Wladimir Klitschko: Power Ranking His 5 Best Fights of All Time

Alex French@alex_frenchCorrespondent IJune 30, 2011

Wladimir Klitschko: Power Ranking His 5 Best Fights of All Time

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    Not many professional athletes have enjoyed the long career that Wladimir Klitschko has endured, especially in the sport of boxing.

    Klitschko's next fight, on July 2 vs. challenger David Haye, will be the 59th fight of his career. He boasts a 55-3 overall record, with 49 wins via knockout.

    A majority of his opponents have fallen beneath the grace of his fists, but a number of Klitschko's fights stick out from the rest.

    Let's step inside the ring and take a closer look.

5. Klitschko vs. Fabian Meza

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    In Klitschko's professional debut, he squared off against Mexican fighter Fabian Meza in Hamburg, Germany, on Nov. 11, 1996. 

    In a short fight that ended in the first round by knockout, the young Ukrainian dominated from the first bell as he dazzled his opponent with numerous combinations of left jabs and right crosses.

    No title belts were on the line, and there was little to no pre-fight hype.  This was just the blossoming of a strong boxing career to follow.

    What better way to start your professional life than with a first-round KO?

4. Klitschko vs. Marcus McIntyre

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    Sixteen fights after his professional debut, Klitschko squared off against American Marcus McIntyre on Valentine's Day in 1998.

    That day in Stuttgart, Germany, wasn't the sweetest of days for McIntyre, as he got beat into a bloody pulp by the relentless left-handed jab of his opponent.

    The bout saw Klitschko claim the then-vacant WBC International Heavyweight title—the first of his career.

3. Klitschko vs. Chris Byrd 1

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    Fresh off a victory over Wladimir's older brother Vitali, Chris Byrd stepped into the ring on Oct. 14, 2000, to defend his WBO title belt.

    Vitali Klitschko had just lost his crown to Byrd five months earlier after being forced to throw in the towel due to a shoulder injury.

    Younger brother Wladimir had this fight to avenge both his brother and the family name, and did so in elegant style.

    The fight lasted its full duration of 12 Rounds, but both in the ring and on the scorecard it was clearly one-sided.

    Klitschko knocked his opponent to the canvas twice, in the ninth and 11th rounds, to tally a final score of 120-106, 119-107 and 118-108.

    Byrd left the ring with a swollen-shut right eye, half-open left eye and a lesson not to cross the Klitschko brothers.

2. Klitschko vs. Derrick Jefferson

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    A fighter's credibility isn't measured by how the he won the title, it's how he defends it.

    Klitschko faced an impressive Derrick Jefferson in his first title defense.  The hard-hitting Jefferson was 24-2 going into the title bout, with 20 wins by knockout.

    In what seemed like a good match-up on paper, the 6'6", 250 pound Jefferson stood no chance once he entered the ring. 

    Showing a great deal of patience in the early going, Klitschko countered his opponent's quick-start with a right cross that knocked down Jefferson in the first round.

    He then was dropped in the next round, as Klitschko's strong right cross to the jaw with 1:24 remaining in the second round ended the bout. 

1. Klitschko vs. Chris Byrd 2

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    Timing is crucial in sports, more so in boxing than any other.

    The arguably best fight of Klitschko's career came at a time when two devastating knockouts in his previous seven fights had damaged his reputation amongst prime-time contenders.

    Labeled as a "glass chinned-pretender", Klitschko came out with nothing to lose and everything, including the IBO and IBF heavyweight titles, to gain.

    In the second going of the Klitschko vs. Byrd match-up, it was the challenger who was victorious. 

    Byrd was sent to the canvas two times in the seven-round fight, with the referee calling the match and Klitschko victorious by TKO.   

    Ever since then, Klitschko has retained both titles he took from Byrd, and added a WBO crown to boot. 

    This fight may have been the turning point and resurrection of the Ukrainian's career, and he hasn't looked back since.