Boxing comeback is not a good idea
Let it be, dear Wladimir Klitschko
By Martin Armbruster
Wladimir Klitschko flirted with a return to the ring. He does so with cautious words, but apparently there is still a fire burning in his boxer soul. And yet one would like to shout to him: Let it be, Vladimir!
In these terrible days in Kiev, it is rare for Waldimir Klitschko to talk about anything other than Russia’s barbaric war against his homeland. The phrases that the longtime heavyweight world champion said in an interview with “Bild” war reporter Paul Ronzheimer attracted all the more attention. “If I’m in good shape, and above all, that the war in Ukraine is about to end and that our borders exist without any invasion from Russia, then in the end: who knows?”, Thought Klitschko. Although he does not want to make any big promises, he has “also learned that despite the war, one should not forget life.”
“Dr. Steelhammer” freely admitted that boxing icon George Foreman’s record appealed to him. He was crowned heavyweight champion again in 1994 at the age of 45 years, 9 months and 25 days. Older was not yet a champion in all boxing classes. “Maybe I have this dream of beating George Foreman’s record. It motivates me to get up and train every day,” Klitschko said. Just as nice as the idea is to crack the “Big George” mark.
However tempting it might be to return to the limelight, Wladimir Klitschko should give up. It’s true that “Dr. Steelhammer” is still in “good shape”. In the history of heavyweight boxing, there has probably never been a fighter who has been as consistently fit through and after his career as Klitschko. Exercising, being in shape and boxing are two different things. As powerful as a Klitschko comeback would be, one would like to say: Let it be!
Health is at stake
“You do not play boxing” is an old boxing wisdom. In a fist fight, every blow to the head means a minor concussion. Boxing is not played like football or basketball, just like golf or tennis. In other sports, a comeback is much easier to venture – even if it ends in disgrace. Mark Spitz, who won seven gold medals at the 1972 Olympics, almost drowned when he returned to the pool, while tennis legend Björn Borg resembled a caricature of the great player in 1991 when he again swung the puller. The sports icons scratched their monuments – they did not have much to fear in terms of health.
It’s different in boxing. Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali, the greatest heavyweight champions in history, ruined their physical well-being by trying to get back in their late thirties. Both received terrible beatings, were later affected by Parkinson’s disease. George Foreman also had to take part before his dreaded right fist made him champion again. He’s fine today, even though he was still boxing until he was 48. “Big” George is not representative.
Wladimir Klitschko got a unique farewell from the big boxing scene. Delivered an epic battle to young Anthony Joshua in 2017 at the age of 41, celebrated despite the defeat of 90,000 Britons at Wembley. There were no cracks in his monument, on the contrary: Klitschko plastered it up that night in London, the pedestal got higher even though he lost. Even the flaw of his point loss to Tyson Fury in 2015 pales in comparison to “Gypsy King’s” career until his recent knockout triumph.
The risk of it going wrong is great
That Fury has now also resigned, although many do not buy it from the Englishman. Klitschko was happy with the victory of his former nemesis. Because it means the end of his career, or because Fury is his real dream opponent? He still has a score to settle with the 2.06-meter giant, the rivals’ revenge planned for 2016 never came to anything after Fury’s mental collapse.
Either way: Whether Klitschko for a one-off show against Fury, Joshua or any heavyweight laces the gloves again. The risk of it going wrong is great, even if Klitschko is fit and in shape. The reflexes, the timing – the crucial thing in the ring increases with each passing year, often without the boxers noticing. The one famous shot can then become too much.
And unlike many other popular boxing greats, the Ukrainian does not need money. Klitschko earned and invested millions, was a successful businessman until the war in Ukraine, toured the world as a motivational coach. The 46-year-old could be anywhere and enjoy life, but stands by his brother Vitali’s side in the besieged and partially bombed-out Kiev. The whole world admires him for it.
In 2020, Klitschko, who had dominated the heavyweight division for nearly a decade, was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. It is there, it belongs, it is there, it stays forever. Next to Joe Louis, next to Muhammad Ali, next to George Foreman, next to Vitali and Lennox Lewis. Wladimir Klitschko achieved everything. Fighting for a nation’s survival is worth risking your life for. It’s not a boxing record.