WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO exudes control. He sits still, resting his hands on his knees, the knots of muscle visible in his arms. He speaks with authority, revealing his thoughts only at his own choosing. This is the heavyweight king, waiting out the final 48 hours before he entertains the latest claimant to his throne, Tyson Fury.
“It’s going to be challenging,” he promises. “I don’t like things [being] in a certain way boring… I always perform better when I’m challenged. When I’m not challenged there’s no emotions, it’s emotionless. It is important to be emotionless in the ring but in this case there is motivation.”
If he’s the king, he wants to paint Fury as a jester, shrugging off the Briton serenading him at Wednesday’s public workouts. “I would say I’m not going compete in singing with Tyson Fury,” Wladimir smiles. “Otherwise it’s all the same… Tyson says a lot of nonsense. If you really think, every guy says I’m running from them. They’re trying to contact me and get a fight with me but they couldn’t because I’m scared, I’m a chicken, I have no chin, I have no guts. There is a lot of things [they say]. There’s nothing new here in this case.”
Klitschko has unified three of the four major heavyweight titles, the WBO, IBF and WBA belts, and assiduously defended against his mandated challengers. Some, many of them in fact, have been out of their depth with him but over the years he has disposed of all the most significant contenders so far. Fury though has assured Wladimir he has never met anyone like him before.
“It is playing into my hands. I love the pressure. Absolutely, because I know when I’m challenged I need to perform, I need to pull out of my closet much more than if I’m to win. Usually I just do enough. I’m not challenged so I’m not growing,” he said. “You perform better under pressure.”
It makes you wonder when was the last time he was really extended in the ring. Most recently, in April, Bryant Jennings performed better than expected against Klitschko. Wladimir didn’t halt the shorter American but nor did Jennings ever really threaten to overhaul him on the scorecards. Kubrat Pulev could have been dangerous, but Klitschko knocked him out. He tamed David Haye commandingly in 2011. He may be 39 years old, but it’s hard to see his reign ending. He last lost in 2004, a defeat so long ago it feels like it happened to a different person. The formula Klitschko has since established is a fiendishly tough problem to solve.
But Wladimir insists he does not consider himself the unstoppable juggernaut he now appears. “I’m nervous and afraid to lose,” he said. “So I have a lot of fears but I feel comfortable talking about it. I’m not a machine.”
Yet when he turns his mind to winning and losing, this Wladimir Klitschko, the one who has dominated this generation of heavyweights, seems iron clad in his self-belief. “The person that can beat me is myself,” he says in measured tones. “If I’m 100% focused there is no chance that anybody can conquer me.
“I just know that if I allow it, it will happen and if I don’t allow it, it won’t happen. I’m professional and have covered in my preparation all the details and everything. I understand anything can happen. I have faced injuries during a fight. You shut up and keep on punching. It doesn’t matter if you have broken bones or tendons. Nobody’s going to be interested what happens.”
Perhaps he is thinking now of David Haye’s complaints of a damaged toe after their fight. Perhaps of what it takes to rule the heavyweight division for so many years. But he leaves it simply at this: “I can only lose to myself and that’s my statement.
“So there is no ‘if’. There is no doubt.”
Klitschko v Fury is live on Sky Sports Box Office this Saturday. Buy now at skysports.com/klitschkofury