What Vitali Klitschko's Retirement Means for Boxing's Heavyweight Division

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2013

Vitali Klitschko has retired.
Vitali Klitschko has retired.Witters Sport-USA TODAY Sports

If you have been waiting for the Klitschko brothers to leave the sport of boxing, half of your wish came true earlier this week. According to The Associated Press (via USA Today), Vitali Klitschko, 42, is leaving the sweet science to pursue political ambitions.

Vitali Klitschko is leaving boxing to concentrate on Ukrainian politics and his role as an opposition leader. Klitschko vacated his WBC world heavyweight title on Monday and said he doesn't expect to fight again as he pursues a presidential bid in his home country.

According to the same report, the WBC has elevated Klitschko to champion emeritus status, which means he can return to fight for the WBC heavyweight title anytime he wants. But Klitschko said he doesn’t see that happening.

This offer makes it theoretically possible to return to the ring, which I cannot imagine at all happening as things stand now. I am now concentrating on the politics in Ukraine, I feel people need me there.

In short, Klitschko is now retired. He leaves boxing with a record of 45-2 with 41 KOs.

He has been a great champion. His place in history is secure as one of the best heavyweights ever, and boxing fans will likely appreciate him even more as time passes on.

His 87 percent knockout ratio in 47 bouts is one of the more impressive feats in the history of the division, and he was one of the most dominating champions ever.

Moreover, Klitschko had an uncanny ability to break his opponents down. It seemed at times as if he crushed their hopes and dreams into a fine powder. Fighters like Sam Peter and Tomasz Adamek were just never the same after he pummeled them.

Heck, even Lennox Lewis thought better of giving it another go after beating Klitschko via stoppage due to cuts. Instead of a lucrative rematch, the all-timer called it a day.

But Klitschko is the one calling it quits now.

The Sweet Science’s Frank Lotierzo praises Klitschko as one of the finer big men in history:

Vitali possessed great punch anticipation and was hard to hit. He had more than adequate stamina and if he hit you clean, he could get you out of there evidenced by his high knockout ratio. Vitali was a confident fighter and was not intimidated by any opponent he fought. Regardless of his opponent's style, he forced them to address his strengths and awkwardness before they could even attempt to try and fight their fight. No, he didn't always look polished and refined, but he was damned effective and was a thinking fighter in the ring. In fact he never made mistakes or beat himself once in 47 bouts.

All that stuff is important historically. But what does Klitschko’s retirement mean for boxing’s heavyweight division right now?

Not much.

He has not faced an opponent since September 2012. He simply has not meant much to the division all year long, and that will not change going forward.

Oh sure, the Klitschko stranglehold on the division is looser than it was before. After all, if someone is going to wrangle the heavyweight division away from the grasp of the Ukrainians, that person only has one Klitschko brother to contend with now instead of two.

Wladimir is still around.
Wladimir is still around.Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The problem, of course, is that the Klitschko brother who remains in boxing is not the 42-year-old statesman whose best years as a fighter had already passed him.

No, Wladimir does not seem as interested in life outside of the ring, unless one is to count his affections for his relatively new bride Hayden Panettiere.

In truth, he has been the better heavyweight for a while now. He holds every title belt that his brother does not have, including the lineal championship that he nabbed in his win over Alexander Povetkin last October.

In fact, big brother Vitali’s retirement may mean more for Wladimir than it does for anyone else in the division.

With Vitali gone, no other heavyweight in the world will have any sort of claim at being the best, and anyone daring to call himself such will have only one man to answer to now: Wladimir.

He will have the pick of the litter as well as the full beam of the spotlight.

So while some may believe Vitali’s retirement will mean lots of changes in the sport, don’t expect any new heavyweights to assert themselves as the next generation until 37-year-old Wladimir follows big brother’s footsteps into the horizon.

And that won’t happen anytime soon.

Kelsey McCarson is a boxing writer for The Sweet Science and a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.