While the boxing universe contentiously debates pound-for-pound lordship, Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather, people rarely include either of the Klitschko brothers in the conversation. The most dominating duo in heavyweight history have never received their due, despite the empirical evidence to support an argument that they deserve better recognition. In terms of dominance, it is difficult to purport that these two have not made an indelible mark in boxing over the past decade.
Wladimir has a record of 59-3 and even more impressively, has 51 knockouts. The younger brother has amassed 13 consecutive title defenses. His most recent run as champ began in April of 2006. He was also a World Boxing Organization champion prior to that, earning five title defenses during that reign. He is expected to increase that number into 2013 and beyond.
The record for consecutive title defenses is 25, set by Joe Louis, who had a run of over 11 years and eight months as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. The 36-year-old Olympic gold medalist is not likely to break the "Brown Bomber's" record, but only the great Larry Holmes had more consecutive heavyweight title defenses in boxing history (eight). One would think with over 50 knockouts and being third all-time in terms of most consecutive title defenses, Klitschko would be better appreciated.
Wlad is often criticized for the competition that he has faced. In examining his resume, consider some of the fighters he has defeated and their record at the time: Marius Wach (27-0), David Haye (25-1), Samuel Peter (24-0 and 34-3), Eddie Chambers (35-1), Ruslan Chagaev (25-0-1), Hasim Rahman—who knocked out Lennox Lewis(45-6-2), Tony Thompson (31-1), Sultan Ibragimov (22-0), avenged his loss to Lamon Brewster (33-3), Calvin Brock (29-0), Chris Byrd (31-1) and (39-2-1). He also knocked out the dangerous Ray Mercer (30-4-1).
He is toppling all comers and is not avoiding anyone in the division. He has only gone the distance in his fights four times since 2001. That, and his 50-plus knockouts, should dispel the notion that his fighting style is boring and conservative.
The older brother, Vitali, has 11 consecutive title defenses and while he is contemplating retirement, the number could still possibly be higher. "Dr. Ironfist" has a near flawless record of 45-2. Unbelievably, 41-of-45 of his wins have come via knockout. His losses were polemic.
His most recent loss, in 2003, was to Lennox Lewis. Vitali had hurt the then heavyweight king very badly with heavy shots. Lewis opened up the late-replacement fighter with a hard right in the third and the ensuing cut bled badly. It appeared Lewis was trying to open the cut with his glove in clinches. After six rounds, with Vitali ahead 4-2 on all card, the fight was stopped because of the cut.
Vitali vociferously protested, but to no avail. He immediately demanded Lennox give him a rematch, to which Lewis agreed. The fight was over and as the fans cheered Klitschko, a new era had begun.
Lennox reneged on his promise to have the rematch and subsequently retired. Vitali has been knocking out the competition since. He has recorded 13 wins since and only has gone the distance twice.
His first and only other loss was to the crafty Chris Byrd. Again, Vital was well ahead on the scorecards when the fight was stopped. This time, Vitali stopped the fight. He had badly injured his shoulder. He believed that continuing the fight with his injury would have caused permanent damage.
Compare the records of their contemporaries: Lennow Lewis 41-2 (32 knockouts), Mike Tyson 50-6 (44 knockouts), Evander Holyfield 44-10 (29 knockouts). Are they not worthy of being in the conversation? Recall the considerable hype and praise around the aforementioned three legends. Add Vitali's 45 wins and 41knockouts to Wlad's 59 wins and 51 knockouts—and one totals 104 wins 92 knockouts. That is conversation-worthy.
There are no eagerly anticipated contests for either of these two. They have dispatched all comers with ease. There is no ambiguity as to who the two most dominant forces have been in heavyweight boxing since 2004. The only missing component is the respect they deserve.
There have been many amazing feats accomplished in the most prestigious division in sports. Rocky Marciano retired undefeated at 49-0. Mike Tyson became the champ at 20. George Foreman's various reigns are uniquely impressive in their own right.
While the brothers may not deserve to top the list of greatest heavyweights of all time, it is about time their names be added to the list and to the conversation of most dominant boxers of their generation.