Klitschko brothers

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Wladimir (left) and Vitali (right) with every title in the heavyweight division, which they held from 2 July 2011 to 15 December 2013

Vitali Klitschko (born 19 July 1971) and Wladimir Klitschko (born 25 March 1976), known as the Klitschko Brothers, are Ukrainian former professional boxers. During their peak years between 2004 and 2015, they were considered the dominant world heavyweight champions of their era, and among the most successful champions in boxing history.[1][2] In 2011, they entered the Guinness World Records book as the pair of brothers with most world heavyweight title fight wins (30 at the time; 40 as of 2020).[3][4] In the years following the retirement of undisputed heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis in 2004, the Klitschko brothers would eventually accumulate all four major world heavyweight titles.[2][5] Known for their exceptionally large physiques and technical boxing styles, they each developed a style that utilized their athleticism and arm reach to break down opponents.[6][7]

Older brother Vitali retired from boxing in 2013, relinquishing the WBC world title, and became a politician in his native Ukraine.[8] Wladimir continued to successfully defend the WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, IBO, and The Ring magazine titles until he was defeated by Tyson Fury in 2015.[9]

Both brothers hold doctorates in sports science and speak multiple languages.[10][11]


Brothers Wladimir (left) and Vitali (right) Klitschko

Both brothers made their professional debuts on November 16, 1996 in Hamburg. Since then, both have been world heavyweight boxing champions. They promised their mother that they would never fight each other.[12]

1996 Olympics[edit]

As an amateur, Wladimir Klitschko represented Ukraine at the 1996 Olympics, winning a gold medal in the super-heavyweight division.[13] In 1996, when still an amateur, Vitali Klitschko tested positive for a banned substance and was removed from the Ukrainian boxing team.[14]

1999–2003: First world title reigns and defenses[edit]

In June 1999, Vitali Klitschko won the WBO Heavyweight title from Herbie Hide via second-round knockout. He successfully defended the title twice before losing it to Chris Byrd. Six months later, younger brother Wladimir dethroned Byrd via lopsided points decision. He registered five successful title defenses, all by TKO until suffering an upset TKO loss to Corrie Sanders in March 2003. Vitali Klitschko lost his fight with Lennox Lewis in his attempt to win the WBC, IBO, The Ring and lineal heavyweight championships.

2004–2006: Second world title reigns and Vitali's first retirement[edit]

Vitali faced South African Corrie Sanders on 24 April 2004 for the WBC heavyweight championship and The Ring belts that had been vacated by Lewis. Vitali won by 8th round stoppage, he defended his titles just once, stopping Danny Williams in the 8th round before retiring in late 2005 due to injuries. Wladimir bounced back from a stoppage loss in a prior vacant title attempt, to dethrone Byrd for a second time for his IBF title in April 2006, this time by stoppage in the 7th round.

2008–2012: Heavyweight title co-dominance, Vitali's final retirement[edit]

After a series of injuries, Vitali had a career break of almost four years. In his comeback fight in Berlin on October 11, 2008 he defeated Samuel Peter to regain the title of WBC world heavyweight champion. At that time Wladimir was already world heavyweight champion with the WBO, IBF and IBO. That was the first time in history with two brothers world champions at the same time.[15][16] On July 2, 2011, Wladimir won the WBA Title, which means that the Klitschko brothers held all of the World Heavyweight Titles simultaneously for 2 years, 5 months & 13 days. Vitali retained the WBC Heavyweight Championship until 15 December 2013, relinquishing his belt in pursuit of his political aspirations in his native Ukraine.

The Klitschko brothers jointly run the professional boxing promotion companies "K2 Promotions" and "K2 East Promotions", as well as the "Klitschko Brothers Fund", a charity organization. They appear together on German TV shows and commercials, have a website shared between them, and support each other's training and fights.

2013–2015: Wladimir dominance[edit]

After Vitali's retirement, Wladimir continued to reign as champion & successfully defend all remaining title belts except for the WBC belt. He eventually lost all the belts by unanimous decision to Tyson Fury. The brothers have a combined professional boxing record of 109 wins (94 KO's) and 7 defeats, including 46 world title fights.

Reception and legacy[edit]

"It's a major key in their success...And not just their size, but the way they use it. They're talented big guys. You can get a guy who is 6-10 with the longest reach in the world. If he doesn't know how to use that advantage, it won't do him any good."

Chris Byrd praises the style of the Klitschko brothers.[17]

Both Klitschko brothers are considered the best heavyweight boxers of their era.[18] Having remained undefeated for a large majority of their careers and refusing to fight each other, both brothers remained largely unchallenged throughout their careers. Notably, both brothers were particularly well known for using their large size to nullify other heavyweights, particularly Wladimir, who became notorious for his use of the jab.[19]

"Wladimir hits very hard, harder than (Mike) Tyson...At one point, they ran 12 800-meter [roughly a half mile] sprints, each under 3 minutes, with a minute rest between each one...I timed every one and every one was under 3 minutes. I never saw a heavyweight do anything even close to that. They work their asses off. To be able to do that, two 250-pound guys – whew. They're two of the best athletes I've ever trained.”

Freddie Roach, who trained both the Klitschko brothers and Mike Tyson, on the athleticism of the brothers.[17]

Vitali Klitschko[edit]

Having never been knocked down, Vitali Klitschko is widely regarded as the tougher fighter of the two. In fact, Vitali is the only heavyweight world champion to have never been knocked down in any fight, and alongside George Foreman he is the only heavyweight boxer in history to defend a world title after turning 40. Furthermore, his 87% knockout percentage is one of the best knockout-to-fight ratios of any champion in heavyweight boxing history.[20] Vitali was also known for being unusually dominant in his fights, having almost never lost a round in his professional career as a boxer.[21]

During his time as WBC champion, Vitali Klitschko was described as being the best of his time, and George Foreman stated that he has the best straight left in the division.[22]

Wladimir Klitschko[edit]

As heavyweight champion, Wladimir was unbeaten for over a decade. Wladimir Klitschko is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time, and amongst the hardest punching knockout artists in history. He has been heavily praised for his fundamental approach to boxing, during which he nullifies opponents with his jab, before knocking opponents out with a straight right. His reign as champion is second only to the reign of Joe Louis.[23] While not as durable as Vitali, his knowledge of the fundamentals and athleticism gave him considerable advantage over other heavyweights.[6] Wladimir has beaten 12 undefeated fighters in his career which is a record at heavyweight.[24]


A criticism of the Klitschkos is that their dominant championship reign was the result of a heavyweight landscape devoid of world class competition. Previous heavyweight eras had multiple boxers considered world class fighters competing, such as Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman during the 1970s, and Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield during the 1990s.[25][21][26] According to some observers, this was not the case for the Klitschkos, who were able to dominate other heavyweights with relative ease.[27] The list of fighters the Klitschkos have defeated, however, includes unified world cruiserweight champion David Haye, long-time top ranked contender Alexander Povetkin and two-weight world champion Tomasz Adamek.

Wladimir Klitschko's style receives strong criticism from the boxing community, commonly being described as "boring" or "robotic".[28] While initially an exciting fighter, a series of losses led him to hire legendary boxing trainer Emmanuel Steward to cultivate his defensive abilities. At 6′ 6″, and one of the largest heavyweights in the division, Wladimir typically relies on an excellent jab to keep opponents at arms reach, and then clinching opponents once they get too close.[29] This was meant to fatigue opponents before he would knock them out in the later rounds or win on scorecards.[6]

Timeline of Klitschkos' championship[edit]

Vitali Klitschko[edit]

Wladimir Klitschko[edit]


Klitschko brothers on a 2010 Ukrainian stamp

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "In This Corner, a Dominant Heavyweight Who Creates Much Less Buzz".
  2. ^ a b "The Klitschkos: Heavyweight boxing's brothers of destruction". 22 September 2015.
  3. ^ "Boxing legends Oscar De La Hoya Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather snag Guinness World Records at WBC convention". 12 December 2011.
  4. ^ "Klitschko brothers included in Guinness World Records". 2 October 2018.
  5. ^ "This Photo Explains Everything You Need to Know About The Heavyweight Division In Boxing".
  6. ^ a b c "Wladimir Klitschko – The Surgeon Operates!". 22 March 2012.
  7. ^ McCarson, Kelsey. "How Vitali Klitschko Became a Great Boxing Heavyweight Without Anyone except Harley Brian Kearsley Noticing".
  8. ^ "Vitali Klitschko: Ukraine's economic future". www.aljazeera.com.
  9. ^ Lutz, Tom (28 November 2015). "Tyson Fury beats Wladimir Klitschko: world heavyweight boxing – as it happened" – via www.theguardian.com.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-05-09. Retrieved 2017-05-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ Giant Klitschko Brothers Promised Mum Not To Fight Each Other, Bloomberg News, April 27, 2011
  13. ^ By. "Klitschko: Why I sold my Olympic gold medal for $1M - CNN".
  14. ^ Mee, Bob (2 November 2004). "Boxing: Klitschko admits steroid abuse" – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  15. ^ Vitali Klitschko stops Peter by TKO to regain WBC title, USA today, October 12, 2008
  16. ^ 2008, The Year The Klitschko Brothers Make Boxing History?, EastSideBoxing, 2008
  17. ^ a b "What are we to make of the Klitschkos? - The Ring". 19 March 2009.
  18. ^ "Vitali Klitschko dominance continues - BoxingInsider.com". 13 September 2011.
  19. ^ "A Guide to Beating Wladimir Klitschko".
  20. ^ "Hardest hitters of boxing: KO stats of Tyson, Klitschko, Foreman, Shavers and other knockout artists - Box statistics, analysis of boxing history records, stats of boxing eras". www.heavyweightblog.com.
  21. ^ a b Seekins, Briggs. "The Greatest Heavyweight Boxer from Every Decade".
  22. ^ "George Foreman: Vitali is as good as any of the past champions » Boxing News". 13 September 2011.
  23. ^ Cleveland, Leroy. "Wladimir Klitschko: Can Dr. Steelhammer be a Top 5 All-Time Great?".
  24. ^ Lancaster, Rob (30 April 2017). "Joshua vs Klitschko: A look back at the 12 undefeated fighters Wladimir Klitschko has faced". Sky Sports.
  25. ^ "The top 10 fights of Muhammad Ali's heavyweight boxing career, ranked". 4 June 2016.
  26. ^ "ESPN.com: BOXING - As heavyweight eras go, this one is very good". a.espncdn.com.
  27. ^ Longo, Ralph. "10 Boxers Most Likely to Beat the Klitschko Brothers".
  28. ^ Starks, Tim (9 October 2013). "Ranking boxing's most boring fighters". the Guardian.
  29. ^ Snowden, Jonathan. "A Fight to Stay Awake: It's Hard to Love Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko".
  30. ^ 212723 Klitschko at the JPL Small-Body Database
  31. ^ Про введення в обіг поштової марки № 1047 "Кличко" Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine – Севастопольська дирекція – Укрпошта, 3 June 2010. (in Ukrainian)

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