In Depth

Wladimir Klitschko retires: How he finally won respect

The Ukrainian's epic fight against Anthony Joshua earned him the plaudits he always deserved

Former world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko has retired from boxing at the age of 41, scotching plans for a rematch with Anthony Joshua in November.

His decision leaves the British fighter, who beat Klitschko at Wembley in April, looking for a new opponent, but "ensures [the Ukrainian's] legacy remains intact as one of the finest heavyweights in history", says The Guardian.

Tributes flooded on to social media following the news.

Klitschko's record stands at 69 fights, with 64 wins, 53 via knockout. It would be even more impressive had he not lost his final two fights - first against Tyson Fury in 2015 and then Joshua this year. Before that, he was unbeaten for 11 years. 

However, his robotic style and vice-like grip on the heavyweight division made him unpopular with fans yearning for the mayhem of the Mike Tyson era.

"Klitschko suffered a series of knock-downs in the first half of his career, which led to him adopting a cautious style that was criticised by many fans," says Mike Costello of the BBC.

"But the great trainer Emanuel Steward said Klitschko had one of the best right-hand punches in history, and his contest against Joshua ranks among the best ever heavyweight fights."

It is the night he will be remembered for, says James Dielhenn of Sky Sports.  

"His charm in the week prior was a reminder that class still has its place in the most visceral of sports; he spoke of geopolitics and charities rather than overturning tables and hurling insults. The only spite he showed was intelligent jousting centred around reminding Joshua of his seniority. 

"Then the bell rang, and Klitschko produced the performance that might ultimately be the most memorable of his 69-fight career." 

The only regret is that "when his bloodied face stared out at the abyss as a defeated man he was afforded the sort of warm and affectionate reception absent during his heyday". 

The Independent says he retires "as one of the sport's true greats, having held the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight titles, as well as the lineal crown, and remains the second-longest serving heavyweight champion of all time behind Joe Louis with 18 consecutive defences over a nine-year span." 

Klitschko makes the top ten of Daily Telegraph boxing correspondent Gareth A Davies, who rates him above Tyson, while Jeff Powell in the Daily Mail writes: "At 41 and with a lifetime of heavyweight achievement under all those world championship belts which he wore around his waist for a decade, the announcement was as easy to understand as it was hard for boxing at large and Joshua in particular to accept.

"It would be improper to ascribe him as greater than Muhammad Ali, of meaning more to history than Joe Louis, of having mightier impact on the world’s population than Mike Tyson or surpassing Lennox Lewis in our British estimation.

"But for his longevity and the honour with which he has served his hardest of all games he has to be considered along with the likes of Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Rocky Marciano and Evander Holyfield in the casting of the all-time top ten."

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