BIG FIGHT COUNTDOWN: How King Klitschko turned his career around

Wladimir Klitschko defeats Alex Leapai in 2014.
Wladimir Klitschko defeats Alex Leapai in 2014.

Wladimir Klitschko is an impressive human being.

Born in Kazakhstan and educated in Ukraine, where he earned a PhD in Sports Science at the University of Kiev, the son of a Soviet Air Force general speaks Russian, English and German, and won the Olympic gold medal in the super heavyweight division at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Wladimir Klitschko (left) and Tyson Fury during a press conference at the Hilton Syon Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday September 23, 2015. See PA story BOXING Fury. Photo credit should read: Simon Cooper/PA Wire.

Wladimir Klitschko (left) and Tyson Fury during a press conference at the Hilton Syon Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday September 23, 2015. See PA story BOXING Fury. Photo credit should read: Simon Cooper/PA Wire.

The younger brother of long-reigning former WBC Heavyweight Champion Vitali Klitschko, Wladimir turned professional in November 1996 and amassed a 24-bout undefeated record during his first two years as a pro, winning all inside the distance.

But then in December 1998, Klitschko suffered a shock 11th round stoppage loss to journeyman Ross Puritty, running out of steam in a fight he was winning handily.

Wladimir regrouped and scored wins over fringe contenders Axel Schulz and Monte Barrett to earn a WBO Heavyweight Title fight in 2000 against awkward American Chris Byrd. Klitschko won on points, then made five successful defences, his victories including stoppage wins over former world champions Ray Mercer and Francois Botha.

But then in December 1998, Klitschko suffered a shock 11th round stoppage loss to journeyman Ross Puritty, running out of steam in a fight he was winning handily.

Klitschko battles David Haye in 2011.

Klitschko battles David Haye in 2011.

Wladimir regrouped and scored wins over fringe contenders Axel Schulz and Monte Barrett to earn a WBO Heavyweight Title fight in 2000 against awkward American Chris Byrd. Klitschko won on points, then made five successful defences, his victories including stoppage wins over former world champions Ray Mercer and Francois Botha.

In March 2003, Wladimir suffered another stunning setback. Unheralded South African southpaw Corrie Sanders floored him four times and stopped him in the second round. Klitschko then looked finished as a force in the heavyweight division when Lamon Brewster halted him in five rounds when he tried to regain his WBO Title in April 2004. In the next fight, Klitschko was on the floor again, but won a controversial technical decision against DaVarryl Williamson when the fight was called off after an unintentional headbutt, with the Ukrainian ahead on the scorecards.

By this point, Klitschko had begun training with legendary coach Emmanuel Steward. Gradually, Steward ironed out his pupil’s technical flaws and taught him a more relaxed, safety-first boxing style.

It didn’t happen overnight. Klitschko was down three times in his wild 2005 brawl with Samuel Peter, but came through adversity and won every other round. He hasn’t been knocked down in the 10 years since then.

In his next fight, Klitschko became a two-time world champion, claiming the IBF belt with a second win over Chris Byrd. In July 2007 he avenged his loss to Brewster with a sixth round retirement win. He regained the WBO Title with a points win over Sultan Ibragimov in 2008, dominated former world champion Hasim Rahman in a title defence and outclassed Samuel Peter in a rematch in 2010.

Wladimir next signed to fight WBA Champion, the Brit David Haye. ‘The Hayemaker’ promised much but didn’t deliver, blaming a toe injury. Klitschko used his size, pinpoint jab and excellent judgement of distance to decisively neutralise Haye with a July 2011 points win in Hamburg.

Now recognised as the Heavyweight Superchampion, Klitschko has remained unbeaten ever since, winning all his fights clearly. A shutout points win over 2004 Olympic Champion Alexander Povetkin and a fearsome display of power-punching against previously undefeated Kubrat Pulev have been his most notable recent victories.

It’s a tough task for Tyson Fury this Saturday night in Germany, for sure.