Joe Rein Writings


Klitschko: "I Want to Destroy Williams..."

WBC Heavyweight Champ, Vitali Klitschko, brought multi-tasking to a new level.

He did four things at once - with aplomb - at the La Brea Boxing Gym on Media Day for his first title defense against Britain's Danny Williams on Saturday, Dec. 11 at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas on HBO Pay-Per-View.

In under two hours, Klitschko was the master of ceremonies, a walking, punching, skipping billboard for Hugo Boss Sportswear, the Heavyweight Champion of the World going through his paces with trainer Fritz Sdunek and an impassioned advocate for democracy in Ukraine.

For somebody that's supposed to be troubled and distracted by the problems in his homeland, Klitschko was smiling - wearing egg-shell colored sweats -- towering over his entourage - when he bounced down the steps into the spacious La Brea Gym a little after 12:30 P.M., nodding amiably to familiar faces in the media grazing on the buffet.

The cavernous space looked more like a movie set - with eye-candy color from South American flags art-directed from rafters - rather than an actual gym.

Amilcar Brusa, Carlos Monzon's trainer, wound-down a sparring session between two heavyweights. Earnest Latino hopefuls dressed like a grunge band focused on pounding heavy bags.

Klitschko sat on the ring steps, with Bernd Boente, his Personal Manager. The press swarmed Klitschko, like bees to honey. Boente was the gatekeeper. Klitschko told the assemblage there would be a brief workout: a mitt drill, rope skipping, and heavy and speed-bag photo ops, followed by a Q&A at ringside.

After he laid out the guidelines, Sdundek spit on the back of Klitschko's hand and wrapped his knuckles all the way to the wrist, while Klitschko traded good-natured banter with reporters and photographers gathered from all over the world.

"Sdundek is the best trainer." Klitschko quipped, "The next fight will decide if he is the best." The crowd paused and laughed...while it sunk in.

With all the shutters clicking and cameras rolling, somebody must have gotten a priceless shot. Just before Klitschko went into the ring to work the mitts with Sdunek, he kissed him on top of the head, as if to say, "You're my man."

Klitschko than did his photo ops: working the pads with Sdundek, (dipping on both sides of a jab and avoiding a left hook), doing Marine push-ups on his knuckles, skipping rope in the ring (Sugar Ray Robinson's rep with a skip-rope was never in peril. There was too much give in the canvas, and Klitschko had to keep re-starting.), hitting the heavy bag with sparring gloves, and finished with a quick flurry on the peanut bag. (Which, cleverly, was held down by an inflated tire) None of which caused him to break a sweat.

Then he came back to the ring apron to take questions, lit up by flashes on all sides and bombarded by questions.

Each trying to out-shout the other -- the Tower of Babble. Klitschko was in the eye of the hurricane - unperturbed. The reporters he pointed to were more interested in his views about the Ukrainian political crisis than Danny Williams.

Vitali leaned forward and, effortlessly shifting from one language to another, emphatically encouraged the pro-Western, orange-draped masses in Kiev, fearing a return to the repressive Communist regime. In a show of solidarity, members of Team-Klitschko wore orange T-shirts.

In a boxing gym on a weekday in Hollywood, it was just a few men in orange shirts - barely worth a mention on the local news. But, when it's the Heavyweight Champion of the World speaking -- beamed round the world, it's a powerful message to a country of 48 million.

Klitschko made the point over and over again that he wanted to destroy Williams, the man who destroyed his dream of beating Mike Tyson. There was nothing derisive in his manner or his speech about Williams. Just a combat objective. He gave Williams his props and said he was surprised at his skills and how he took Tyson's punches.

Klitschko is no pug; he knows every nuance of the promotional game.

He considered himself "a Ukrainian, but a sportsman of the world." And, when speaking to foreign journalists, he named the largest sports venue in their capitols and said he hoped to appear there some day.

To the question of how much longer he'll box, "I don't want to be punching bag for the new generation," he replied.

Tom Loeffler, Head of K2 Promotions, and Klitschko's promoter, moved unceremoniously around the room checking everything and speaking quickly to a few people. With his arms folded in front of him, he either had excellent posture or he was always on his toes straining to see more. He had more the look of a business whiz than someone involved in the rough-and tumble of professional boxing.

Photographer Jan Sanders, who speaks Dutch -- which is akin to German -- translated for me with Sdundek. I asked how he knew when Klitschko was in peak condition. He talked about how quickly his pulse rate returned to normal after a strenuous stair-climbing exercise.

As the press filtered out, Wladamir Klitschko came in wearing an orange T-shirt and jeans. We spoke briefly in the entrance. I suspect because he'd been savaged in the press, he was gun-shy of a hatchet job. When I asked how he handled disappointment in his life? The antenna went up.

"What do you mean?" He said, looking me in the eye for an agenda.

I tried again and, after breath, he said, "Of course, you try to do the best you can. If you have a positive result, everyone supports you with that. If you get something not really right, of course, you get some shots...The way to the top is very long...very difficult, but the way back," he smiled, "is much faster! It's just one step." His face formed the same smile and he went on to join his brother.

Vitali is not an awesome giant in person - despite the Ivan Drago comparisons -- he puts one right at ease. He doesn't cultivate being the baddest man on the planet. He lets his fists do the talking in the ring. He's a sportsman.

One could readily imagine him with a saber scar on his cheek. He has military bearing, and the phrase: "an officer and a gentleman" suits him to a T.

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