How Far Away Is Wladimir Klitschko from Retirement After Biceps Injury?

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2014

How much longer will Klitschko reign?
How much longer will Klitschko reign?Martin Meissner/Associated Press

Wladimir Klitschko suffered a biceps injury during sparring last week, leading many to wonder how much longer the 38-year-old will be around.

The injury forced the postponement of Klitschko’s September 6 bout against Kubrat Pulev. According to’s Dan Rafael, the bout has been rescheduled for November 15 at the O2 World arena in Hamburg, Germany.

THOMAS KIENZLE/Associated Press

Klitschko is the Transnational, Ring Magazine, WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO heavyweight champion. He’s held at least some version of the heavyweight championship since knocking out Chris Byrd back in 2006.

For historical purposes, he’s been the Transnational heavyweight champion since beating Alexander Povetkin in 2013 and the Ring Magazine titleholder since defeating Ruslan Chagaev in 2009.

Klitschko is easily the best heavyweight in the world and has been for some time. Other than possibly big brother Vitali, who has since retired, no heavyweight of the last 10 years has been as successful or as dominant as Wladimir Klitschko.’s Lyle Fitzsimmons gave a good rundown of Klitschko’s impressive accomplishments.

Now that he’s been the IBF/IBO champion for better than eight years and has reached a number of title defenses – 16 – that only guys named Holmes and Louis had previously managed, it’s a natural inclination to start sizing up exactly where such a prodigious reign deserves to be ranked all time…He’s won 20 in a row since [losing to Lamon Brewster in 2004], in fact, and aside from winning a three-knockdown fright-fest against Sam Peter in 2005 – a result he essentially erased with a less-dramatic bludgeoning in 2010 – it’s hard to recall him losing too many rounds, let alone finding himself on the brink of defeat. That’s an impressive stretch of work, regardless of what you’re in there with.

But Klitschko is 38 now, and despite always being in impeccable shape, one has to wonder how much longer he can rule a division known for power punchers and one-punch knockouts.

While George Foreman managed to win the heavyweight championship at age 46, he was the exception to the rule. Most heavyweight crowns are worn well before age 40.

Jeff Scheid/Associated Press

Joe Louis was heavyweight champion for 12 years when he retired in 1949 at age 34. He returned to the ring because of money troubles but never regained the championship.

Rocky Marciano retired heavyweight champion and undefeated in 49 professional fights in 1956 at age 32.

Muhammad Ali was a shell of himself at age 37 when he lost to Trevor Berbick back in 1981. Ali had defeated Leon Spinks three years prior for the WBA title but lost it after declaring retirement. He was obliterated by Larry Holmes in 1980 in the first bout of his ill-advised comeback.

Lennox Lewis was 37 when he defended his heavyweight championship against Vitali Klitschko in 2003. While fans and media practically begged for a rematch, Lewis thought better of it and called it a career.

Other old-age notables include Jersey Joe Walcott and Evander Holyfield, both of whom won versions of the heavyweight title at age 37.

What do all these heavyweights have in common? They all lost the heavyweight titlein the ring or through retirementwell before Klitschko’s current age of 38.

The Klitschko brothers have been as successful as any heavyweights ever.
The Klitschko brothers have been as successful as any heavyweights ever.Frank Augstein/Associated Press

That certainly doesn’t mean Klitschko will be put out to pasture anytime soon. While he’s older than Louis, Marciano, Ali, Lewis, Walcott and Holyfield were when they last held their heavyweight titles, he’s also fighting during a relatively weak era for heavyweights.

Moreover, science and nutrition have come a long way, even since Lewis retired 10 years ago. Klitschko stays in shape year-round and appears to have the Bernard Hopkins-like discipline required to fight into old age.

But fighters slip as they get older, no matter how great of shape they stay in. A millisecond lost in reaction time is an eternity in boxing, and heavy hitters like Bermane Stiverne, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury have the ability to knock anyone into next week so long as they can catch them on the chin.

Klitschko might walk away and retire before 40.
Klitschko might walk away and retire before 40.Martin Meissner/Associated Press

Klitschko might be the exception.

He might carry the heavyweight championship well into his 40s. He certainly has the skill and ability to make a run at it, and every year he holds onto the crown bolsters his claim to being one of the greatest heavyweight champions ever.

But history suggests something otherwise.

History suggests Klitschko will lose his title through loss or retirement before he turns 40, and the biceps injury only lends more credence to it.


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