Vitali Klitschko: “I will beat Shannon Briggs and I will send him to the floor”

by Geoffrey Ciani – This week’s 93rd edition of On the Ropes Boxing Radio featured an exclusive interview with WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko who is preparing to defend his title on October 16 against Shannon Briggs in Hamburg, Germany. Klitschko regained the heavyweight title in October 2008 after being out of action for almost four years when he beat Sam Peter in lopsided fashion. He has since successfully defended his title four times and is looking to make it five when he faces Briggs a few weeks from now. Klitschko spoke about his upcoming fight, provided insight on various moments from throughout his career, and also shared opinions on the current heavyweight landscape. Here is what he had to say:

On training and preparations for his October 16 title defense against Shannon Briggs:

“Everything is well. I am right now in Austria in Europe and actually in preparations for my world title fight. I’m going to defend my title against American contender Shannon Briggs and the fight will be October 16 in Hamburg.”

On why he wanted to face former two time champion Shannon Briggs:

“Shannon Briggs, it’s not just my opinion but it’s the opinion of many experts that Shannon Briggs is a very strong very powerful opponent. Right now in the heavyweight division it’s small opponents. There are no big heavyweights. Mike Tyson is not active anymore, Evander Holyfield is not as good as a couple of years ago, Lennox Lewis is retired, and there are no big names. Right now it’s me and my brother Wladimir dominating the heavyweight division. We have actually three world titles out of four, the most important titles. We control all of the heavyweight division and right now we’re ready to fight anyone. But David Haye doesn’t want to fight and Nikolai Valuev, the big guy from Russia, is also not ready. My next fight is against one of the top fighters in the world. One of the strongest fighters in the world is Shannon Briggs. He has an excellent record, he has more experience than me, he actually has the world record for knocking more opponents out in the first two rounds than any heavyweight in the world. He’s actually a very strong opponent and in my personal opinion, and not just my opinion but the opinion of experts, this will be the perfect fight for all of the boxing audience.”

On whether he believes Shannon Briggs is the strongest puncher he ever faced:

“You know what, this fight will be very interesting because I have the biggest rate of knockouts. Shannon Briggs is also a very good fighter. Of course, he has a very big percentage of opponents he knocked out. We have two punchers meeting each other inside the ring. This will be a very interesting fight for everybody who sees it.”

His views on whether he believes Shannon Briggs has the power to possibly knock him down:

“(laughs) That’s a good question. I never want to prove my chin. I have a lot of experience, and I don’t want to give him a chance to break my chin. Actually I made a lot of fights against a lot of strong punchers such as Corrie Sanders, or Lennox Lewis, and many others. I don’t want to give the chance to Shannon Briggs to punch me so hard, because I have a good defense and I have good reflexes. The main point in boxing is not to get hit with a punch and punch your opponent. I will do my best to send Shannon Briggs to the floor before he gets me.”

On how he feels now that he has gone five successful training camps without suffering injury:

“Actually I’m in Austria right now in the mountains. The altitude is very good for preparations for the fight. It’s very good for conditioning. I feel myself very well. Actually it is three weeks more, but I am ready for the fight. I’m ready to show everybody my great performance and to show everybody that I’m the strongest in the world. I have the same title Muhammad Ali had, and I’m proud to have this title. I will give my best to defend the title and show a good performance for everybody who witnesses this fight October 16.”

On whether he expects Shannon Briggs to concentrate on body punches early in the fight:

“I know that Shannon Briggs is one of the toughest punchers in the world. This will not be easy. He’s a very explosive fighter. He has a lot of power. I know this fight will not be easy. I know this will be a very difficult task for me, but I’m ready. I know I have a lot of experience and I know who I am. I know my skills and I want to present my skills for everyone. Yes, I know Shannon Briggs has great motivation to take the most important title in boxing, the WBC title, but I know this will not be easy. I know he’s prepared very well. I know this fight will be very difficult for both sides—for me and Shannon Briggs. Let’s see who is the best one. I am more than sure I am the best one and I defended my title so many times. Actually, I never really ever lost a fight. I have two losses in my career. Against Chris Byrd I tore my ligaments in my shoulder and stopped the fight and the second time the doctor stopped the fight against Lennox Lewis, but it was injuries. I never lost a fight and in this fight, I also won’t lose. I will give my best and show a great performance. I will give my best to send Shannon Briggs to the floor.”

His views on his second round knockout victory against Herbie Hide to win the WBO belt:

“It was the biggest fight in my career. I had a chance. I was the official contender to fight Herbie Hide, and I used my chance to fly to England and fight in London against Herbie Hide. If some boxing fans don’t remember, I knocked him out in the second round and made a great record. Actually the record was in the Guinness Book (of records). I spent less rounds than anyone to get a world title at heavyweight. It was twenty-four fights in my professional career and almost all of my fights I won by knockout in the first or second round, and it was my first world title when I knocked Herbie Hide out in the second round.”

On how he felt won he won his first world title in beating Herbie Hide:

“I was very happy. I was very proud. As a child I had a dream to be world champion and I talked to my friends in the school. In the Soviet Union professional boxing was forbidden and I talked to my friends and said, ‘One day I will be fighting for a world title and I will beat Mike Tyson’ and nobody believed me because I was young and skinny. Many years later I brought the world title to my friends who made jokes about not having belief in me. I put the belt on the table and asked my friends, ‘You remember the time when you didn’t believe me?’ It was my title and I was very proud to win a world title and to be a world champion. After the fight in London against Herbie Hide, this was 1999 already eleven years ago. I have now won the world title three times.”

His views on losing the WBO title against Chris Byrd:

“It was not an easy fight. Chris Byrd has a special style and it was not easy to get him. In the second round I had a tough round. I had a pain in my shoulder and every round the pain grew more and more and more. I remember I moved my left arm and it was so painful it was like having a fork in my eye. I couldn’t see and I was very close to losing control because this was after the pain had become too painful. I stopped the fight in round ten. After this fight I took a lot of criticism from boxing experts. ‘How can a world champion stop the fight?’ So everyone understands how it’s like running without one leg and not everybody can understand how a boxer cannot fight with one arm. It was a really big problem in my career because many boxing experts said, ‘Vitali Klitschko will never be world champion, he has no heart’. This was really painful to listen to that. Three years I spent to get in form, and I actually had a chance to fight Lennox Lewis. I showed my heart, I showed my performance, and I actually beat Lennox by points in six rounds but the doctor stopped the fight because I had a huge gash on my eye. I was very happy when Jim Lampley commented after the fight and told me sorry for his words a couple of years ago. He said he didn’t believe I had an injury in my shoulder, but right now that he knows my skills were good. I always show my performance, show my skills, show my heart. I always show that I am the best one and I am the strongest one. In this fight against Lennox Lewis I did not win but I won the hearts of many people who watched the fight and I showed my skills. I want to thank Lennox Lewis for giving me a chance to prove my boxing skills and to show my heart.”

On whether he ever regretted the decision following the Byrd fight or whether he believes he made the right choice in stopping the fight to prevent permanent injury:

“Right now actually it was eleven years ago. I am more than sure I made the right decision because I was very close to go, not out—not from my opponent, but from the pain that I had. I couldn’t see and the pain it was not from my opponents. The pain stopped me because I couldn’t see my opponent because I had a huge problem with my shoulder. Right now it was eleven years ago, and I am than sure this was the right decision.”

His views on getting the opportunity to face Lennox Lewis on two weeks notice when Kirk Johnson pulled out with a pectoral injury:

“I had so many critics after the Byrd fight and I was actually prepared to fight on the under card of Lennox Lewis’ fight against another opponent. Kirk Johnson was injured and I received a proposal from Lennox Lewis’ camp to fight the heavyweight champion. Yes, I was not prepared for that until two weeks before the fight but this was my dream to fight for the world title. To fight a huge legend like Lennox Lewis, mentally I didn’t think about. I just said, ‘Yes! I want the fight. I want to take my chance to be world champion’.”

On whether he believes he would have done better against Lewis if he had a full training camp to specifically prepare for that fight:

“I don’t want to make a stipulation. Actually, Lennox Lewis didn’t prepare for me and my style and I didn’t prepare for Lennox’s style. This was a fight between two boxers who actually were ready to fight and show their skills. I tell this story so many times. I am very appreciative for Lennox Lewis to give me the chance to show my boxing skills and to represent myself in the eyes of many boxing experts. I have a heart. I can fight, and I can beat the strongest opponent in the world—the world champion. Right now I am more than sure if the doctor had not stopped the fight that I had a great chance to beat Lennox Lewis. All of the sports audience were looking forward to and waiting for a rematch for a second fight with Lennox Lewis against Klitschko. Lennox promised to give me a rematch, but after I knocked Kirk Johnson out in the second round and Lennox took a couple of months more and announced his retirement.”

On how disappointed he was that he never got the rematch with Lennox Lewis after defeating Kirk Johnson:

“It was very important for me. After the first fight against Lennox Lewis, I knew everybody wanted to see the second fight. I wanted the fight very much a second time against Lennox Lewis because I had much more confidence in a second fight. I feel I had the credentials and Lennox Lewis lost his credentials. If we talk about the retirement of Lennox Lewis, I am more than sure I sent Lennox Lewis into retirement. Lennox Lewis was smart enough to make the decision to announce his retirement before somebody beat him.”

On his decision to retire following a series of injuries suffered during training camp in preparation for a title defense against Hasim Rahman in 2005:

“I announced my retirement in 2005 because I had a line of injuries. I tore my ligaments in my knees and the world organization gave me just 60 days and the doctor who did the surgery gave me 90 days, which means I did not have time to defend my title. I didn’t want to stop the heavyweight division and I made my announcement about retirement. For four long years, I spent so much to regain and actually, I wasn’t there with the performance. Then I trained, I checked my health and got medical exams and spoke to my team and decided to make my comeback. After four years I won a world title and actually right now, I made four defenses of my title and I feel great. Things are good, no injuries. I view things as excellent. I’m ready to go inside the ring and show everybody. I have the same title that was held many years ago by Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, and it’s the same title I have today. I am very proud of that. I am ready to defend this title against any heavyweight fighter in the world and show I am the best. I will show my skills and show everybody I am the strongest in the world right now.”

His views on potentially having a unification bout against David Haye:

“David Haye is the biggest problem in our family. I never, ever had a problem with my brother. Just a couple of months ago, we sat and discussed who would fight against David Haye. I want to fight David Haye. Wladimir wants to fight him, also. Actually Wladimir was so angry. He told me, ‘Vitali, I know your biggest motivation is a world title. I don’t want the world title. With David Haye, it’s much more personal for me. He talks so much and says so many bad things about me. I want to fight him, but not with words. I want to fight him inside the ring face-to-face and give him an answer without words’. I understand my brother and it is not important who will be fighting against David Haye, Vitali or Wladimir. If I fight David Haye, I will not knock him out in the early rounds. Wladimir told me he doesn’t want to knock him out early, and said that he ‘Wants to fight him all twelve rounds and at the end of the fight I’ll knock him out because it’s much more personal. He said so many things about me that I want to give him my answer inside the ring’. That’s a short story about David Haye and the Klitschko brothers.”

His views on David Haye’s upcoming fight against Audley Harrison:

“David Haye understands. If he enjoys being world champion he understands that if he fights against Wladimr or Vitali it will mean the end of his world championship. He’ll lose the title against me or against Wladimir. He understands that very well, and that’s why he doesn’t want to fight a Klitschko brother. He’s trying to find an easy way. We gave him a great proposal. It was a great financial proposal and we discussed it a pretty long time with his team, but the answer was one answer. He doesn’t want to fight. David Haye, if he wants to present himself as a world champion, he has to fight a Klitschko brother.”

His views on the improvements his brother Wladimir has made since teaming up with Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward:

“Emanuel Steward is the best coach in the world. He has huge experience in boxing. It’s very important. Experience is the main point in every job in every part of what you’re doing, especially in boxing. I have huge respect for Emanuel Steward and Emanuel worked with Wladimir and brought him to another level. Right now Wladimir is the best heavyweight champion in the world. He’s the strongest fighter in the world and you can thank Emanuel Steward for that.”

On whether he ever considered having Emanuel Steward become his trainer:

“I work with Emanuel. Emanuel gives me so much advice, but it’s actually fifteen years I’ve worked with my coach, Fritz Sdunek. I never, ever want to change my old trainer because Fritz is like a father to me. Anyway, we work together and sometimes when I need help I talk to Emanuel Steward and he provides good advice for my next fight. Anyway, we are a good team and I am very thankful for Emanuel Steward for his help.”

On whether he is disappointed that a mega fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Junior has not come to fruition:

“Yes, of course. It would be very interesting to see this fight and I hope the fight comes very soon. Yes, of course I am very interested to see this fight and so are many millions of boxing fans around the world.”

His views on Manny Pacquiao as a fighter:

“He’s a good fighter. Pacquiao likes wars, he has very good explosions, and he is very powerful. He’s a good fighter. Pacquiao’s the best in the world, one of the best in the world. That’s why there is so much interest in his fights and everybody wants to see his fights.”

On the experiences he had sparring with his brother Wladimir earlier in their careers:

“You know what, believe it or not we never fight with each other. I like my brother very much and a couple of times we tried sparring together, and we’d always get injuries. I don’t why. Maybe it’s because we have the same blood and that we’re like magnets where plus-to-plus doesn’t work and minus-to minus also doesn’t work. Last time we sparred, Wladimir made a side step and broke his bones. He broke his leg and I have no explanation how this happened. I spoke to doctors and they said, ‘I don’t know how this young guy broke his leg’. I think it’s God showing us we should never fight each other. That was the last time. This was, oh my God, almost twenty years ago. After that we never fought each other. We help each other very much inside the ring. We show each other how we work and we support each other, but we don’t want to fight each other—not because we’re brothers, but because we’re friends. Wladimir is the closest person in the world to me.”

On how much longer he intends on fighting should he be successful in his upcoming fight against Shannon Briggs:

“I don’t want to break the record of George Foreman as the oldest heavyweight champion in the world. I don’t want to do that, but right now I have a lot of power to show everybody that I am the strongest in the world. I am not ready to give you an answer for this question. I have a lot of power to show that I am the strongest in the world. Nobody will take the world title from me. We had a dream. I am very proud. We are the first brothers in the history of boxing to be world champions at the same time in the heavyweight division. We had a dream and all of our dreams we will make true. We had a dream, one dream for two brothers to take all of the heavyweight titles into our family. Right now we have three out of four. The last one is with David Haye and I hope very soon we have a chance to fight David Haye and take the last title into the Klitschko family. But I don’t want to talk about the future. I can’t think about that. I have a fight against Shannon Briggs where I have to defend my title. After that, I will explain to you my next plan.”

His views on what fans can expect in his upcoming fight against Shannon Briggs:

“Shannon is a good fighter. He’s strong. He has a lot of experience, he’s a big puncher, he’s very fast, and this will not be an easy fight. I am more than sure I have better skills, better boxing skills, than Shannon Briggs. I want to show that inside the ring.”

On what he would like to say to all of his fans around the world:

“I want to say to all of the fans who support me and support my brother, thank you very much for your support. Thank you very much. You are a great motivation for me and Wladimir to show our skills and give it our best. I don’t want to talk about me. I want to talk about Wladimir. Wladimir is the best heavyweight champion of the world. He has great leg work, great fast hands, and a great jab like Muhammad Ali. There is nobody so far who can beat Wladimir. Nobody so far could beat me. We want to present you with very successful boxing with an important decision. The decision where, after the decision, nobody will have a question of who was the winner—a KO decision, and that’s why I promise that in my next fight I will dominate my opponent. I will beat Shannon Briggs and I will send him to the floor and give my best and show my skills. Exactly the same, I am sure that Wladimir is ready to fight anyone. In his last fight he destroyed Samuel Peter and sent him to the floor. I know nobody can beat my brother. Nobody can beat me. We want to represent the fight with skills and put on a show for everybody. The Klitschko brothers are the strongest in the world right now.”


For those interested in listening to the Vitali Klitschko interview in its entirety, it begins approximately one hour and sixteen minutes into the program.


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