September 14, 2016
September 14, 2016
Wladimir Klitschko

Action Images/REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler

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FOR a few years Wladimir Klitschko looked invincible. A well-oiled machine, he scored victories like clockwork and it didn’t seem there was anyone out there to derail him. Until, that is, Tyson Fury came along in November of last year and handed the Ukrainian unaccustomed defeat and claimed his heavyweight world titles.

After a press conference this week, Klitschko, waiting for Fury who never arrived, looks like what he is, a 40-year-old former heavyweight champion of the world. A grizzled veteran, still in good condition though, a powerful figure but someone who has been hurt. Hurt to lose his title and grimly determined to win it back.

“It’s maybe not that positive being a challenger in sport but it is to me. When I’m going to make it, and I’m going to make it, we’ll look back and say, ‘Screw it, it was good that I lost.’ Because suddenly you have attention and suddenly I’m representing the majority of the society in the world because not everybody’s Floyd Mayweather, being successful for 20 years and someone that people admire and look up to but there is no connection,” he said wearily. “I’ve been there, I got up, I fought back and I won back what I wanted. After a while, a long while, I’m back, in a different position but I’m a challenger again and I want to show to myself the first stage, to others and to my fans second stage, I can make it so you can too.”

Klitschko has entered a surreal stage of his life. From his surprise loss to Tyson, to the tortured negotiations to make the rematch, postponement, rescheduling and now at a hotel in London for a Fury press conference without Fury. Wladimir wants to restore order as he sees it.

“There have been so many ridiculous moves from the Fury camp,” Wladimir said, insisting he was unfazed by Tyson’s no-show. “It didn’t take air out of me or anything. I know what kind of people we’re handling, I’m totally aware of it.”

He hasn’t tired of the game though. On that defeat Klitschko said, “There never was a thought about retiring. I was suffering with the thought of ‘Wait a second. That must be a dream.’ I should wake up and this is not for real because that’s not what I got used to. It took me two days to shake it off and just look forward.”

“It’s a combination probably of a lot of different things. On one side to be successful for a long time, it takes a lot of concentration and motivation,” he reasoned. “I do not want to say I was not focused or was not ready. I was ready and focused. But just little parts that night played not into my favour. It’s styles, size doesn’t matter but it did matter. So there was accumulation of different tools which made me look the way I looked and the way I fought. And I didn’t let my hands go. It took too much time to adjust. [I was thinking] ‘I’m going to take my time and I’m going to reach him in the later rounds.’ Fury didn’t lose his focus and he did well, so I don’t want to take credit out of it.”

Turning philosophical Wladimir continued, “In life, it’s like a rollercoaster. You just need to enjoy the ride… Suddenly I need to buckle up myself, stay focused on my goal, get obsessed with that, fall in love with that. It’s something that makes me better. And you know what, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

He’s relieved too that the bout ended in a fair decision. “Thank God my hand was not raised, honestly, because I would have been booed and it would not have looked good. I was OK with the decision. He won that night. He was better. I’m never going to take away from him. It was his night,” Klitschko said.

But he warned, “There’s nothing that is going to make me less focused or train less. I know this fight is going to happen and I know I’m going to win.”