Vitali and Wladimir a.k.a the Klitschko brothers have dominated heavyweight boxing for 15 years.
Combined, their records total: 114 fights, 109 wins (94 KOs) and just five losses. If you merge their two respective longest runs as heavyweight world champion together (Wladimir, of course, is still champion) then the overall time would be 14 years, seven months and counting.
Unfortunately, though, we will never have the opportunity of seeing the two brothers compete against each other. Unlike the Williams sisters, who’ve shared the court in eight Grand Slam finals, the Klitschko brothers have vowed that they will never fight against each other.
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In a 2011 documentary entitled “Klitschko”, Wladimir said: “I wouldn’t do it (fight Vitali), even for $1 billion”. He later adds that “you can’t put a price on your mother’s heart”.
Now let’s take a look at the individual achievements of the Ukrainian knockout kings.
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In September 2012, at the age of 41, Vitali “Dr. Ironfist” Klitschko decided to lace up a pair of boxing gloves for the very last time as a professional fighter. His opponent on that evening was Manuel Charr, who at the time was undefeated in 21 professional fights.
Klitschko won the fight comfortably; he floored his opponent in the second round on the way to a fourth-round TKO victory. The victory marked Klitschko’s ninth consecutive defence of his WBC World Heavyweight Championship, and came 13 years after his first world title triumph (WBO version), which was back in 1999 when he knocked out Herbie Hide in London.
After beating Hide in 1999, 17 of Klitschko’s next 22 professional outings were world title fights. During this time, Vitali lost just twice: once vs. Chris Byrd - when Vitali had to retire after injuring his shoulder - and once vs. Lennox Lewis, again in controversial fashion, when the referee had to stop the fight in the sixth round after Klitschko sustained a nasty cut after a clash of heads.
Klitschko’s record proves just how consistent he was throughout his career. He ended his 47 fight career with 45 victories (41 by KO) and just two losses. Klitschko’s knockout percentage of 87.26% is the second highest ever recorded by a heavyweight champion and is bettered only by the legendary Rocky Marciano (87.76%).
His status would possibly be more elevated if he wasn’t the brother of Wladimir, who continues to rule the division at the age of 39, however, Vitali deserves his place amongst some of the finest heavyweights of the modern era. He is, after all, the eighth longest running Heavyweight Champion in history (a list that is topped by Joe Louis, who made 25 successful defences of his Championship belt over an 11 year period).
Vitali now fights his battles away from the ring as the Mayor of Kiev, the capital city of his country of birth, Ukraine. He has long been an outspoken figurehead against political corruption in Ukraine and against controversial Russian president Vladimir Putin.
In March 2014, when Klitschko was the leader of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform, he spoke out about Russia’s invasion of Crimea.
He said: “He [Putin] is worried of what is happening because the [Ukrainian] people don't want to…live with this corruption, live without human rights and that is why the people want the changes”.
Wladimir, the younger of the Klitschko brothers by five years, is the current WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO and The Ring magazine Heavyweight Champion of the world. Despite being 39 years old, Klitschko is still in remarkable shape considering that he has competed in 67 professional fights. Of those 67 professional fights, 27 have been heavyweight title bouts, a record he shares with arguably the greatest heavyweight of all time, Joe Louis.
After winning gold at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, Wladimir turned professional later that year and lost just once in his opening 25 professional fights. Mirroring Vitali, Wladimir’s first world title was the WBO Heavyweight Championship, which he won via unanimous decision over Chris Byrd, the man who defeated Vitali for the strap just six months prior.
Wladimir retained the WBO belt five times but then lost to both Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster in the space of four fights to cast serious doubt over his future. But like many great sportsmen before him, Klitschko proved the naysayers wrong and went on to dominate the division from the mid-noughties onwards.
NEVER ENDING STREAK
Klitschko followed his defeat to Lamon Brewster with three consecutive victories, including a unanimous decision victory over former WBC Heavyweight Champion Samuel Peter. This put Klitschko in line to face Chris Byrd once again, only this time it was for the IBF title, which is considered to be one of the three most prestigious belts in the sport (along with the WBA and WBC versions of the Championship). Wladimir knocked out Byrd in the seventh round with a huge right hand and has been world champion since that day (22/04/2006).
Since then, Klitschko has gone on to add The Ring magazine, WBO and WBA versions of the Heavyweight Championship to his resume, and he has improved his professional record to: 67 fights, 64 wins (53 by KO) and three losses.
Although Wladimir’s knockout percentage isn’t quite as impressive as Vitali’s, it is still a remarkable 82.815%. When Wladimir “Dr. Steelhammer” Klitschko goes out to compete against Tyson Fury late in October, he will be fighting in a Heavyweight World Championship bout for the 28th time – a new world record.
Should he beat Fury, which I predict he will, Klitschko will go within one fight of equalling Joe Louis for the record of most successful title defences in the history of the heavyweight division (25). Klitschko doesn’t look like going anywhere in the near future. In July, he signed a five-fight deal with German television network RTL and should he go on and complete the deal undefeated, then we will have to discuss Wladimir in the same category of some of the greatest heavyweights of all time.
Next in the Sibling Success series, I'll be profiling the careers of Danish football's most stylish duo: The Laudrup's (Michael and Brian).