FORMER long-reigning heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko retired recently from boxing after an incredible 27-year career as a fighter.
Here we take a photographic journey through his time as a professional, from the early days as a European champion, taking in some early stoppage defeats before going on to rule the big men with an iron fist.
Below, in 1999 Klitschko won the EBU title by a knocking out Germany’s Axel Schulz in round eighteen Cologne.
23-year-old Klitschko’s Las Vegas debut saw him knock out experienced former title challenger Phil Jackson in two rounds.
Another second-round knockout, this time Lajos Eros was on the receiving end in Hannover.
In a rematch of the 1996 Super-heavyweight Olympic final won by Klitschko, he destroyed Tonga’s Paea Wolframm in a solitary round.
Klitschko works out with a heavy bag at the Top Rank Gym in Las Vegas.
In 2000 at the London Arena Klitschko stops Monte Barrett in seven rounds,
Chris Byrd was coming off a injury stoppage victory of Klitschko’s big brother, Vitali, when he became the victim of 24-year-old Wladimir’s first world title victory (WBO). He lasted the distance but was down in the 9th and 11th rounds.
Klitschko defended his WBO title in Las Vegas with sixth-round stoppage Charles Shufford. The American was down three times.
Back to Germany in 2002 for an eight-round stoppage of rugged South African Frans Botha.
Klitschko on the speed bag during a training session in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 2002.
Klitschko retained his title in six rounds against 41-year-old former champion Ray Mercer.
WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko on the heavy bag during a session in Las Vegas in 2002.
Back in Vegas for his third fight of 2002 and a tenth-round retirement of Jameel McCline.
Klitschko is sensationally dispatched in two rounds by South Africa’s big-punching southpaw Corrie Sanders in Hannover. Wladimir lost his crown with his second inside-the-distance defeat.
Klitschko at the La Brea Boxing Club in Los Angeles in 2003.
His first fight after the Sanders upset saw Klitschko walk through Argentina’s Fabio Eduardo Moli in one round in Munich.
The Klitschko brothers in Los Angeles in 2003.
Chicago’s Danell Nicholson lasted four rounds in Kiel in December of 2003.
Fighting his vacant old WBO title, Klitschko dramatically unfolds in five rounds against Lamon Brewster in Las Vegas. Wlad’s third stoppage loss and as a result he was being written off by some.
Klitschko was back in the ring less than six months after the Brewster loss to defeat DaVarryl Williamson by technical decision after five rounds. Wlad was again on the floor and the fight went to the cards after he was cut from an accidental head butt. “It was not an easy fight,” Klitschko said afterwards.
In his first outing of 2005 Klitschko stopped previously unbeaten Cuban Eliseo Castillo in the fourth round in Dortmund.
Klitschko now 30 picked up the IBF crown when thrashed 35-year-old former opponent Chris Byrd in seven in Mannheim.
He was due to defend against Shannon Briggs, but when that fell through he made the first defence of his IBF title at New York’s Madison Square Garden with a seventh-round stoppage of North Carolina’s Sydney Olympian Calvin Brock.
In 2007 Wladimir Klitschko reversed one of the most painful losses of his career with a sixth-round defeat of Lamon Brewster in Cologne. “He took quite a beating,” said 31-yeard-old Klitschko. “I was surprised they gave in but today I knew I would not lose.”
Klitschko saw off former champ Hasim Rahman as he defended his WBO and IBF titles in Mannheim in 2008. “He fought a very smart, intelligent fight,” said Klitschko’s trainer, the legendary Emanuel Steward.
A sellout crowd of 61,000 at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen in 2009 saw Klitschko dominate Uzbekistan’s former WBA champion Ruslan Chagaev after nine rounds. Chagaev was on the canvas in the second.
Klitschko successfully defended his titles with a twelfth-round knockout of ‘Fast’ Eddie Chambers in Düsseldorf. “When I was able to get past his jab, I couldn’t land any combinations. He worked well with his jab,” Chambers said later behind dark glasses.
Always in his corner, Klitschko had his brother on hand for advice when necessary.
Wladimir Klitschko and his Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward.
Five years after he was knocked down three times in a tough victory over Samuel Peter, the IBF and WBO champion battered and bloodied the Nigerian challenger before finally stopping him in the 10th round of another dominating performance in 2010 in Frankfurt.
In arguably his defining fight, Klitschko scored a one-sided twelve round unanimous decision over cautious WBA champion David Haye in Hamburg in 2011. “He was very cautious”, said Klitschko afterward. “He was very difficult to hit. I really didn’t get challenged in the ring offensively. Instead he was like all of them, like all of my recent opponents. I would have loved to have celebrated my 50th knockout.” Haye later blamed the defeat on his injured toe.
Klitschko celebrated victory over Haye with his trainer Emmanuel Steward.
Now 35 years old, Klitschko defended all his titles in Düsseldorf with a fourth-round stoppage of former cruiserweight Jean Marc Mormeck.
Klitschko knocked out Tony Thompson again in July 2012 in the sixth-round in Berne, Switzerland.
Poland’s Mariusz Wach took a massive amount of punishment in Hamburg in 2012, but amazingly made it to the final bell to lose widely and unanimously to Klitschko.
37-year-old Klitschko improved to 60-3 after his 52nd knockout of Francisco Pianeta in six rounds in Mannheim. “My brother was very strong,” Vitali Klitschko said. “Francesco has a big heart. You have to pay him respect.”
Klitschko dominated Alexander Povetkin in Moscow for his 22nd career win in a world heavyweight title fight, tying him with Muhammad Ali for second place. Povetkin was down in the second and seventh but lasted the distance. The loser said: “He’s the best in the world, that’s clear.”
An overmatched Alex Leapai was easily dealt with in Oberhausen in 2014. The challenger was down in the first and twice in the fifth.
Now 38 years old. Klitschko knocked out Kubrat Pulev in five rounds in Hamburg in 2014. Pulev then said: “Wladimir is a really good opponent, but he was lucky. I want a rematch. I’ll win the next time.”
In the final victory of his incredible career, Klitschko settled for a decision victory in New York against Bryant Jennings. Klitschko was docked a point in the tenth for holding.
In 2015, Tyson Fury bamboozled Klitschko as he dethroned the long-reigning 39-year-old heavyweight champion in Düsseldorf. It was Klitschko’s (the second longest-reigning heavyweight champion of all-time) only decision defeat.
Klitschko, bloodied and bruised, had boxed poorly.
Klitschko with his trainer Johnathon Banks during his public workout ahead of his challenge for Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight crown.
41-year-old Klitschko, in sensational condition, weighs in before the Joshua contest.
Wladimir Klitschko before the fight.
Klitschko floored Joshua with a thunderous right hand in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium.
But the younger man was too strong and too fresh for Klitschko.
In defeat, Klitschko earned the respect of the fans with his heroic effort. It was to be a bittersweet ending to Wladimir’s glorious career.