April 10, 2004 – The Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas.
This was the date and the setting for one of the weirdest and more unsettling world heavyweight title fights of modern day history. Wladimir Klitschko and Lamon Brewster met for the vacant WBO heavyweight belt, and what a brutal, odd and somewhat controversial fight it was that took place.
Klitschko, seen by some as the next big thing, administered a savage battering to the unimaginably tough Brewster. Hitting his rival with everything, knocking him down and appearing more than once to be on the verge of closing the show, Klitschko couldn’t possibly have imagined how he would instead be beaten, ruined, perhaps for good, after just five rounds.
So on top, Klitschko was tagged by a couple of left hands in the fifth and the fight totally changed. Down twice and utterly exhausted, Klitschko had apparently emptied himself and was utterly spent. His face carrying a bewildered look, Klitschko could barely stand after getting back up from the second ruled knockdown, this one coming as the bell sounded to end the round. Referee Robert Byrd stopped the fight as Wladimir staggered to his corner. “He couldn’t take care of himself,” Byrd said later. “I’ve never stopped a fight like that before.”
So what happened?
Had Klitschko, who unloaded everything on Brewster in the early going of the fight, merely punched himself out, or was there more to it? It wasn’t too long after the fight that strange tales of how Klitschko had allegedly been drugged, how his legs had too much Vaseline plastered on them (!) and all manner of other stories emerged. Indeed, Klitschko hired an attorney who probed the defeat. Apparently, the attorney stated how the odds of the fight – that strongly favoured a Klitschko win – changed dramatically just before the bout took place, also, Klitschko’s blood and urine samples taken after the fight “mysteriously vanished.”
This is old news to those fans who recall the fight and its aftermath, yet to some no definitive answer was ever provided regarding whether or not there was something sinister going on. Almost a broken man after the loss, Klitschko strongly considered retirement. Instead of calling it a career, the 28 year old regrouped and began an unbeaten run of almost 12 long years at the very top of the division.
It’s interesting that the Brewster loss is the only defeat Klitschko either avenged or even tried to avenge. His earlier losses; inside the distance setbacks against Ross Puritty and Corrie Sanders, remained unavenged, as does the 2015 loss Wladimir suffered at the hands of Tyson Fury, and the 2017 stoppage loss Klitschko suffered at the hands of Anthony Joshua. Maybe the loss to Brewster really bothered Klitschko, bad – to the extent that he simply had to get his own back?
Maybe Klitschko knew, or suspected, that the loss he suffered 15 years ago was not on the level? Again, this one is still an odd fight, even a disturbing fight to watch, all these years later.