Former world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko has seen his plan to overhaul George Foreman’s oldest champion record thwarted.
The ongoing war in Ukraine has put plans for the division’s one-time king to make a comeback on ice for the past eighteen months.
Klitschko gave out cryptic clues about a potential return to action shortly before an invasion began into his native country just weeks later.
Apart from the obvious horrors war brings, the tragedy [in a sporting sense] is that Klitschko had spoken about his blueprint and intended to go for it two years earlier than the troubles began. A deal with DAZN was on the table, which could have seen the build-up to a record-breaking feat begin.
Wladimir Klitschko comeback halted by war
As it turned out, Klitschko waited until December 2021 to begin training. It was too late, as war broke out in February 2022.
Had Klitschko not turned down a massive deal with DAZN, things could have turned out a lot differently. When he returned to training in December 2021, Klitschko was in exceptional shape at 45.
Foreman’s benchmark was in sight as Klitschko was linked to fights with Dillian Whyte and Anthony Joshua. The latter would have been a high-profile rematch of their 2017 epic.
Klitschko hadn’t fought since that night at Wembley when Joshua’s career took off in the UK. However, the Ukrainian master regularly remained in the gym to keep in shape.
Just eight weeks before brother Vitali raised the war alarm as Mayor of Kyiv, Wladimir stated ‘challenge accepted’ in a video about his intentions for a possible comeback.
Foreman’s record was reported to be the only thing on his mind.
‘Dr. Steelhammer’ also said: “This time: Keep On Punching – literally,” leading to some fans getting excited about a potential run at Foreman’s 1994 feat.
It wasn’t the first time Klitschko has expressed similar thoughts on overhauling ‘Big George.’
George Foreman’s record
In 2018, Klitschko revealed he would only fight again if he could beat Foreman’s long-standing record as the oldest heavyweight champion.
Foreman achieved this when knocking out 26-year-old Michael Moorer in a complete shock at the world-famous MGM Grand Garden Arena.
That Las Vegas strip wipeout still stands today and hasn’t come close to being overtaken. In addition, Klitschko’s brother Vitali is second on that list at 42 years old.
Wladimir himself is third. But Klitschko could have surpassed Foreman by some margin if a title shot had been granted when he re-entered training in 2021.
Klitschko was 45 and nine months old then, already four months older than Foreman when he entered the books.
Sadly, the war took away any chance of Klitschko having the opportunity even to attempt a comeback. He’s now 47 and passed the initial cut-off point. He set himself in a chat with FOX Sports when pondering DAZN’s offer.
“I train regularly. Almost every day. I need it like the air to breathe. But I enjoy doing sports,” insisted Klitschko.
“[As of now] I still have it [the will to box], but I do not know how long I can keep this form. It must be something extraordinary. Incredible [like Foreman’s record].
“But if I can become a 45-year-old, a 46-year-old, and if I’ve still got it, still have the sparks in my stomach, I would think that I could break the record and become the oldest heavyweight champion at this extraordinary moment.
“I mean, obviously, now there is only one guy, George Foreman. But by then, I’ll think about it,” he added.
Two months into his 47th year, Klitschko’s mind is firmly engrossed in helping his beloved Ukraine. We can only wonder what might have been.
Phil Jay is an experienced boxing news writer. Follow on Twitter @PhilJWBN.