INsite goes a few rounds with Heavyweight Boxing Champ Wladimir Klitschko
Our first scheduled interview with reigning heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko didn’t work out because of time-zone confusion. (Wait, how many hours ahead of Atlanta is Klitschko’s native Ukraine again?) The second interview didn’t pan out because training for Wlad’s July 7 title defense against American Tony Thompson ran well into the night. Frustrations started building on this end. My deadline was approaching, but I knew Klitschko (57-3, 50 KO’s) had so many boxing-related items (controversial Pacquiao-Bradley decision, boxing’s fragile overall state, retirement rumors) to get off his chest. This third interview just had to come together. Thankfully, it did because nobody would have wanted to see my mean side as I labored to set up a fourth interview, not even Mr. Klitschko… Kidding, champ, kidding.
Your sport is in the news for some bad things right now, with a lot of the negative discussion centered around the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley bout. Do you agree with them investigating the results?
I haven’t seen the fight, because in Europe it wasn’t broadcast. And it seems like it is a big issue in the States. I have to tell you, whatever it takes to investigate and make sure that all the results and all was clear is good for the sport. Of course, I heard about this fight. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see it. But I think, in general, it’s not a bad idea. I think it’s a good idea. Investigation is always good to make the sport better.
I live in Atlanta, Georgia, the home of Evander Holyfield. When he was popular, the heavyweight division had a lot of excitement with guys like Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis. That excitement is gone now. How can we re-energize the heavyweight division?
Well, we have different point of views in the heavyweight division right now. It is funny to see from both sides of the world, because I do live in the States, in Florida, and I’ve been in Atlanta in 1996, actually, so I know the city. I remember the city pretty good. And if we are talking about the heavyweight division, it’s going to be the ninth stadium in a row for Vitali and me in combination [to fight in]. And it is going to be another sold-out stadium. So, fights in every division are staged in stadiums and TV ratings are up in the sky on the European side. But the U.S. is definitely an issue and the feeling that the heavyweight division is going down the hill, which on one side you’re right. On the other side, if you take a look from the European side, it is like, “What are you talking about?” The ratings are high. TV ratings are high. And sold-out stadiums is also something usual and incredible. But I have to give credit for you on that: Yes, there are some issues, especially on the U.S. side. We don’t have good prospective fighters. There are some good fighters in the States, but they are not just famous enough to make it exciting. Unfortunately, from the times of the 70s, when Mohammad Ali Ken Norton and Joe Frazier were doing great, [things are different]. So, I wish I could be the same weight division as Pacquiao and [Floyd] Mayweather to make things more exciting, you know?
Or if Pacquiao and Mayweather [were] allowed in the heavyweight division, so I wish they could be heavyweights. Then it is going to be, of course, a different story. ut definitely there are a lot of good names, for sure.
Now, Wlad, with your brother, Vitali, there were rumors about him retiring. I think those were proven untrue. How long do you think he will continue fighting?
That is a good question for my brother, because, I mean, he is older, five years older than I, but he feels pretty good and he is challenging young opponents, but he is fighting them pretty good. I’m impressed with his performance, even at this stage. And I think he is going to fight next sometime in September. (Editor’s Note: The fight is September 8 versus German Manuel Charr.) But I think it is a good question for him. I cannot speak for him.
How much longer do you think you will fight?
Oh, please don’t ask me those questions, because I’m going to start to cry. It is very sad that I’m getting to those questions, because that means I’m not the youngest. I’m not, but I don’t feel this. I feel actually [that I’m] improving. I’m getting my shape, and my conditions and everything else, and I feel actually better than I used to feel at 26. I’m 36 now. And there is a certain saying in the heavyweight division in boxing, you’re really “juiced.” So, I’m really juiced now. I don’t think about retirement, but I’ve been thinking about other life, another life out of boxing and out of sports. I’m thinking of it and preparing myself for the life afterwards, I mean after sports. But it’s something that I’m not considering right now.
Don’t take that question in the wrong way. I think you still look great and you still deserve to be the champ. But what are some of your other interests? What else do you love besides boxing?
Well, there’s a lot of different things that I can do pretty well in life. I can snowboard, or wakeboarding, or kiteboarding, or golfing, or playing chess, or whatever you name it. But the best I do boxing so far. I’m even good at the charitable work, if I have to mention it. It is really exciting to me, because I’m getting energy out of it if I do something good. And I’m really happy that it’s an Olympic year. The Olympics are going to be staged in London. But I sold my Olympic gold medal in March this year, and I’m very happy about it, because it was sold for $1 million dollars. And a high percent of it is going for the kids, for the Klitschko Brothers Foundation and for the children in need, especially the projects of education and sport. So, I’m happy about that. I’m not going to politics, as my brother, so I’m out of politics. But there is a lot of other fields to take care of besides boxing.
Let’s talk about the Hollywood aspect with your documentary, Klitschko. Why was it so important to put that movie together?
There were different directors that were trying to make a documentary of us and we didn’t understand why we should do it. But [director] Sebastian Dehnhardt made a good point. He said, “Guys, you gotta do it because it is a good answer for a lot of fans, a lot of questions that they have. You are letting them take a look behind the curtains of the sport and also the Klitschko brothers. I think it is a great way of answering a lot of questions that possibly Klitschko fans or boxing fans could have.” And I think he was dead right about it. And he convinced us. So, over two years, [he] was the shooting of the documentary, which was running in the States in theaters and still running in Europe. We just had the premier in Great Britain and we are going to have another one in Russia in July. So, I think the main point is that it is an answer a lot of questions that possibly could be by the fans.
Would you consider doing more Hollywood-type acting?
Well, it wasn’t Hollywood. It was a documentary.
Right, right. I’m saying…
I have made my experience with Ocean’s Eleven and two other productions with German movie and the other one that I recently had. I mean, it’s fun, but I’m not really excited about it. It’s definitely fun. And I had a great time shooting with Mark Wahlberg this March in Pain and Gain, this new film of Michael Bay. I mean, one more time, it’s fantastic. It’s a great experience. I enjoy it and I like it. It is something that I would say is a hobby but nothing more than that.
Among boxing fans, how do you want to be remembered five or six years from now?
You’re talking about legacy? I respect legacy, but to be honest with you, I don’t think about it right now. I don’t care about it. I care about the competition and I care about the man facing me in the ring and actually conquer the man’s will and break the will of winning, because the man goes to win this fight and that is the attitude every boxer has. But to break it, physically and mentally, that makes me excited about the sport and that is actually what I enjoy. And the legacy and all the possible records or whatever it’s going to be, it’s secondary to me. At this stage, I am not really thinking of it. I am living right now in today, and who knows how I’m going to be remembered?