Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) is no longer champion. The reign is over. There is a new king in town. The Gypsy King.
For many of us, we are entering unknown territory. An era without Wlad sitting atop the pile at heavyweight is one that many younger observers will never have known.
As we enter the light at the end of the tunnel, there appears to be an ogre waiting for us, carrying all of his belts and wearing a plaid suit with Slazenger socks. He’s screaming inaudibly about being the next Muhammad Ali. Welcome to the Tyson Fury (25-0, 18 KOs) era, who knows how long it will last?
But is this really the end of Wladimir Klitschko? Will we never see this chiselled hunk of a man battering his way through terrified, chubby mismatches again? Let’s take a look at what’s most likely to be next for the great Ukrainian.
Wladimir Klitschko has already said he wants the rematch. He says he’s still got it, and that he wants to prove that by beating the guy that dethroned him. There were questions as to whether a rematch clause existed. We are assured it does. And that it will be executed as the next option for Klitschko and Tyson Fury. Of course, we’ve heard fighters say these things before. He’s hurting, and he wants to regain some pride by saying he’ll get back in there and fight Fury right away.
But what can he do differently? How can he win? Fury didn’t just scrape by Wlad, nor did he catch him cold or in a lapse of concentration. He stifled him, and he made Klitschko look lost for major stretches of the fight.
Team Klitschko will need to come up with a strategy for Fury, and Wlad will need to be willing to throw more consistently, and take risks when throwing his right hand. Fury looked good on Saturday, but he is still beatable, and he still has flaws. But is Wlad still the guy to capitalize on these flaws?
If Wlad feels like he needs a light touch before going back to championship contention, there has been one guy waiting in the wings, screaming his name and coining the “LET’S GO CHAMP” catchphrase.
Sure, he’ll only be able to shout “LET’S GO” now, but Shannon Briggs (59-6-1, 52 KOs) would surely jump at an opportunity to get the fight he’s been so vehemently campaigning for all along. While Tyson Fury may have made Wlad look old, he didn’t look so old that I’d pick a short, overly-muscled and old Briggs to beat him.
This fight would surely end as Wlad-by-annihilation, but Briggs really has been asking for it all along, and it would possibly be the confidence boost that Klitschko needs before going into a rematch with Fury.
Is the fire still there? Wladimir Klitschko says it is, but he looked like an old gunslinger unable to pull the trigger any more. In these next few weeks and months, he will be doing a lot of soul-searching, and if there are any questions as to whether he still wants to fight, it is time to step away.
Boxing is a brutal sport, especially at heavyweight, and the sport is strewn with the carcasses of legendary fighters that stuck around too long.
Klitschko has a life outside the sport, a wheelbarrow full of cash, and a family he loves, so the only reason he has to get back in that ring is because he really wants it. And if he really wants it, he’s going to need to start fighting like it, because that right hand he left back in the dressing room will be vital if he wants to reclaim his spot at the pinnacle of the sport.
Klitschko may be 39 years old, but has hasn’t taken a ton of damage, and he looks like he was carved out of the leftover granite they used to create Atlas, so a dedicated, determined and ready Wladimir Klitschko is still able to beat the vast majority of the heavyweights, maybe even all of them.
The real question is whether this Wladimir Klitschko is still dedicated, determined and ready.
Who do you think Wladimir Klitschko should fight next?