Exclusive Interview with Vitali Klitschko: 'I want to be the linear champion'

05.09.04 - By Nat Kerr - - The voice on the phone was pleasant. It was the WBC Heavyweight Champion, Dr.Vitali Klitschko, currently in Los Angeles, returning my call.

Klitschkoís buoyant manner aside, he wanted to set the record straight regarding rumours about who heíd be fighting in his first title defence.

With some serious sparring echoing through the halls in the background, Vitali discussed his future plans as champion and answered questions about the past and present.

Kerr: How are things in general for Vitali Klitschko?

Vitali: I am in good spirits. Ready and set to defend my belt.

Kerr: What have you been doing with your time lately?

Vitali: What keeps me busy? Well, for the last 17-18 years Ė Boxing! (Laughs)

Lately, I have been very busy raising my kids with my wife. My daughter will be two years old in November. I can hardly believe that my son will be five next May. I spent some time with my parents in Kiev this summer. I cherish the time I spend with my family. Beyond that, I also spent a great deal of my summer involved with a wide variety of charities, including raising AIDS awareness worldwide. I have been travelling from one corner of the world to the next: From Ukraine, to Germany, Greece, the USA and back and forth. Of course, I always manage to find the time to keep myself in fighting shape. I am always ready to get into the ring on a minuteís notice.

Kerr: Is there any truth to the rumours of a possible title defence against Danny Williams this December?

Vitali: Lots and lots of rumours out there. (A short pause). ÖLetís just say we are openly discussing the possibility of fighting many different opponents. Williams is just one of several options. After his fight with Tyson, his stock has risen. I would welcome the opportunity to fight with him this year. But I must stress again that we are in discussions with several boxers. Thus far, there is nothing signed on the dotted line with anyone, including Williams.

Kerr: Is Williams your first choice?

Vitali: Well, we have to see who is available. He is one of several possibilities. Like I said, his stock went up after the Tyson fight. But it would be wrong to assume that Williams is our first and only choice. Talks are ongoing with several fighters. .

Kerr: If you succeed in defending your title in December, is it your plan to attempt to unify and be the linear champion?

Absolutely. This has always been my goal. I want to be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. We (authorís note -- Vitali and Wlad) want the titles to be in the hands of the Klitschko brothers. Wladimir has drifted slightly from his course, but our goals havenít changed. To unify the division would be tremendously gratifying. It is a goal I intend to reach.

Kerr: Is it in your future plans to fight Chris Byrd?

Vitali: As you know in 2000, I lost to Chris Byrd because of a serious injury sustained early in the fight. Since then, Byrd has publicly insulted me and bragged about what was essentially a gift victory. My brother 6 months later exacted revenge and beat Byrd handily. Wladimir didnít succeed in knocking Byrd out, but he knocked him down several times and certainly dominated what was a very one-sided fight. I still have a sore taste in my mouth from the Byrd fight. I would welcome with open arms the opportunity to get in the ring with him again. He is a world-class fighter.

Kerr: Has there been any contact from the Byrd camp?

Vitali: (Pauses) Letís just say that fighting Byrd is a distinct possibility. If it doesnít happen, it is not from our end.

Kerr: Do you feel the heavyweight division is firmly in Don Kingís hands?

Vitali: A lot of what happens in the division depends on what Don King wants. Yes, in many respects, King holds the cards in the division. Three of the belts currently are under the direct control of King.

Kerr: Is there any chance you might fight James Toney in the not too distant future?

Vitali: It is a possibility. Based on the rankings, a fight with Toney makes a lot of sense. Toney is the number one contender and a fine fighter. There are a lot of factors that will decide whether or not a fight with Toney happens in the near future.

Kerr: Toney has been quite vocal about you and, frankly, openly critical. What is your reaction to his less than sweet words?

Vitali: (Pauses) Toney is a great public speaker (Chuckles). He does a fine job of self-advertising. He is an experienced and successful fighter, and his opinion of me notwithstanding, I respect him as a fighter. (Pauses) If we ever meet in the ring, he will have to back up his words. It is one thing to claim to be a great fighter and another to prove it in the ring.

Kerr: Is there any possibility of a Lewis-Klitschko rematch?

Vitali: You know there have been many cases where an athlete has retired and returned to the sport he loves. The possibility of a rematch with Lewis is always there. It cannot be ruled out. I lost to Lewis due to the decision of the doctor. It was beyond my control. Up until the point of the stoppage, I was winning the fight. I have no qualms about saying, that if the fight had not been stopped, I would have defeated Lewis that night.

Kerr: Do you feel Lewis owes you a rematch?

Vitali: Well, he certainly promised me a rematch. I think there is still some unfinished business between us. Lennox is a great fighter and I respect him as a tremendous champion. I still believe that I was the better man in June of 2003, and that I could prove that once more if we were to meet in the ring. I think the public worldwide would like to see Lewis-Klitschko one more time.

Kerr: Letís turn our attention to your brother Wladimir. Will we ever truly find out what happened this past April?

Vitali: I can say with all certainty that what happened that night still remains a big mystery to me. I am at a loss to explain how a fighter in the fine condition that Wladimir was in, who had many times fought the distance and was in peak form in the weeks leading up to the fight, could just so suddenly be reduced to a mere shell of his self. Wladimir was not himself that night. From very early in the fight, he didnít act like the Wladimir I know. His blood sugar levels were alarmingly high when tested after the fight, yet a day later they were normal. The missing vials of blood and the many strange circumstances were quite shocking to the both of us. I am a loss to explain it. I fully believe that the FBIís investigation will get the answers we are seeking. Until then, I donít want to justify Wladís defeat by making excuses. The proper authorities will get to the bottom of what happened. For now, Wladimir has to get back into the ring and prove his worth.

Kerr: How are things going in preparation for Wladís next fight?

Vitali: Actually, just behind me Wlad is sparring and he looks to be in great form. Everyone is pleased with what they are seeing. ( Authorís note: In the background Wladís snapping jab could be heard landing at an alarming rate). Wlad looks sharp and hungry. He is completely focused on the task at hand.

Kerr: Can Wladimir get his career back on track after the Brewster debacle?

Vitali: The strange circumstances of that night notwithstanding, everything depends on Wladimir. I believe that Wladimir has tremendous potential. I donít think there is a better heavyweight out there than my brother. Wladimir has all the tools to be a champion. He needs to put aside the past and apply himself. At this point it is all up to him. I believe he will be the world champion.

Kerr: Finally, I would be remiss if I didnít mention that this year has been a great one for you and your home country of Ukraine. Comment on the success Ukraineís athletes have had this year and what this success means for your homeland.

Vitali: Ukraine has only been independent 13 years. My homeland has unlimited potential not only in sports, but in the world of science, art, music, film, culture and economics; right across the board. The sky is the limit. Things havenít been easy for Ukrainians, but I see many positives. Even here in Los Angeles, many have taken to the blue and yellow colours of the Ukrainian flag. Regardless of nationality, many are fascinated by Ukraine. The world is slowly learning about my homeland. Everybody has a role to play. I am only too happy to help ease with the transition. Itís not only about famous Ukrainians; it is about the land, the culture and the people that inhabit that land.

Article posted on 06.09.2004

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