Coming off of what may be remembered as the greatest fight of his career, Wladimir Klitschko has announced his retirement from boxing at age 41, foregoing a potential big money rematch in Las Vegas with Anthony Joshua.
Klitschko, who retires with a record of 64-5 (53 KO), said simply that he’s achieved all he can in the sport:
"I have achieved everything I dreamed of, and now I want to start my second career after sports," said Klitschko. "I would have never imagined that I would have such a long and incredibly successful boxing career.”
I’ve long believed that Klitschko, like Larry Holmes before him, is a champion whose career will age well, and he’ll go down as an all-time great. I believed this even while arguing that he was, at times, a boring fighter, in terms of entertainment value.
And while you can easily quibble with the competition available in the heavyweight division during the years he dominated, the fact is he did dominate, and was a skilled, intelligent fighter who learned from early setbacks how to maximize his potential.
The younger of the two fighting Klitschkos, Wladimir owned the heavyweight division between his 2006 title win over Chris Byrd, and his 2015 loss to Tyson Fury. His career comes to a close with back-to-back defeats against younger, legitimate fighters, but it’s hardly any stain on his legacy. He could easily have retired a few years ago, saying the same things he is now.
And in his final fight, he delivered an instant heavyweight classic with Joshua, still my pick for 2017 Fight of the Year at this point, a slugfest that mixed great action and amazing atmosphere in front of a record-breaking crowd at Wembley Stadium.
How will you remember Klitschko in the years to come, now that his career is over?