‘The fire has gone out,’ said Wladimir Klitschko as he suddenly doused the flames fanned by the virtual announcement of a November rematch with Anthony Joshua which was already lighting up the Las Vegas Strip.
At 41 and with a lifetime of heavyweight achievement under all those world championship belts which he wore around his waist for a decade, the announcement was as easy to understand as it was hard for boxing at large and Joshua in particular to accept.
“I could not face another long training camp at my age,’ he admitted.
“I tried. I started. “But the motivation is no longer there. Not when I have accomplished everything for which I ever dreamed,” he said.
A seemingly ever-lasting monopoly of all but one of the world heavyweight titles, with that WBC exception held by his brother Vitali.
Global respect. Millions in the bank. All the product of more than 60 fights in the largest and most glamorous sporting arenas on planet Earth.
Enough is enough. Nothing becomes a man’s sporting life more than the manner of his leaving the stage. At 27, time is on AJ’s side. Not for Klitschko.
That he was able, at his age, to haul himself back from the unorthodox ending of his reign by Tyson Fury a long 18 months earlier to run the powerful Joshua so close was miraculous of itself.
In part because he no longer had access to the genius of the late Emanuel Steward, the maestro who had transformed him from a dangerous puncher but one vulnerable himself to heavy blows into a master of defence and counter-attack.
Steward trained his fighters to go for knock-outs and had he been in his corner at Wembley, Klitschko may well have finished Joshua.
Instead, he tried to husband his energy by managing the fight towards a points win, and was caught by Joshua’s late Hail Mary.
Even so, there were several small victories in that final defeat. Klitschko’s courage endeared him to the majority of those who had criticised him for lack of adventure in recent years. Just as his conduct cemented his reputation as the first gentleman of the ring.
Joshua has transformed his own life from his early days among the street gangs and the pair of them came together in a courteous demonstration of mutual respect which put to shame the lurid, foul-mouthed, abusive rantings which some boxers regard as self-promotion but which demeans this noble art.
We who spent many hours down the years with Klitschko at his training camp high in the Austrian Tyrol will cherish the memory of grown up talk with a proper fighting man who also carried himself with intelligent dignity.
Often, he would start those sessions with a statement of intent, to be followed by an exchange of views.‘First monologue,’ he said with a smile. ‘Then dialogue.’
That conversation has ended but there is bound to be another as this beloved son of his native Ukraine passes media commentary in his adoptive Germany on the exploits of others, his new young English friend Anthony Joshua prominent among them.
He will leave it to others to discern his place in boxing history, to designate his seat in the pantheon of heavyweight prize-fighters.
It would be improper to ascribe him as greater than Muhammad Ali, of meaning more to history than Joe Louis, of having mightier impact on the world’s population than Mike Tyson or surpassing Lennox Lewis.
But for his longevity and the honour with which he has served his hardest of all games he has to be considered along with the likes of Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Rocky Marciano and Evander Holyfield in the casting of the all-time top ten. For the noble Wladimir Klitschko, enough is enough. – dailymail
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