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.”
The Briton defeated the then WBA, IBF and WBO champion on a unanimous points decision in Dusseldorf last year – in a result deemed as a huge upset.
Ukranian Klitschko has since admitted he made mistakes in the fight but is ready to take to the ring again.
Big shout to all my fans.❤️❤️❤️???? fury fans are real boxing fans,— Gypsy King (@Tyson_Fury) April 27, 2016
Two things are abundantly clear when analysing Gennady Golovkin’s effect on the United States and its boxing culture.
Firstly, the man from Kazakhstan is one hell of a fighter, someone whose desperation to excite brings the crowds flocking and keeps them firmly positioned on the edge of their seats. Secondly, there is now absolutely no doubt that this son of a coal miner who was raised on the dangerous, violence-filled streets of Kazakhstan has firmly broken into the American market and is threatening to elevate his status even further.
With Floyd Mayweather relaxing in his mansion and Manny Pacquiao gearing up for parliament, there is a void when it comes to a truly marketable, top-class boxing hero . One which appeals to all.
If the reception here in Los Angeles on Saturday night was anything to go by, Golovkin’s time is certainly now. His emphatic win over Dominic Wade brought a capacity 16,000 crowd to their feet.
This guy shifts tickets – in his last fight in October against David Lemiuex, Madison Square Garden was packed. Considering it was a European versus a Canadian, filling the grand old arena (the show was also his first HBO pay-per-view) really was an impressive feat.
They say styles make fights. Yet styles also make money. And in Golovkin’s case, a lot of capital has already been pocketed. The 34-year-old recently became only the third boxer to sign with Nike’s Air Jordan brand, another route in the mainstream initially facilitated by his appearance in a TV advert for the Apple watch last year and his brilliance in the ring.
It's over! Gennady Golovkin knocks out Dominic Wade in the 2nd round. Golovkin stays undefeated, improving to 35-0. pic.twitter.com/ulp6zIAfbM— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 24, 2016
Undoubtedly, Golovkin’s all-action displays have set the foundations and turned him into a marketing man’s dream. Now though, the ultimate test is being sought.
The WBC have instructed the winner of Canelo Alvarez and Amir Khan must meet the Kazakh. The prospect of Golovkin v Alvarez – Khan has already been written off in the US– is being trumpeted as the mega fight of 2016.
Whether it happens is another entire matter. There are doubts as to whether Canelo will place his reputation and risk a financial hammer blow against an opponent who could cause him serious damage. No matter. Golovkin would happily travel to London and rip Billy Joe Saunders’ WBO belt from his grasp, thereby completing his dream of unifying the division.
Manager Tom Loeffler, of K2 promotions, must thank his lucky stars to have a client who’s open to everything.
“Gennady understands the importance of promoting his image, “ he told Sport 360. “It’s a universal style – when we have been to China, England, Monte Carlo – everyone loves a knock-out. Maybe more in the US when you had the whole Tyson effect when he was knocking everyone down, every time Gennady enters the ring, people are expecting the same.
“When I have a suggestion, they are always up for it. He’s becoming very popular in Korea – his grandfather was born there, was on the cover of the biggest Korean magazine in the US and now their TV companies have picked up on it.
“He went to the Golden Globes and the Emmys and was on the red carpet. It’s not just about exposing him to sports fans, it’s about exposing him to people who would appreciate his style outside of the ring. That’s why these global brands are interested.”
Naturally, Golovkin is Kazakhstan’s proudest sporting export. Yet, interestingly, there was an initial anger from some at seeing their favourite son make hay Stateside.
“People say to me ‘hey G, why you go to America? Why you not stay and fight here,” said Golovkin.
“Kazakhstan was part of the Soviet Union for a long time so all they knew was amateur sports and the importance of winning gold medals at the Olympic games, “ explained Loeffler. “They didn’t understand the magnitude of what was possible if he was to turn pro. I think they understand that now.“
With everything in place, that super-fight must be sorted but one problem may remain when it comes to finding the best opponents: Is GGG simply too good?