Where Do Klitschko Brothers Rank Amongst All-Time Boxing Legends?
The Klitschko brothers are, without doubt, the most dominant force in heavyweight boxing.
Between them, the twin towers of Europe hold all of heavyweight boxing’s major titles and a few more on the side. They have defended their titles on numerous occasions, each time winning in emphatic style.
Despite their success in the ring, outside of the ring they have come under a barrage of criticism.
Some fans highlight weaknesses in their defence, others claim that they are boring fighters to watch. The biggest criticism that the dynamic duo face is the fact that between them they have only faced one boxer who could be regarded as great, and that was back in 2003.
Since Vitali’s defeat against Lennox Lewis, the brothers have made a career out of dominating a very weak Heavyweight division. Although it is not their fault that their opponents are lacking in quality, it will limit their legacies.
This slideshow will assess a series of different criteria that boxers are judged when their careers are over in order to assess how great the Klitschko brothers truly are.
Will they make the top 10?
The two brothers have been dominant in the Heavyweight division for a decade
Steve Grayson/Getty Images
If you were to look at the Klitschko brother’s statistics, it would be reasonable to conclude that the Ukrainian boxers are among the greatest Heavyweight boxers of all time.
Vitali’s record boasts an impressive 42 wins from 44 fights, 39 victories by way of knockout. He has won 95 percent of his fights, earning an 87 percent knockout rate in the process.
Wladimir’s record is all the more striking with 56 wins from 59 fights, 49 victories by way of knockout. Like his older brother, Wladimir has won 95 percent of his opponents but boasts a higher knockout rate of 88 percent.
In order to get a fair gage on how great such statistics are, it is necessary to compare their feats to legendary Heavyweight boxers of times gone by.
Muhammad Ali, the king of boxing, won 56 out of 61 bouts, winning 37 by way of knockout. Both Klitschko brothers have achieved more knockouts in fewer fights. Ali ended his career with a 92 percent win rate and knocked out 61 percent of his opponents.
Statistically, the two brothers are better than the man who many consider to be the greatest boxer of all time.
Rocky Marciano went through his career undefeated, winning 49 fights, 43 by way of knockout. The Brockton Blockbuster knocked out 88 per cent of his opponents. In comparison Vitali has knocked out 87 percent of his opponents, Wladimir 88.
Joe Louis won 69 of his 72 fights 55 by way of knockout, earning him a 96 percent win rate and a 76 percent knockout rate. Favourable comparisons can be made in favour of the Klitschko brothers from such statistics.
George Foreman won 76 of his 81 bouts, 68 by way of knockout, leaving him with a 94 percent win rate and an 84 percent knock out rate. Both Klitschko brothers have a better knock out and win percentage rate.
Larry Holmes won 69 of his 75 contests, 44 by way of knockout finishing with a 92 percent win rate and 59 percent knockout rate. Again, the brothers have a better knockout and win rate.
It is quite clear to see that, statistically, the brothers are equal, if not better than, the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time.
What one must bear in mind however is that both brothers are still fighting, whereas the names used in comparison are long retired. It is entirely possible that both brothers’ records could deteriorate in the next few years.
Furthermore, boxing is about more than just statistics.
Vitali impressed against Lennox Lewis, but was forced to retire after sustaining a deep cut just beneath his left eye
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
This is the only blip on the brother’s record, but it is a major one. Heavyweight boxing has suffered a huge decline in talent in the past decade.
The days of Holyfield, Tyson and Lewis are long gone. Harrison has failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him in the early stages his career, and the biggest fight that either brother can look forward to is against a British cruiserweight who’s mouth is bigger than his right hook.
The brothers have dominated in a poor era of Heavyweight boxing.
The only opponent good enough to face one of the Klitschkos is the other sibling, and they have stressed that such a contest will never happen.
The defining moment of Vitali’s career, to date, is his 2003 bout against an aging Lennox Lewis.
Vitali would have won the bout, were it not for the undisputed champion making mincemeat of the Ukrainian’s left eye.
For the first six rounds the elder of the two brothers stood toe to toe with Lewis, forcing the Canadian born British boxer into a dogfight.
Lewis looked uncomfortable throughout the entire bout, he was unable to keep up with the pace of the fight and at times immobilised by the force of Vitali’s left jab.
Despite this, he still won the fight, defeating Vitali on medical grounds. It was a lucky escape for the Brit, and his refusal to have a rematch with Vitali shows that the Ukrainian left a strong impression.
This fight however was in 2003. Not since then has Vitali had a fight that could truly capture the imagination of the boxing fan base. Instead lighter weight categories are putting on the best fights.
This is not Vitali’s fault. At present, heavyweight boxing just happens to be a weak division.
The same can be said of Wladimir, whose crowning moment to date was defeating David Haye, another British boxer with a loud mouth, earlier this year.
Unlike Lewis, Haye is not a hard hitter and in reality not big enough to be a Heavyweight boxer. Wladimir went into the fight 14 kg (40 lbs.) heavier than Haye and almost three inches taller.
It was not an even match up, although no one had any problems with the Ukrainian handing the Brit with a much deserved slice of humble pie.
The problem now is where do the Klitschko’s go from here?
Between the two of them they have only fought one boxer who was truly great, Lennox Lewis, unless one was brave enough to throw David Haye into that category (which I am not.)
In comparison the names mentioned on the previous slides were the best of their golden generations. Ali defeated Frazier, Foreman and Cooper.
Louis defeated Max Schmeling and Billy Conn
Rocky Marciano defeated Joe Louis, Joe Walcott and Roland La Starza.
The Klitschkos do not have such an impressive collection of scalps.
It is likely that Vitali will at some point fight David Haye, which will be a box office hit. In reality the result is pre-determined. Vitali will destroy Haye because the British boxer is not a natural heavyweight.
As for Wladimir, the only fight that will draw a crowd as big as the one against Haye, will be a rematch against the "Hayemaker."
It will undoubtedly be a good money maker, but it is not going to force Dr. Steelhammers way into the all-time top-10 list.
Ian Walton/Getty Images
The brothers may not be competing in a golden age of heavyweight boxing, but they are still fighting for the same titles that their predecessors held.
Vitali currently holds the WBC belt, one of the four most prestigious titles in boxing. He has held it since his return to boxing on Oct. 11th, 2008, and at present, defended it six times. Prior to defeating Samuel Peter for the title Dr. Ironfist had been retired for four years.
Prior to his retirement, Vitali had defended the WBC title for two fights in 2004 and is a former holder of the WBO Heavyweight title, a belt he lost to Chris Byrd after becoming injured in their clash in 2000.
Wladimir boasts the more impressive belt haul, at present he is the WBA Super, WBO, IBO, IBF and Ring Magazine champion. All that stands between Dr. Steelhammer uniting all of the titles the Heavyweight division has to offer is his brother.
Wladimir has held the IBF and IBO titles since 2006, defending them 10 times. Alongside this accomplishment, he has defended the WBO title seven times since winning it in 2008.
Both brothers have been undeniably dominant champions, and these are important titles with a lot of history.
A picture is worth a thousand words, as demonstrated by Wladimir
Boxing is about more than two men trading blows in the middle of the ring, it is about charisma, stage presence and likeability of the athlete.
All of the great boxers of times by were more than just brawlers, they were fearless fighters in the ring and charming characters out of it.
Muhammad Ali stands as the stand out example of showmanship, his outspoken soliloquys in press conferences and confident demeanour around the ring make him a figure as inspiring to children today as he was to children 40 years ago.
Chris Eubank and Frank Bruno may not have been the greatest fighters of all time, but they are remembered today because of the show that they put on.
The Klitschko’s have the ability to be good showmen. Vitali’s fight against Lennox Lewis is a prime example of this. The problem is that other fighters in their division are not, meaning that most of their fights have been a little on the boring side.
The build up to Wladimir’s fight against David Haye however was hugely entertaining, and Dr. Steelhammer certainly played his role in it.
From the moment he called David Haye out to fight in 2010 a fierce war of words was exchanged between the two Heavyweights. At times Klitschko would say nothing, making his opponent look stupid for his loud mouthed tirades.
He offered to shake Haye’s hand, which the Brit refused to do, thus making Wladimir look like the better party. There is a charm that surrounds him that means he does not have to exclaim expletives to be entertaining.
The problem that both brothers face is that it is impossible for them to put together a string attention grabbing fights.
Technical Ability: Wladimir
Wladmir's weak chin is well known, but is nearly impossible to get to it
Scott Heavey/Getty Images
The two men have PHD’s in sport science making their knowledge of the sport second to none.
This is highlighted by the way they use brains over brawl to defend their weaknesses.
Wladimir for example has a weak chin, but in his 59 fights, he has seldom let an opponent take advantage of this frailty.
His formidable left jab is one of the best of all time, and he uses it to neutralise his one big weakness. To get to his chin, you have to find a way around that left fist.
As a result however his fighting style is particularly exciting, especially in comparison to the greats.
It is easy to cause problems for Wladimir, at least in theory. Applying persistent pressure and getting close to the Ukrainian to stop him using his reach could be enough to force a mistake from Dr. Steelhammer.
If you put Wladimir under consistent pressure, he can drop his defence and leave his body open to a big hit.
Boxers such as Ali, Foreman, Joe Louis and even Mike Tyson are all likely to defeat Wladimir because of their quick movement and ability to close in on a gap when one becomes available.
At the same time, competitors like Lennox Lewis or Larry Holmes could struggle against Wladimir given the similarities they share in fighting style.
Technical Ability: Vitali
Danny Williams discovered how hard Vitali's fists were, the hard way
Robert Laberge/Getty Images
Like his brother, Vitali possesses two monstrous fists, but unlike Wladimir his chin is not his main weakness.
It is not a lack of technical ability that is to account for Vitali’s two career defeats, it is the misfortune of suffering two injuries. His defeat to Byrd was truly unfortunate, he was comfortably ahead on points but had to throw in the towel due to a shoulder injury.
Similarly, misfortune struck against Lennox Lewis. Granted, the British boxer was able to penetrate through Klitschko’s defence with an uppercut, but it was a lucky blow in a fight that the Ukrainian was dominating.
The fact that Vitali has never been hit to the floor in his 42 bouts clearly shows there are no major hiccups in his boxing ability.
That being said, he has many of the same weaknesses that his brother does. His fighting style is perhaps the most simple and straight forward of any heavyweight champion in history,
If you can get close to his body and take advantage of his lack of speed it is possible to land a few blows on Dr. Ironfist's face.
That being said, in order to beat Vitali like this a boxer would need to have a strong chin and a lot of heart, because Dr. Ironfist will not go down easily.
Like his brother, Vitali would be vulnerable against the likes of Ali, George Foreman and Joe Louis. Their pace and ability to weather big punches is likely to cause too many problems for the Ukrainian.
That being said, Vitali has shown he is able to trade blows with the likes of Lennox Lewis, a boxer that lacks pace but is able to punch incredibly hard. Vitali can take a punch, it is pace he struggles against.
So, Where Do the Two Brothers Rank?
Getty Images/Getty Images
Unfortunately the fact that the two brothers have not faced enough world class boxers means that it is impossible to put them in the top 10.
It is entirely possible that the Klitschkos could defeat anyone on this list, but through no fault of their own, they have not faced enough world class opposition to warrant a place in this list.
1) Rocky Marciano
2) Joe Louis
3) Muhammad Ali
4) Jack Dempsey
5) Mike Tyson
6) Larry Holmes
7) Gene Tunney
8) George Foreman
9) Jack Johnson
10) Joe Frazier
It would be reasonable to view the brothers in a similar light to Floyd Patterson, Max Schleming and Joe Walcott. Perhaps good enough to make a top 25 list but by no means top-10 fighters.
Although it is not their fault that they have not faced enough top quality opposition, there will always be an aura of mixed feelings that surround the dynamic duo's respective legacies.
What Do You Think?
I'm curious to know what you think, so please, feel free to engage with me!
Are the Klitschko's overrated?
Are they underrated?
Should they be regarded as all-time greats?