It took “three days of suffering, like a dog in pain” before Wladimir Klitschko recovered and regrouped after Tyson Fury had snatched away his WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO titles and proud standing as the heavyweight champion of the world.
Watching a replay of last November’s fight he cannot fathom it, cannot believe that the man being upset by the unfancied Briton in a unanimous points decision was really him.
Until that date in Dusseldorf, Klitschko was unbeaten in 22 fights over 11 years and making a 23rd consecutive defence of combined titles. Only Joe Louis has made more defences with 25.
“I was watching it one time and I didn’t see Klitschko there,” says the Ukrainian. “I’m like ‘excuse me, can you throw a punch?’
“I was absent. My body was in the ring, but I was not present. I started to get into the fight in the 12th and final round, but it was too late.
“It was just embarrassing. I was watching this fight and it was like ‘c’mon dude, why are you not letting the hands go?’.
“They are made out of steel. If you just touch his head not the chin, just the head, he’s going to go down, no doubt. Just throw – and I couldn’t believe he, or I, didn’t.
“I was suffering for three days after it – and that’s it, I cannot suffer longer. I give the time for suffering and life moves on. You shake it off and keep going.”
Time is often a great healer, and Klitschko now feels ready to become a three-time champion, emulating brother Vitali as well as the legendary Muhammad Ali and Lennox Lewis when he meets Fury in a rematch for the WBO, WBA and IBO titles at the Manchester Arena on July 9.
He also wants to restore the faith of boxing fans in the sport he loves – and rid them of a controversial character he does not accept is worthy of the title, nor a role model.
The pair fronted up on Wednesday at a press conference for the second bout, trading insults and expletives, with Fury stripping off and mocking his 40-year-old foe for being unable to beat a “fat man”.
But Klitschko knows what people think of the trash-talking Fury’s antics, including the British public.
Having been a guest of Manchester City at their Champions League semi-final first-leg tie with Real Madrid on Tuesday in chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak’s suite, Klitschko reveals: “I’m on a mission because I’ve met so many British fans and even at the soccer game so many guys came over to me and said, ‘I’m British too and he’s my countryman, but please knock him out’.
“Honestly, I’m embarrassed for myself for making a mistake and losing the [first] fight and I’m embarrassed by Tyson Fury because he’s not the heavyweight champion I can look up to and be proud of him. The statements he has made are embarrassing.
“He has another big stage now and whatever nonsense or stupidity that comes out of his mouth, is just embarrassing to me.
“From now on, I’m finally happy about having my revenge against Tyson Fury. I’m not even calling it a rematch.”
Klitschko, with 64 wins and four defeats as a professional since he beat Italian Fabian Meza in 1996, is keen to set the record straight.
Having struggled against Fury, he plans to make changes to his style and be more aggressive with his tactics as he adds: “You have to see it. There is not going to be any repetition. I am not going to stand there. I will knock him out.”
There is no doubt the defeat has fired up Klitschko and fuelled his desire for more success.
For so long he was the dominant force in heavyweight boxing. But he admits “people got bored” and perhaps left him in a comfort zone.
Now, with Deontay Wilder and another Briton, Anthony Joshua, holding the WBC and IBF belts, things are different as he says: “I feel lighter [without the titles], I feel better.
“The pressure is not there anymore. I was doing the whole job, unifying [the division]. But there is a different pressure now that makes me not stand still, but move forward.
“It was never a thought [to quit], because, knock on wood, I’ve been doing this sport professionally for 20 years, altogether 26 years, and I cannot complain about my health and I’m still capable and able to compete.
“There were discussions, ‘do you really need it? Are you sure you want this rematch?’ But I feel great. I don’t feel my age and think age is just a number.
“I’ve been successful for a very long time and I’ve definitely developed certain skills and thoughts and attitude of defending my titles.
“I’ve been asked are you going to break Joe Louis’s record [of defences], how does that make you feel?
“I was always not going to give any thoughts on that, but you know sometimes even a drop of water, or many drops of water, can destroy a stone. I made a mistake, I lost, my attitude has changed and now I’m the challenger.
“With the loss, there is a lot of buzz in the air. Before it was boring. Come on, you see the same guys with the Spanish soccer team, unbeatable, and there was Michael Schumacher who was winning Formula One races all the time, and when you have someone constantly dominating, it’s getting boring.
“It doesn’t matter how well he is doing it, it’s like ‘OK, what’s new?’
“The slogan of my camp is ‘failure is not an option’ – until it is the only option. In this case I think it’s a good option to get new blood in the division and get more excitement. Whatever happened it happened for a reason, for a good reason.”
When he does eventually finish, Klitschko wants to go out on a high, not remembered for being out-boxed and out-thought by Fury in front of his own fans in Germany.
“In a certain way, my legacy is out there, but I can make it nicer,” he says with a smile.
“I’m not looking back, I’m not looking down, I’m looking forward. I’m not afraid, I know the risks.
“And you know what, I love where I am now. I’ve been called a former champion of the world, which buzzed in my ear, but I’m enjoying it because it’s challenging.
“I’m definitely looking forward to this rematch and there are going to be a lot of different things happening, especially the result of the fight is going to be different – and the champion is going to be different.”