Can Wladimir Klitschko Break Joe Louis’ Record Of 25 Heavyweight Title Defences? Emanuel Steward Says He Can

By James Slater: There was a time when the great heavyweight champion Joe Louis, who had an amazing 25 world title defences, looked set to keep his world record for, well, forever. From 1937 to 1949 “The Brown Bomber” fought and retained his crown all those times; a truly astonishing work-rate (and to think, Louis could have had even more fights had WWII not got in his way!)

But modern great Wladimir Klitschko is now knocking on history’s door. Not since the criminally underrated Larry Holmes (who had 20 title defences) has a heavyweight champ come as close as “Dr. Steel Hammer” currently is to Louis’ world record. Can Wladimir equal or even beat Louis’ 25 heavyweight title defences?

I spoke briefly with the Ring Magazine, IBF, WBA, WBO, IBO heavyweight king’s trainer Emanuel Steward this week, and he told me that yes, his fighter can break “The Brown Bomber’s record.”

J.S: As you know, Emanuel, it will be Tony Thompson next for Wladimir, in a rematch. He’s already KO’d the guy - any concerns about Wladimir getting sufficiently motivated for this rematch?

E.S: No, not at all. Wladimir is fine, he’s okay. He’s enjoying fighting, and he wants to fight around three times a year. He’s really on a mission now.

J.S: Can he break Joe Louis’ record of 25 heavyweight title defences? That’s what people are talking about now.

E.S: He can definitely do it if he wants to, yes. Who is going to beat him?

J.S: You’ve had some great fighters in your time, Emanuel - from Tommy Hearns to Lennox to Wladimir..

E.S: I’ve had some great ones, yes. I said right at the start of training Wladimir that he’d go on to be the best heavyweight since Lennox Lewis. That’s what happened.

So, is Steward right? Can Klitschko, who currently has 16 successful “world” heavyweight title defences under his belt (Note: a number of Wladimir’s defences contested the WBO belt only, and unlike Louis, Wladimir has not consecutively defended his title without a loss), make ten more before he calls it a day?

Wladimir is 35 right now, but he turns 36 on March 25th. If he does fight three times a year from now on, that means he would have to fight on until he’s 39. That may be quite old in a number of ways, yet Wladimir is always in superb shape, he lives a clean life and he has never really taken any heavy punishment. Two more wins this year, three more next year, three more in 2013 and then a couple more in 2014 - that would take Wladimir to 26 successful defences providing he didn’t fall foul of an upset (but as Steward says, who is out there who could pull of an upset over him?) I have to agree with Emanuel: if he wants to do it, he could do so.

No disrespect to good fighters Tony Thompson, Chris Arreola (who looks like being next for Wladimir after the Thompson return), Alexander Povetkin (who may wind up facing Wladimir soon), Tyson Fury (who is hoping to get his shot soon), Alexander Dimitrenko, Kubrat Pulev, Denis Boytsov, Robert Helenius, Tomasz Adamek, Seth Mitchell and any other active heavyweight you care to mention who is in with a chance of challenging “Dr. Steel Hammer” anywhere in the next two years or so - but right now, the way he is dominating all comers, I can’t see any of these guys beating Wladimir. Mitchell could be a dangerous fight in 18 months or so, as could a guy I didn’t mention in the list, in David Price. But Klitschko, as good as he is, could be on the verge of doing something very special indeed.

As how great a fighter would the younger of the two Klitschko brothers be ranked if he did break Louis’ amazing record? That’s food for thought indeed.

Article posted on 18.03.2012

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