Klitschko the Duelling Doctor Has a Mandate to Fight for Democracy; BOXINGClose Shave but Danny's Muslim Beard Is Cleared

Daily Mail (London), December 9, 2004 | Go to article overview

Klitschko the Duelling Doctor Has a Mandate to Fight for Democracy; BOXINGClose Shave but Danny's Muslim Beard Is Cleared


Byline: JEFF POWELL

DR Vitali Klitschko, a professor in sports science and philosophy, the only heavyweight ever to hold a PhD as well as the world title, is not your usual wearer of boxing's richest crown.

That much is clear when he approaches Saturday's assignation with Londoner Danny Williams, the slayer of Mike Tyson, saying: 'Ukraine is a very important geopolitical location.' Not exactly typical pre-fight rhetoric, but Klitschko is battling as much for democracy in his homeland as for global supremacy over the hardest game.

So concerned is he about the political upheaval in Ukraine that he almost pulled out of this fight to join his brother Wladimir among the tens of thousands of supporters of opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko thronging the streets of Kiev.

Eventually, he was persuaded that his position as world champion added greater weight to his political opinion. So he has stayed in Las Vegas, talking as much about the countdown to a new presidential poll as his intended pole-axeing of Williams.

The juxtaposition of his thoughts makes for fascinating, if at times confusing, listening.

' Ukraine is my country, my family, my friends and my future,' says a man who has now made a home for his wife and son in Los Angeles.

'While we will always work with our Russian neighbours, it is important now that we take our independence forward in the democratic way. But boxing is my job and it is this which gives my brother and I our popularity back home and with it the platform to express the kind of opinions which used not to be allowed in Ukraine.

'So while I am a sportsman, not a politician, it is important that I send out a message by retaining the WBC title, which I am happy for people to say is the belt which makes me the real champion of the world.' Whether his preoccupation with the political struggle is a distraction for Klitschko the fighter or a powerful form of additional motivation, Williams will not discover for certain until after the first bell tolls in the Mandalay Bay Arena.

But with half his mind on revolutionary affairs of state, the towering Ukrainian pays no more than scant heed to the barbed questions with which Williams and his trainer, Jim McDonnell, have been trying to puncture his confidence.

Aren't you an ugly, robotic boxer?

'I agree with that. But be careful.

While my style is not attractive, it is very effective.' What about the positive steroids test which put you out of the Atlanta Olympics?

'This was a mistake by my doctor, not me. I have never used drugs in my career. You only know what happened in 1996 because I spoke about it openly and honestly in my autobiography. If you want to know the facts, I suggest you buy the book.' But doesn't losing your WBO title to Chris Byrd by quitting on your stool make you a bottler?

'Some doubted my courage even though my shoulder had been torn out for several rounds and further damage could have ended my career. But the fight with Lennox Lewis changed that opinion.

'I was ahead after six rounds and I would have taken this bigger title that night but for the cuts around my eye. No- one who saw those horrible injuries and all the blood could believe I wanted to carry on.

But I did. The cuts were terrible and when I looked in the mirror, back in the dressing room, I knew they would leave their marks on my face for life. …

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