocked out in the 6th round after dropping him, he didn’t go for the kill. It looked to me like Wladimir backed it off and took it easy on the 6’6” Joshua in order to not to wreck his still young career. That’s how I saw it. The thing is, you can’t keep a vulnerable heavy propped up by not going all out to beat him.

It won’t be long before Joshua is beaten by the existing top heavyweights in the division. There are also a number of up and coming heavyweights that will be looking to knock Joshua off the hill. Wladimir could have done the job on him. Joshua will still likely get beaten soon by someone else, and I expect his career to be on the downside by the time he’s 30 if not sooner.

”As an amateur and a professional boxer, I have achieved everything I dreamed of, and now I want to start my second career after sports,” said Wladimir.

Klitschko, the younger brother of former two-time heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko, will be remembered for his wins over Chris Byrd, Kubrat Pulev, Lamon Brewster and Samuel Peter. Those were probably the best wins in Wladimir’s long career. He didn’t beat a lot of talented fighters unfortunately. There’s no big names on the resume of Wladimir, which reflects on the state of the heavyweight division during his title run.

Wladimir was a world champion for close to 10 years, but it was a mostly dead period in the heavyweight division. The talented guys like Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis were on their way out of boxing when Wladimir was young in the early years of his pro career. It’s unfortunate that Wladimir never fought either of those guys. It’s unclear whether that was a conscious decision on Wladimir’s management’s part not to try and make fights with Lewis and Mike Tyson or if they tried and the fights couldn’t get made. Either way, Wladimir never fought those guys, and he never Evander Holyfield either.

Wladimir’s 5 career losses told us a little bit about him. 4 of the 5 defeats were knockout losses for the big Ukrainian. Wladimir’s ability to take punishment was always suspect, and clearly the wink link in his game. Wladimir was knocked out by Ross Puritty, Corrie Sanders, Lamon Brewster and Anthony Joshua. His only decision defeat came against Tyson Fury in 2015.

Wladimir would have won that fight if he wasn’t so concerned with getting countered, which you can argue was a sign that he didn’t trust his chin to be able to take those occasional counters. If Wladimir had strong punch resistance like his brother Vitali, I think he would have finished with an unbeaten record of 69-0. That would be an incredible record for any fighter to retire on.

It’s too bad Wladimir had that one weakness in his game, because he could have been an all-time great. I don’t think anyone would have broken that mark. No one is perfect in boxing. Even Floyd Mayweather Jr. would be hard pressed to try and achieve a record of 69-0.

”I would have never imagined that I would have such a long and incredibly successful boxing career,” said Wladimir. ”I´m very thankful for this. Thanks to everyone who has always supported me; especially my family, my team and my many fans.”

It is surprising that Wladimir was able to have such a fine career, in as much as he was given up by a lot of boxing fans following his 5th round knockout loss to Lamon Brewster on April 10, 2004. The defeat to Brewster came just 3 fights after Wladimir was destroyed in 2 rounds by the late South African knockout artist Corrie Sanders on March 3, 2003.

Wladimir was able to turn his career around by adding late trainer Emanuel Steward to his team to fix the flaws in his game. Steward had trained boxing greats like Lennox Lewis, Tommy Hearns and many other fighters, and made them successful. Steward was able to help Wladimir avoid getting hit and he helped him slow down the pace of his fights, enabling him to keep from gassing out like he’d done in some of his fights against Puritty and Brewster.

Wladimir lost only 1 fight under Steward’s guidance, and that was his first fight with him as his trainer against Brewster in 2004. Wladimir was 16-1 with Steward as his trainer. After Steward passed away in October 2012, Wladimir wasn’t the same guy. He didn’t seem to have the same motivation to finish off his opponents like he’d done earlier.

Without Steward, Wladmir went the distance in beating Mariusz Wach, Alexander Povetkin and Bryant Jennings. These are fighters that Wladimir would have likely knocked out if Steward was in his career. Wladimir’s back to back defeats at the hands of Tyson Fury and Joshua seemed to make it clear that he needed to retire from boxing. Wladimir wasn’t following responding to the instructions from his corner to go after those two fighters the way that he needed to for him win those fights. With Steward as his trainer, it’s likely that Wladimir wouldn’t have hesitated to knockout Joshua and Fury. Steward had a way of motivating Wladimir like no one else before or since. When Steward passed away, it took a huge part out of Wladimir’s game. He wasn’t the same fighter without Steward. It’s impossible to quantify how much Wladimir lost in Steward’s passing, but I think it was a significant portion of his game. Steward had that much of an impact on Wladimir. He could get him to do things inside the ring that other trainers couldn’t. It’s unfortunate that Wladimir lost that figure in his career, because I think he would have knocked Tyson Fury quickly within 5 or 6 rounds, and he would have stopped Joshua by the 7th.

The retirement by Wladimir hurts Joshua and his promoter Eddie Hearn, as they were counting on a rematch with him in November. Joshua needed that fight to show that he was a better fighter than what he displayed last April. Wladimir made Joshua look bad in that fight, exposing his limited boxing skills, his lack of athleticism and more importantly his poor stamina. Joshua got the win, but he didn’t come out of the fight looking like the winner. He came out of the fight with a ton of question marks hanging over his head.

Hearn says he’s going to look to match Joshua against his IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev, a fighter that Wladimir knocked out in 5 rounds on November 15, 2014. Wladimir had an easy time dropping Pulev repeatedly in that fight. He could have knocked Pulev out in the 2nd round, but he seemed to ease off on him after hurting him.

“When the IBF cleared the Klitschko rematch it was under the proviso that if it’s not Klitschko it must be Pulev, so we’ve already got talks in place with Kalle Sauerland,” said Hearn to Sky Sports News. “Part of me is quite pleased we can move forward and draw a line under this. There was always the worry with Klitschko’s age that we could announce the fight and he could get injured in camp, various bits and pieces like that,” said Hearn.

Hearn should see it as a good thing that Wladimir has retired from boxing, because if he fought Joshua in a rematch, he might have beaten him if he came into the fight motivated. I don’t know if Wladimir would have had the motivation to do the job on the 6’6” Joshua. Wladimir would obviously know what mistakes that he needed to fix for him to defeat Joshua in the rematch. If Wladimir fixed those mistakes, then Joshua would have been in big trouble.

It’s a good thing Wladimir retired. I hate to say it, but Joshua would have been knocked out by a motivated Wladimir. The talent difference between the two heavyweights was monumental. Joshua didn’t have the long amateur background that Wladimir had in fighting in the former Soviet system in Eastern Europe. Joshua doesn’t have Wladmir’s mobility, flexibility, hand speed, stamina, jab or even his punching power. Joshua is a flawed fighter, who reminds me more of a limited young George Foreman. Joshua doesn’t have Foreman’s powerful jab, and his stamina isn’t as good as Foreman’s was. He still reminds me a lot of Foreman. It’s too bad Joshua gasses out after fighting hard for just one round. I don’t know how far Joshua is going to go with his poor stamina. Joshua would be better if he dumped his current trainer and signed on Wladimir’s trainer Jonathon Banks, who could help him with him stamina problems. Joshua needs to slow his fights down so that he doesn’t keep gassing out. It’s only a matter of time before Joshua gasses out and gets stopped by one of the top heavyweights. I doubt that Pulev has the power to knockout Joshua if he fades against him, but guys like Deontay Wilder and Jarrell Miller would be able to take advantage of Joshua if he empties his tank against them.


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