In Ukraine And With Anthony Joshua, Klitschko Brothers Join Forces Again

LOS ANGELES, USA -- Wladimir Klitschko has an imposing challenge to return from nearly an 18-month absence from boxing and defeat unbeaten champion Anthony Joshua, who’s 18-0 with 18 knockouts.

Wladimir Klitschko, right, sits with brother Vitali Klitschko and coach Jonathan Banks while watching Anthony Joshua practice during a public workout April 26 at Wembley Stadium.

What helps the 41-year-old Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) as he pursues tying Muhammad Ali and his older brother, Vitali Klitschko, in becoming a three-time heavyweight champion are the daily mountainous tasks his brother endures.

As mayor of Kiev, Ukraine, Vitali Klitschko finds himself charged with keeping order and calm among five million people where tension with Russia remains a constant, and refugees stream in from the south and east borders.

This fight, to be staged Saturday in front of 90,000 at Wembley Stadium (1:15 p.m. Pacific time on Showtime), has afforded the brothers a reunion to briefly set aside the obsessive responsibilities thrust upon Vitali and focus on the younger brother’s fight.

A Klitschko victory Saturday eases the strain of the governing duties that resume Monday.

“Ukrainians are going through a lot of challenges — geopolitical, economical — and those challenges need good motivation,” Wladimir said after his news conference with Joshua.

“Sports, as Nelson Mandela said, has the power to change the world, change motivation, change a lot of things."

In this crazy world — and I call it crazy because we’ve seen actions in the past, terrible events — a violent sport such as boxing shows that, through sports, you can clarify each other’s differences under the rules and then continue your life.

“There’s a lot of lesson in sport.” Vitali has been a constant by his brother’s side this fight week.

The pair sat by each other at Joshua’s public workout Wednesday and studied his every move with fierce attention.

While Wladimir downplayed the scene, saying he did it “because I’m fighting him,” Vitali confided he saw intimidation from the fighter who’s 14 years younger and was an Olympic champion 16 years after his opponent.

“Joshua is fighting two brothers,” Vitali said.

“I can see it’s a little bit scary for Joshua. Wladimir has never been in such great shape.”

While a rematch clause exists for the loser, Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn says a one-sided Joshua victory defuses interest in a second fight.

And after losing three of his heavyweight belts to Tyson Fury in a lethargic loss by unanimous decision in November 2015, Wladimir could retire in defeat.

Would he consider politics or assisting his brother in his next career?

“We have one politician in the family. Do we really need another one?” Wladimir asked.

When he has visited Vitali in Kiev, Wladimir said he’s struck by the enormous scale of a mayor’s work. 

“Pretty often, the people think I’m Vitali and they’re coming to me with their problems to tell me, ‘The streets need to be better,’ ‘I need a better salary, better medical care,’ that ‘my electricity doesn’t work in the building,” Wladimir said.

“Whatever the mayor can take care of, people approach me and think I can help them. I tell them, ‘Guys, I want to do good, but I can’t help you.’ They say, ‘Why? You’re the mayor.’ I say, ‘No, I’m not!’ They ask if I quit my job. I say, ‘No, I’m Wladimir. Not the mayor.’”

In that sense, after Vitali has also endured physical abuse seeking to assist his countryman, fighting a less experienced man in the ring doesn’t seem as daunting for the veteran fighter known as “Doctor Steelhammer.”

“When I hear these problems, I think Vitali is in a much bigger fight than he’s ever been in his career,” Wladimir said.

“It’s something where you don’t have to think about just one opponent. Boxing, there are rules. Politics, there are flexible rules and you don’t see your opponents standing in the ring. There are a lot of sharks under the water and you don’t know what they’re doing.”

Source: LA Times