Regarding Klitschko’s retirement

09.11.05 - By Geoffrey Ciani: "Lately, I have been spending more time with my injuries than with my opponents inside the ring.” These were the words spoken by Vitali Klitschko after his shocking announcement that he was retiring from professional boxing. This Saturday night, Vitali Klitschko was supposed to defend his WBC championship against former champion, Hasim Rahman.. This was supposed to be a fight that helped settle matters in the confusing state of the heavyweight division. However, this fight was cancelled for the fourth, and apparently, the final time. Klitschko was originally slated to fight Rahman on April 30 of this year. However, as a result of injuries he sustained, the fight was rescheduled for June 18. As the result of another Klitschko injury, it was then postponed until July 23, before being postponed yet again due to even more injuries - the latest of which had required back surgery for the elder Klitschko.

Anytime someone requires back surgery it’s a matter of the utmost importance. This is especially true in the case of professional athletes, and even more especially true in the case of professional boxers. At the time Klitschko needed back surgery, alarm bells sounded in the back of my mind – “This could be the end of Vitali Klitschko”. However, I never envisioned his career would literally come to an end; I simply figured there was a good chance he’d never be the same fighter again. After all, Vitali was already 34 years old, and having back problems is never good for anyone standing 6’7” tall.

Truth be told, Vitali always seemed a bit fragile, despite his tremendous size, his abundance of talent, and his unquestionable toughness. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the only two losses of his professional career came as a result of his body failing him. He was forced to retire on his stool against Chris Byrd after suffering a torn rotator cuff, and his fight against former champion, Lennox Lewis, was stopped as a result of a gruesome cut the champion had inflicted on Klitschko. Ironically, Klitschko was actually ahead in each of the two bouts he had lost at the time of stoppage.

After Klitschko’s back surgery, Hasim Rahman “battled” Monte Barrett for the WBC interim title. Rahman was victorious, and was once against scheduled to square off against Klitschko on November 12 – this Saturday night. Unfortunately for Vitali, he suffered a knee injury which caused him to pull out once again and required another surgery. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, because it’s not uncommon for someone to favor one leg over another after a back injury. Chances are, Klitschko was placing added stress on one knee as a result of his surgery, and this probably led to his latest injury.

Klitschko’s recent knee surgery was a success, but it would require that he not participate in sports for at least six months – three months longer than the WBC was willing to give him to reschedule his bout with Rahman. That means, at the earliest, Klitschko wouldn’t be able to begin training until April of 2006. As things stand now, it appears as if the WBC will declare Rahman as their new champion sometime soon (although, I must concede, I’m a bit baffled that this didn’t happen the moment Klitschko pulled out of the fight – after all, isn’t that the entire purpose of having an interim champion?)

Klitschko should be commended for doing the right thing. He was scheduled to make approximately $8 million for his bout with Rahman, but he chose to back out of the fight rather than to fight at less than 100%. He could have easily gone for broke, and went for the early KO against Rahman, securing his multi-million dollar payday; instead, he did the honorable thing, and backed out, subsequently retiring so the division can settle matters in his absence. He should be commended for his actions.

So where does this leave the heavyweight division? On one hand, the division just took a huge blow, having now lost one of its best fighters. The elder Klitschko brother was widely regarded as the best of a mediocre bunch since the retirement of Lennox Lewis. He had won the vacant WBC championship from Corrie Sanders and was the recognized champion of “Ring Magazine”. It’s a huge blow to the sport whenever boxing’s most prestigious division loses one of its top stars. Even sadder is the fact that it appeared as if Vitali may have been in the midst of his prime just eleven short months ago when he battered Tyson-conquerer, Danny Williams, from pillar to post.

On the other hand, Klitschko’s departure may open the doors so that we have a unified champion sometime in the near future. This is good, because boxing fans always long for a universally recognized heavyweight champion. However, it can also be considered a bad thing, because now promoter Don King has control of all the pieces of the fragmented heavyweight throne.

It appears that the “Klitschko Dream” has finally come to an end. One has to wonder whether this announcement will have any impact on the career of Vitali’s younger brother, Wladimir. It might be fitting to see Wlad square off against Rahman sometime in the near future.

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Article posted on 09.11.2005

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