WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO is the last person you expect to punch himself in the face. The Ukrainian is a polished former champion, who rarely made a mistake in the heat of battle and was meticulous in his preparation. But it happened before the opening bell had even chimed moments ahead of his first bout with cutman Jacob “Stitch” Duran in 2004.
An inauspicious moment at the worst time, when Klitschko needed to rebuild his confidence and his career. “My first fight with him was with DaVarryl Williamson at Caesars Palace. He had just come back from losing his world title to Lamon Brewster. So I’m there in the dressing room, he’s warming up,” Duran recalls. “He hits himself and he gets a nose bleed. I’m outside watching the fights and they say Stitch come work on Wladimir… I go in there and cutman 101 I stop the bleeding and he continues and we go into the fight.”
The two already had a long association. “I’ve been with him the longest. But it started, I’m saying December 1991, Vitali says ’92. When the Soviet Union first broke up we took a team of American boxers and kickboxers to Kiev to fight their guys. I had a kickboxer, that’s when I was in kickboxing,” Stitch said. “We went over there and I saw the Klitschkos for the first time. They were young guys but they were iconic already. There were posters of them on the walls of the streets. Back then, they were super-men. So I saw them. I never really said ‘Hi’ but years later they’re training at Top Rank gym here in Las Vegas and I walk in and I start talking to them. Nobody knew who was who, they looked alike. They were young and I’m telling them about my journey to Kiev and the guys who were there.”