Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko has recalled his dramatic rise to the top on the eve of his world title defence against undefeated Bryant Jennings.
The Ukrainian superstar will make his return to US soil for the first time in seven years when he takes on the slick Philadelphian at the iconic Madison Square Garden in New York, live and exclusive on BoxNation this Saturday night.
The 39-year-old Klitschko, though, has been reminiscing about how it all started for him when he won Olympic gold in Atlanta in 1996, instantly catapulting him into a hero in his home country over night.
“I remember before I went to the Olympics and former Olympic champion in track running, [Valeriy] Borzov, he was Minister of Sports in the Ukraine. He said, “Guys, you’re going to the 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,” said Klitschko.
“Sport definitely has power to change one’s life and the world, as Nelson Mandela said. 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 my success in the ring and that I became champion,” he said.
WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO champion Klitschko hasn’t shown any signs of decline in recent times despite being just a year short of his 40th birthday.
Still dominant and sitting high at the top of boxing’s glamour division Klitschko believes age has no bearing on how long he can go on for.
“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 can go wrong,” said Klitschko.
“I’m really happy about the preparation [for this training camp] and I’m happy that I’m an athlete and I can get in the peak of my performance thanks to my experience. I’m looking forward to Saturday night.
“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 me. I see myself in them and we work very well,” he said.
30-year-old challenger Jennings, with a record of 19-0 with 10 knockouts, has been working on ways to nullify the well renowned Klitschko jab which he has utilised so effectively against past opponents.
“He has a great jab but I have an exceptional jab compared to his as well. He is one of the best athletes I’ve seen for that,” said Jennings.
“There are definitely plenty of ways to actually get inside of a jab. Like lateral movement, head movement and relentless effort will definitely penetrate and make a change.
“I have 100% confidence in everything that I do. I had a great training camp. The way that we actually prepare to manoeuvre around the jab, I feel is effective and I have 100% faith in what we practiced. All I’m going to have to be is patient and be smart,” he said.
Klitschko v Jennings is live on BoxNation (Sky 437/490HD, Virgin 546 and TalkTalk 525) this Saturday night at 1am. Visit BoxNation to subscribe.