Unified world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko talks about his upcoming title defence against Bryant Jennings in New York this weekend.
The universally recognised number one heavyweight of the past decade amazingly makes the 18th defense of his belts against the undefeated American up and comer.
Here’s what the formidable Ukrainian had to say this week:
Q. When you’re at the stage of Bryant Jennings now where you’re climbing, where you weren’t yet the champion, what did life change after you became the heavyweight champion of the world? Also, fighting again in the United States and bringing the belt back here?
A. The first question was how did it feel when I became champion?
Q. How did it change your life?
A. Okay. Well, you know, there’s a lot of life change, things were happening in my life, and I remember before I went to the Olympics and former Olympic champion in track running, Borzov, he was Minister of Sports in the Ukraine. He said, “Guys, you’re going to Olympics and one of you is going to win gold. That’s going to change your life.” He was really right about it. I remember by winning the gold at the Olympics, when I came back home it completely changed my life.
So sports definitely has the power to change the life and the world, as Nelson Mandela said one day, and also, when I became champion of the world in the heavyweight division, that was 15 years ago, in 2000, and it was an amazing moment. I do remember clearly how it was and it was additional motivation to keep doing what I was doing. I was only 24-years-old. I mean, very, very young, but I took it seriously and I was working up to it and I believed that my work was appreciated with its success in the ring and that I became champion.
The second time when I fought in 2006 and became the champion the second time it was more obvious, believe it or not. Bryant Jennings is fighting for a lot. He’s fighting for his pride, but also he’s fighting for a lot of financial assets. I remember 2006 I was fighting for free, pretty much. I was getting – I was the official challenger and it was a long ride with beating Samuel Peter in 2005 fight when he was undefeated and was the biggest threat in the heavyweight division. And after becoming number one, different situations as mandatory, I couldn’t really get the fight. So different circumstances and lawsuits involved in a lot of things.
So it’s a lot of modern training and financing to become more determined and it affected me. So this is a day of fighting for free. Sometimes I’m really kind of have a smile on my face when I hear challengers complaining about certain things that they’re not getting paid enough or the rules are not good enough or the gloves are not good enough or whatever. There’s a lot of complaints. I remember I was fighting; I was ready to fight in any gloves for any price. I mean, basically, for free. That was the memories.
I am really excited to be back in the States. I’ve been fighting – champion of the world means to fight in different countries, in different cities, which I have accomplished in the past years. I’ve been fighting in Berlin, Switzerland. I’ve been fighting in Moscow, Russia. I’ve been fighting in many German cities. It’s always exciting to be back in the States and to be back at The Garden.
I’ve been collecting my belts and whatever I have in my hands, all those belts, it’s a lot of work, a lot of fights, and it’s definitely exciting to be back at The Garden, the mecca of entertainment, especially right now. Boxing is so imminent I could feel it, that the interest is much bigger and higher than it used to be, for example, seven years ago. Maybe it has to do with a combination of just one week apart from a mega fight with Pacquiao and Mayweather and I think it’s like certainly warming up and definitely putting boxing on the map and making the sport more exciting. I’m really, really happy about it, actually, because boxing has been always a classic sport, that people were following and watching for many years. So, I’m happy to be back in the States.
Q. My question is in terms of your boxing strategy now, it seems like you’ve employed a lot of the jabbing in your fight game. How much of that do you attribute to Emanuel Steward’s tutelage and what will we be seeing? What type of strategy will we be seeing against Bryant Jennings?
A. Well, we can talk about a lot of details and you know, you cannot really explain a strategy in a couple of words. It’s long weeks of preparation and there’s definitely some tools. I understand that we’re all limited in our capabilities. Bryant Jennings can fight as Bryant Jennings. He cannot fight like Mike Tyson or Muhammad Ali or somebody else.
Boxers from Philadelphia, that they have certainly some style. It’s just an example. Like, I think we’ve all seen maybe not live but Sugar Ray Robinson fight. I certainly see Muhammad Ali was looking at those fights and was copying certain movements and I’ve seen that Sugar Ray Leonard by Sugar Ray Robinson’s fights, and using the height and using the technique and the way they moved.
Obviously, there is certain reflection of the region where the fighter is coming from, of the trainers that he was working with and the idols that he was looking up to. I think that I’m going to expect a Philly fighter. You know, a fighter from Philadelphia that is similar to Frazier and Witherspoon and many other fighters from this region, from Philadelphia, and I think that it’s going to be challenging.
I was thinking about a fight with Jake LaMotta and Sugar Ray Robinson in a certain way because of the size difference and the way they fought, and Jake LaMotta was a really, really tough competitive fighter. A certain way I can compare this type of fight when they guys fought, LaMotta with Robinson, so in a certain way because of the size difference and technique and the way they represent themselves in the ring. There are similarities in a certain way. There is nothing that you can copy, but I could see some of it.
So I’m prepared for Bryant Jennings. I’m not going to underestimate him by no means. I’m not going to overestimate him by no means because as I said, we’re all limited, including myself. So we just can fight in the way we can fight and I think that it’s going to be an exciting fight.
Why? Because Bryant Jennings is pretty much at home. He’s going to have a lot of support in the arena and he’s highly motivated, he’s very energetic, he’s a little hyper type of fighter, and he’s moves a lot, he’s very athletic, but hopefully he’s not going to move around too much, he’s going to come to fight the same way as Pulev did. He didn’t move around much. He just came in and was throwing punches and being aggressive. So I’m hoping and expecting that Bryant Jennings is going to give me a fight where he’s going to be aggressive.
That’s why in this small ring, the smallest in boxing there’s not much space to move around and it’s a small ring with two fighters that are going to cover a lot of space of that ring because of the weight and the size, it’s heavyweights and were going to bring a lot of excitement on this fight night.
Q. What made you decide to come back to the States and fight in the States after so many years of not fighting here.
A. Well, it’s not just my own decision; it’s the demand. The demand was so strong—thankful the demand was so strong from public. We can see it in ticket sales; Madison Square Garden arena wants to see a Klitschko fight, and that was supported by the fans because of ticket sales. I’m sure we’re going to be sold out the day of the fight. Also, from television, in this case HBO, the demand is so big that it made me, forced me to come here and fight in the States.
On the other hand, I’m really happy about it because the demand in Europe was so strong. For the past years I’ve been fighting at soccer stadiums filled out with over 60,000 people and it’s a question of demand, as well. And I’m really, really happy about it, that boxing kicks in eventually and is unbelievably popular right now in the States. You really can see it and hear it on the radio and a lot of different channels with all the fight nights and it’s a great time. I think it’s the right time, right place and the right opponent to make it.
Q. Also, the mecca of boxing, right, MSG.
A. That’s what I said. Right place, the mecca of entertainment.
Q. Hello. Thanks, champ, for doing this. A question on your training. How well has it gone and what will you be doing over the next week or so as you get closer to the fight?
A. My training is going very well. I’m happy about my sparring partners. I have around eight, nine guys during the camp and all of them were giving me great sparring sessions and sparring rounds. At some point I was sitting in the gym and I was doing my stuff and I was thinking and I was talking to somebody and I was asking, “How old are these guys?” You know, my sparring partners were 23-, 25-, 27-, 29-years-old. It’s amazing and interesting that considering my age, I used to be the youngest in the gym all the time, and now it seems my sparring partners are much younger than I.
I see myself kind of – I see a reflection of myself so I can work with them very well because they’re always coming in fresh and leaving the ring, leaving the space with other sparring partners who come in and continue.
Also, I was looking at my coach. We just mentioned Emanuel Steward in the previous question and usually, the coach is much older than the fighter because he tells him what to do. My coach is seven, eight years younger than I. I feel in this preparation kind of interesting, especially turning 39. I definitely would think about the former opponent that I fought twice, Tony Thompson. He’s still kicking graceful and fighting so well and winning the fights, especially beating recently Solis, a former Olympic champion. He’s been successful with young fighters like David Price. It’s amazing. This guy is 44, 45, I think, and he keeps doing it so well.
So I definitely think that age is just a number. Actually, it’s a big advantage instead of disadvantage because with the age you’re getting better. With the right lifestyle there’s nothing that any preparation can go wrong. I’m really happy about the preparation and I’m happy that I’m an athlete and I can get in peak of my performance thanks to the experience. And I look forward to the event next week, next week Saturday.
KLITSCHKO vs. JENNINGS is presented by K2 Promotions and the Klitschko Management Group in association with Gary Shaw Productions and will be televised Live on HBO World Championship Boxing® beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT in the United States and RTL in Germany.
ALI vs. SANTANA is presented by K2 Promotions in association with Gary Shaw Productions and Golden Boy Promotions.
Tickets priced at $1000, $600, $300, $200 and $100 may be purchased through the Madison Square Garden Box Office, www.TheGarden.com and www.Ticketmaster.com.
Klitschko v Jennings is live on BoxNation in the UK. To subscribe click BoxNation