Photos and report by Boxing Bob Newman
In a no-holds barred, one-on-one conversation, WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko spoke to Fightnews.com about a possible fight with Shannon Briggs (it’s not a done deal), David Haye’s reluctance to fight after calling out the Klitschkos, Nikolai Valuev’s purse demands and HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg’s bizarre anti-Klitschko stance.
Vitali, welcome to Cardiff, Wales. How are you finding your time here?
This is actually my second time in Cardiff. It’s a very historical city, very nice people. This is a very great event, the WBC Night of Champions. I’m very happy to be here and take part in this event.
Last night after the amateur boxing event, you spent some time with troubled youths through the World Boxing Cares organization. Jill Diamond said the kids were so excited to meet you. How did that make you feel?
It’s great to spend time with the young kids. They have a dream. What the WBC did, putting all the champions together in Cardiff is a big motivation for young sportsmen to reach big goals. To have a dream to be world champion, not just in amateur sports, but the same as Muhammad Ali in professional sports.
Tonight there will be an awards banquet at which you’ll be receiving an award. What can you tell us about that?
I know it will be “Champion of the Year,” it’ll be the second time. I’m very proud of that and the attention that I receive from the WBC.
There is a contract for you to fight Shannon Briggs in October. You reclaimed the title back in October of 2008. If everything goes to plan with this fight, that will be your sixth fight in exactly two years, a pretty active pace for a heavyweight champion these days. Are you happy with that average of fighting every four months?
You know what? We don’t have a contract with Shannon Briggs. We have negotiations. We’re in a negotiation period. Shannon Briggs… it’s possible that I fight him, but it’s not 100%. But anyway, I’m ready to fight any fighter in the world. I’m open for a proposal from anyone. We gave a proposal to Adamek- Adamek doesn’t want to fight. We gave a proposal to David Haye- David Haye kept his mouth closed. He doesn’t speak any more about that. Valuev wants to fight, but he wants money. World sports title is not interesting for him. I’m open to defend my title against anyone and show everyone that I’m the strongest in the world. I’m very proud to have the same title that Muhammad Ali had many years ago. I will try to keep this title as long as possible. About the breaks…I had a long line of injuries, but the break for three years made me better, and now I have a lot of power and show good results. That’s why I’ve been so active these last two years. I feel great. I feel like I’m twenty years old! Sometimes I forget I’m almost forty years old! (laughs)
Since you’ve come back, you haven’t seemed to have a tough time with any of your opponents. I know you don’t want to discredit any of your opponents, but you’ve been able to do as you wanted with them. Are you looking forward to having a tougher challenge from your next opponent?
Nothing is easy in life. Every opponent was a very tough guy. They try to hit me, try to beat me, but right now, I don’t see anybody who can beat me. There is just one person- Me! I can beat me by myself!
Do you feel the difference has been your skill level and training has been so much better than your opponents?
I have my boxing skills. That is the main point. Not just in boxing, but in life- I have a lot of experience. I have a lot of experience in boxing and I use my experience in the fight.
Recently Ross Greenburg of HBO has said that HBO is out of the heavyweight business- either due in part to the fact that you and your brother are mostly fighting in Europe, or the fights are against opponents American fans haven’t heard of, or the fans can’t tell you and Wladimir apart. What are yo thought in Greenburg’s comments?
(Big smirk) If I read these comments from Ross Greenburg, I smile because it’s not easy to give the answer. (Asking incredulously) Nobody knows who Vitali is, or who Wladimir is? Boxing fans can’t tell the difference between the brothers and that’s why HBO doesn’t broadcast the fights? (Shaking his head). All around the world people know who Wladimir is, and who Vitali is. We fill stadiums with 50-60,000 people. We have great (viewership) on German television. After that, the next excuse is- Klitschkos are fighting not so good opponents. We’re ready to fight anyone. Just challenge us. If HBO…actually, I am very disappointed. We live for the media. The media connects us to our fans and our fans want to see the fights. First of all, Ross Greenburg said Wladimir’s fight against Povetkin would be broadcast on HBO. After that he changed his mind. HBO is very important to us and we want to stay attached to the boxing audience in the United States. You know what? If the United States doesn’t play in soccer world championship, it means it will not be broadcast in the United States. If the United States doesn’t take part in the Olympics, it doesn’t get broadcast in the United States. This is the heavyweight division. These are very interesting fights. I’m very proud to have the highest rating in the history of knockouts (as heavyweight champion). Every fight, I stop my opponent. The boxing audience wants to see that and assume HBO will broadcast it. If HBO doesn’t want to do that, we will work with another network in America.
Regardless, are you happy with the way the careers of you and Wladimir are going?
We’ll still go forward. We have a dream: to be the only brothers to hold all the heavyweight championships. Right now, we have three of the four belts. We have a dream to take the last one that David Haye has. But to be honest, David Haye is smart enough to understand that he has a title. He’ll have it a long time if he doesn’t meet a Klitschko brother in side the ring. It’s a big risk for him. That’s why he challenges us, but he runs away from me or from Wladimir.
In order to achieve that dream, do yo think the Klitschkos will do what every it takes, financial or otherwise, to get Haye in the ring to have the chance to get that elusive fourth belt?
We gave a very fair proposal: 50-50. We split the money 50-50. We’re two world champions. Everyone wants to see a unification fight. One champion against another champion. Who is the strongest in the world? Is David Haye? Be honest! I feel that all boxing fans know- David Haye is afraid. Just afraid…not to fight, but to lose his title!
As far as Valuev goes- you’ve both traded videos back and forth- you claiming he’s afraid, his claiming he’s not afraid. Do you really believe that, or do you feel it’s more a financial issue, especially with Don King involved?
Don King doesn’t want it. Or Valuev doesn’t want it. I gave Valuev a chance to fight for $1,500,000 U.S. dollars and for the most prestigious title in the world. That’s the biggest money that he’ll make in his career. He doesn’t want it. He wants more money and explains about T.V. rights, and this and that. I, as world champion, have to come to him and asked him, “Please fight against me.” It’s funny. Never in the history of the world has a champion had to come to challenger to ask him to fight for the title.
Well Vitali, thanks for talking to Fightnews.com and good luck against whoever your next opponent is in October.
I will give my very best to show a good performance. I am sure the American audience will see the fight. This will be a very emotional and dramatic fight. I will give my best to knock my opponent out and send him to the floor. That’s what boxing fans want to see!
After the interview, Klitschko took his place among the gathered champions on stage at City Hall where a luncheon was being served. Several group photos were snapped and after all the hubbub waned, there were Klitschko and Shannon Briggs- face-to-face. They shook hands, posed for a few snapshots and chatted. Briggs told Klitschko, “Whether or not we fight, I want to play you in chess.” Vitali responded with raised eyebrows, “Oh, how long have you been playing chess?” Briggs proudly replied, “Twenty seven years. I’m thirty-eight-years-old, so since I was eleven!” To that the two shook hands and gave fans another potential heavyweight battle: the heavyweight championship of chess!