Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko was born in the Ukraine to a military father and spent much of his childhood moving around. The Czech Republic, Lithuania and Kazakhstan, his family moved to California in 1991, and the 59-3 career record is dwarfed only by his holding four of the five sanctioned championship belts. He’s been nicknamed the steel hammer for the deadly blows he inflicts on his opponents, but being the toughest guy on Earth doesn’t prevent him from admitting to a frailty that the rest of us could certainly identify with.
Wladimir Klitschko (WK): I don’t like to be hit.
Times Square (TS): Who does?
WK: People sometimes criticize me for being too defensive but my strategy hopes to minimize the number of blows I receive.
TS: As long as the other guy receives more.
TS: Do you have a fight coming up in New York?
WK: Good question. Next question…You know why because we’ve been talking about it a lot but to have a fight in New York, I need an opponent – a top opponent.
TS: I see your 41 year old brother holds the only remaining heavy weight championship belt. I would have hated to be the one breaking up the fights when you were kids.
WK: He’s five years older than me, and while it would have been difficult to fight a guy who was so obsessed with sports, it was never about that. Traveling to some many different countries because of my father, I had one friend – it was my brother.
TS: Have you ever fought your brother professionally?
WK: We’re a team. We share these belts together and we are never going to fight each other. I’m also really proud to have such a brother. He’s not just the heavyweight champ, he’s also the leader of the UDAR party in the Ukraine and will soon be taking his seat in parliament.
TS: Is he ready to retire from the ring?
WK: He hasn’t decided yet.
TS: You started boxing at 14. What got you into it?
Not having a break for 22 years, one of the motivations was Rocky and Sylvester Stallone. Interestingly, I was born in the same year it came out, and never did I think I would end up co- producing Rocky- The Musical with the man that actually got me into boxing.
WK: Yes, we just had the premiere in Hamburg.
TS: What was it like growing in the Soviet Union?
WK: Like anything else, there’s pros and cons. I’m happy that I had a chance to live in both societies and see the difference between communism and capitalism and democracy. The experiences gave me the opportunity to learn from all kinds of people and mentalities. It’s not something you learn by simply going to college.
TS: And you’ve been to college. You have a PhD in Sports Science.
WK: I became interested as I was witnessing many young athletes with more talent than myself being broken psychologically in the way they were trained. I set out to prove scientifically that the physical and the mental must be addresses with equal consideration to achieve the greatest success.
TS: Do you like all the talk that goes with promotion. How much is real?
WK: It’s all real. Some fighters scream and pound their chest and others are more quiet. Either way, it’s fun and helps build competition and creates a psychological aspect. At the same time, some people talk so much you wonder what it was all about once you get them in the ring. But no one was better at it than Muhammad Ali. He wasn’t just boxing in the ring, he was performing in the ring.
TS: I guess he was one of your heroes?
WK: I really didn’t know much of the history before I started fighting but I slowly started to learn it as I grew up. So yes, learning of all the title defenses and amazing opponents of the time really says a lot. I also admire what Mike Tyson did. No one thought that as short as he was that he could generate enough punching power to be the champ. As for me, you want to do the same things only in a different way.
TS: Is it hard to become friends with other boxers when you’re trying to beat them senseless?
WK: I have no friends who are boxers.
TS: Really. Why?
WK: I don’t know. I have relationships but no close relationships. We’re from different countries, we have our own training staffs and it’s before the fight, during the fight and then you move on. Plus, I have my own friends with no lack of them.
TS: Do you worry about the long term effects of being hit in the head?
WK: Getting hit in the head isn’t making you any smarter but any job has its downside. Journalists go to dangerous places, politicians and celebrities are very susceptible to people who would do them harm but you have to do what you believe in because you think it’s right for you.
TS: I see you play chess. Does that help you in the ring?
WK: Absolutely. It makes you think and analyze. The whole idea is putting yourself in the shoes of your opponent, and this helps you prepare your own strategy as you compete.
TS: Chess or Boxing?
WK: Actually, boxing is very predictable – especially when you prepare properly. There’s no such thing as a lucky punch.
TS: Did you not prepare enough in your losses?
WK: I wasn’t motivated and you lose when you’re not focused. You have to watch tons of video, and in this, you can find the holes in someone’s defense. So with 100% preparation, nothing can surprise you.
TS: What was your greatest win?
WK: When I retire I will tell you, because I feel my greatest win is always ahead of me.
TS: Who is your Joe Frazier?
WK: In the 70’s there were so many guys out there but today there’s no Joe Frazier unfortunately. It’s not that there aren’t good opponents and anyone can be that, but it’s also that no one could promote like Ali.
TS: What sport scares you?
WK: I respect Kite Surfing (wind surfing). There’s so many factors – unlike boxing – that you cannot control. The sudden shift of the wind and the surge of the waves makes it a great challenge.
TS: Do you have a wife, kids?
WK: I haven’t made it – I’m still practicing to get there.
TS: It was nice talking to you.
WK: Enjoy the rest of your day.