Kevin Garside: While brother Vitali pursues the presidency of Ukraine, Wladimir Klitschko reveals himself again as boxing’s greatest ambassador

The Way I See It: Klitschko’s misfortune has been to campaign in an era when boxing lost its allure

The line of the week came from Wladimir Klitschko, delivered in style while having his hands taped before a sparring session at his Florida training base.

Into the gym blustered Shannon Briggs delivering that tired old boxing cliché, the callout. Briggs, who has not fought for four years since being swatted aside by Klitschko’s brother, Vitali, wanted it known that he was back, and that he was coming for Wladimir.

The absence of a notable past from which to return did not seem to trouble Briggs, a minor mauler in historic terms, who failed at his “peak” to shine in arguably the least threatening epoch the heavyweight division has known.

“Let’s do it now,” Briggs urged, removing his shirt to reveal, at the age of 42, an impressively ripped torso. The Briggs advance on Klitschko was intercepted by a cluster of gym staff, who redirected the loose cannon towards the exit. Briggs managed to let go a shoe in the vague direction of Klitschko, who barely looked up during the fracas, never mind move. “Step outside,” screamed Briggs as he was bundled out of the door. “I’m coming,” said Klitschko, “just give me 45 minutes.”

It has been Klitschko’s great misfortune to campaign in an era during which boxing lost its back-page allure. The main event goes on but is no longer a staple of mainstream sport. The retreat to the margins has coincided with the decline of the great American heavyweight. The latter phenomenon is, indeed, a major contributor to the former.

For years American promoters and broadcasters sought a white heavyweight to contest the hegemony of black supremacy in the ring. When he finally pitched up in the shape of the Klitschko brothers, the black athlete had already turned his back on boxing.

Pity. Not only has Klitschko been denied a rival against whom to test his imperious credentials, the sport has lost an opportunity to showcase a fighter who might just be its greatest ambassador as well as a hall-of-famer.

Klitschko is preparing to undertake, in Germany a month from now, the 16th defence of a WBO title he has held since 2006, the second-longest reign in the history of the division and the third-longest in boxing. Alex Leapai is a game opponent but nothing more. Four weeks after that Klitschko’s countryfolk in Ukraine go to the polls to vote in a presidential election in which his brother stands as a candidate.

When Klitschko left Kiev on 11 February to begin his training camp there was no sense of the scale of the upheaval that was about to erupt. His engagement with the process is not as visceral as Vitali’s but he is just as committed to the cause and has sought the association and support of powerful figures in the United States, including former president Bill Clinton, as Ukraine seeks an end to the Soviet-style politics of corruption and coercion.

His obvious passion for and articulate defence of the Kiev spring, delivered fluently in half a dozen languages, shames the puerile postering of Briggs, and for that matter our own Tyson Fury, who continued his boorish contribution to boxing theatre by tipping over a table in Manchester on the same day “The Cannon” went off in Florida. Affronted by the late arrival of Dereck Chisora and his soporific attitude at the top table, Fury rose to his feet to address the audience in his now familiar conference style: “Listen, I’m Tyson Fury, I’m the best heavyweight on the planet, this idiot is getting knocked spark out and I’m sick to death of this.”

Set that against Klitschko’s broader concerns and appreciation of global events and immediately Fury and Briggs are reduced to pantomime dullards. Neither can hold a candle to Klitschko in terms of boxing ability, intellect, athleticism, speed or deportment.

The truth of that might be demonstrated soon enough in Fury’s case. The July bout with Chisora in Manchester entitles the winner to challenge for Klitschko’s WBO, WBA and IBF belts.

Fury has already beaten Chisora, a rum slugger whose limits were exposed two summers ago by David Haye in the appositely rudimentary setting of Upton Park. Though neither is world class in the historic sense, Fury’s greater range ought to be enough to earn his passage to the big show that he so craves.

That is when delusion passes through the reality mincer. Klitschko’s dismantling of Haye, a gifted fighter who lacked only the physical dimensions to compete on equal terms when the pair met in Hamburg, presages doom for Fury’s inflated ego.

The correction can’t come soon enough. Fury’s tiresome badinage, the endless confusion of bombast with substance has run its course.

A lesson in humility as well as boxing awaits, perchance in Kiev, with President Vitali looking on.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings Administrator

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Purpose of Role: To co-ordinate maintena...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - Commercial Training

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The business development manage...

The Richmond Fellowship Scotland: Executive Director

£66,192 per annum including car allowance of £5,700): The Richmond Fellowship ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent