As I write this in 2010, Wladimir Klitschko, nicknamed “Dr Steelhammer” is the unified IBF, WBO, IBO and Ring Magazine Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the world. At 6 feet, 6 inches tall, this powerful giant has won 54 of his 57 fights. Both he and his older brother, Vitali, are boxing champions (Vitali holds the WBC crown). Both have promised their mother not to fight the other!
Klitschko is Ukrainian, but was born in Kazakhstan. His adopted home is Germany and he and his brother moved to Beverly Hills in 2004. He’s no ordinary boxer. In 2001, Klitschko presented his doctoral dissertation and was awarded a Ph. D. in Sports Science. He also speaks four languages: Ukrainian, Russian, German and English.
All this and because I had known of the Klitschko brothers from several Ukrainian friends prompted me to attend my first heavyweight boxing championship, really my first boxing event of any kind. It was April, and I was in downtown Los Angeles at a hotel not far from the famed Staples Center (where the Los Angeles Lakers play basketball). I heard from the concierge that there was a boxing championship match taking place between Vitali Klitschko (the older brother) and South African Corrie Sanders. Having been close to Ukrainians in my life, I had to go!
With help from the hotel’s concierge, I secured a ticket. It was exciting watching this giant Klitschko brother box Sanders. The older Klitchshko won the scheduled 12 round fight by TKO in the 8th round. He avenged a loss a year earlier when Sanders had beat the younger Wladimir. I walked about four or five blocks back to my downtown hotel, took the escalator up to the lobby level of the hotel, and who do I see sitting in the lobby along with three or four very serious men, but Wladimir Klitschko! I quickly approached them and told the younger Klitschko what a big fan I was of him and his brother and that I have close Ukrainian friends. I also asked if it was possible to take a photo together.
Immediately, his handlers, these three or four guys around him, told me he was busy and not interested and to basically leave them alone. At that point, Wladimir stands up and tells these guys to back off, that I was a fan and that fans are important! Wow. I was impressed. It showed a lot of class for him to respect his fans like that. Next thing I know I’m taking a photograph with Wladimir Klitschko. I’m 5-10, but standing next to this giant, I felt very small, not tall at all. I told him that his brother fought a great fight. I also asked him if/when he would fight again. He said he was planning to be back in the ring. Well, he made it. Today, he is the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the world. Footnote: He’s also dating the actress Hayden Panettiere!