In the Ukrainian capital city of Kiev, there are two brothers who hold university Ph.D.’s, speak four languages each, have founded and funded charities for needy children, and are avid chess players. What is their profession? They are both prizefighters. Their names are Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko.
In 2011, the two sons of a former Soviet Air Force major held World Heavyweight Championship titles from all four major boxing organizations; the International Boxing Federation, the World Boxing Association, the World Boxing Council, and the World Boxing Organization (as well as The Ring magazine). But their story begins 15 years earlier at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, when Vitali was tossed from the Ukrainian boxing team after testing positive for a banned steroid – which he insists was due to the treatment for a leg injury – and paved the way for Wladimir to step in and win the gold medal. The following November, both brothers went pro.
When the Klitschko brothers came on the scene, boxing had lost a lot of respect. Ear-biting antics, lawsuits against Don King and his ilk, and other similar scandals dominated the front page. But, with his 1999 knockout of Herbie Hide, Vitali became the first Heavyweight Champion of the World with a Ph.D. Wladimir followed suit the next year. With these two European intellectuals entering the ring with nicknames like “Dr. Ironfist” and “Dr. Steel Hammer”, boxing had class again.
Today, the brothers’ records are 45-2 for Vitali, who is second only to Marciano in KO-to-fight ratio, and 61-3 for Wladimir, who is now the fifth longest reigning heavyweight champion in history, after Louis, Holmes, Dempsey, and Sullivan.
Outside of the ring, the brothers are very active in socio-political causes, working with UNESCO and funding charities for children, such as their “Fight for Peace” and “Sport for Good” projects. Wladimir auctioned off his Olympic Medal at a fundraiser. Vitali has run for office on an anti-corruption platform and has served as a Congressional delegate.
So, what does this diplomatic family of champions say to the die-hard fans who want to see a Klitschko vs. Klitschko bout? They have made their position very clear: “Tell them to negotiate with our mother.”