Vitali Klitschko will be remembered as one of history’s best, and most underrated, heavyweight champions

Kevin Iole
Boxing Experts Blog

We probably have seen the last of Vitali Klitschko inside of a boxing ring, and that's a very sad piece of news. Despite the lack of appreciation for how exceptional he has been, Klitschko walks away from boxing and into a race for the presidency of the Ukraine as unquestionably one of the best heavyweights who ever lived.

Klitschko did not announce his retirement on Monday, when his management company announced that he would not fight until at least after the Ukraine elections in 2015.

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Klitschko hasn't fought in over a year, since stopping Manuel Charr in the third round on Sept. 8, 2012. He'll be 44 on July 19, 2015, and with three years away, it's hard to imagine him coming back in the event he loses the election. If he wins and becomes president, it would of course spell the end of his career.

Klitschko is 45-2 with 41 knockouts. He has been more dominant even, than that record shows.

In his four bouts that went to decision, Klitschko defeated Dereck Chisora, Shannon Briggs, Kevin Johnson and Timo Hoffman. With three judges scoring those fights, Klitschko came ahead on the cards in 137 of the 144 scored rounds. That means he won 95.1 percent of the scored rounds in those matches.

In the two bouts, he lost, to Lennox Lewis and Chris Byrd, he was ahead on both cards at the time of the stoppages. He needed shoulder reconstruction surgery following his loss to Byrd in 2000, when he quit on the stool after the ninth round. But the judges had given Klitschko seven, eight and seven of the nine rounds they each scored in that.

In the Lewis fight in 2003, Klitschko was stopped by a horrendous cut. However, Klitschko had won four of the six rounds at the point the bout was stopped.

He was exceptionally dominant in his time. And while some critics attribute that solely to his size, there are plenty of fighters who are 6 feet 7, as Klitschko is, who weren't remotely as successful. He was a magnificent fighter who had boxing skills as well as power. He had a dominant jab and was one of the game's great finishers.

He is missing three opponents on his resume -- He never fought Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield or Riddick Bowe -- and that is unquestionably a void.

Klitschko would have held up in any era and has to be regarded as one of the greatest heavyweights ever.

My list of the greatest heavyweights who ever lived includes Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Larry Holmes, Lewis and George Foreman. Klitschko's size and power likely would have led him to victory against Louis. He would have been competitive with Ali, though Ali's speed would have given him issues. Bouts with Holmes and Foreman, particularly Foreman, would have been epic.

Though he doesn't get this kind of respect, he belongs somewhere in the all-time top 10 of heavyweights and is an easy choice for selection into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

He's on to far more important tasks now -- He's fighting for human rights in Ukraine -- but his absence leaves a huge void in boxing.

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