Boxing


Vitali Klitschko's Retirement Shocks The Boxing World

09.11.05 - By William Peden: I think I speak for most people when I say that Vitali Klischko's retirement completely threw me. Like most, I saw him as the successor to previous legends, like Lewis and Holyfield, almost by default. Who wasn't astonished when Vitali Klitschko, then best known for quitting while ahead on the cards against Chris Byrd, managed to turn his eleventh-hour match with Lennox Lewis into one of the closest heavyweight title fights for years? If Vitali is lucky, that will be how he is remembered by the fans.

Of course, my idolisation of Vitali Klitschko has faded since then. Only a very biased observer could say that his fights with Corrie Sanders and Danny Williams were impressive, but probably not very awe-inspiring. Closing my eyes and thinking about his career, the first thing that comes to my mind is a somewhat bitter taste of disappointment. After all, there was little doubt back in early 2004 that Vitali was the most impressive belt holder in the division:

Vitali hit harder than Chris Byrd, was more difficult to hit that Lamon Brewster and lacked most of John Ruiz's many faults. He had a stern chin, an unorthodox yet effective style and was still learning in the gym.

Then, later in the year, Klitschko offered yet another exciting display to his growing fanbase against Danny Williams. People laugh at Danny looking back, but I don't think any British heavyweight has had such widespread international support before, and no-one will support a fighter without at least some hope of them winning (even Tyson and Golota fans). In that fight, Klitschko showed that he was more than just a giant who clubbed his opponent down over the course of many rounds. He showed a better understanding his using his height than ever before, implemented uppercuts and, of course, totally outclassed his opponent. The question in my mind was- who's next?

I could never have guessed there would be no next. Like everyone else, I couldn't have forseen the 8th round of Klitschko-Williams being Klitschko's last. Williams looked like the fighter on the way out. The fact that Williams has fought since and is currently set to fight Audley Harrison just adds to the current air of surrealism in the heavyweight division. Suddenly, everything looks so open- the prospect unification, the absence of a new heavyweight king and what must be a shot of hope into young contenders like Calvin Brock or Samuel Peter. They say the biggest changes come quickly, and that has certainly been the case in the last 24 hours or so.

Looking away from the rest of the division, and back to the man himself, I have to say I'm disappointed with Vitali. I was one of many who picked him to beat Hasim Rahman- there seemed to be no logical reason in my mind not to- and while his inactivity and injuries had already suggested to me that we wouldn't be seeing him around for long, I didn't see this coming at all. I think, as with Lennox Lewis' retirement, we'll have to let the dust settle before making an accurate assessment of Klitschko's career. What I will say now though, is that I always expected more from him than this.

Article posted on 09.11.2005



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