In terms of world heavyweight champions, only Rocky Marciano and Gene Tunney went out on top, as undefeated heavyweight kings (Tunney had lost a fight down at light-heavy, to the unimaginably tough Harry Greb, later avenging the defeat). But Vitali Klitschko sure came close.
It was six years ago today when Vitali Klitschko, deciding he had done all he needed to do, retired after his cuts stoppage win over Manuel Charr.
It could be argued that Vitali never truly lost a fight; certainly that no man ever bested him in the ring. Only a potential career-ending shoulder injury picked up in his fight with Chris Byrd, and simply horrific facial injuries picked up in his fight with Lennox Lewis, got the better of Klitschko, and had these handicaps not been inflicted, Vitali may well have won both fights. Klitschko was a mile ahead on points against Byrd, while he was ahead on all three cards in the Lewis slugfest.
Never in any fight did a rival fighter prove to be the better boxer than Vitali, never did any opponent’s power prove to be too much, never did any man out-tough Vitali. And even when “Dr. Iron Fist” did call it quits on his great career, after the Charr win, he very well could have fought on and defeated another challenger or two. How great was Vitali?
In terms of physical strength, durability and sheer toughness, Vitali has few equals. Never once knocked to the canvas, Vitali had an incredible chin. Power-wise the elder of the two Klitschko brothers was a proficient puncher, his punching power taking care of 41 of his 45 victims. Retiring at age 41, Klitschko went out on top, on his own terms; with a career to look back on an almost flawless one.
Vitali ruled the division – first as a WBO champ, from 1999 to 2000, and then as a WBC king, from 2004 to 2012 – and he lost just two fights; both due to those aforementioned nasty injuries. The Ukrainian giant picked up good wins over the likes of Sam Peter, Chris Arreola, Juan Carlos Gomez, Danny Williams, Corrie Sanders, Kirk Johnson, Odlanier Solis, Shannon Briggs, Tomasz Adamek and Charr.
An all-time great, it’s a shame Vitali did not stay active long enough to have fought new champ Anthony Joshua. As we know, Joshua managed to beat Wladimir Klitschko, but just barely. Might Vitali have taken care of Joshua?