Born on March 25, 1976, Wladimir Klitschko ruled at the top of the heavyweight division for years through his technical prowess, an effective jab, and a brutal straight right hand that ranks among boxing’s most powerful punches. He had a successful amateur career, culminating in a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics. After that achievement and a record of 134-6, he made the move up to join the professional ranks.
Klitschko had his pro debut on November 16, 1996 against Fabian Meza, and he made it quick with a first-round KO. Two weeks later, he picked up a TKO win over Exum Speight, followed by another TKO to close out 1996. He kept an extremely high pace during 1997, fighting 13 times, with three fights in the month of December. He won every fight by stoppage, although two came due to his opponent’s disqualifications. By the end of the year, he had a record of 16-0 with 14 knockouts.
On February 14, 1998, he knocked out Marcus McIntyre to win the WBC International heavyweight title. He built up a 24-0 record, but on December 5, 1998, he suffered a shocking upset, losing by TKO in the 11th round to Ross Puritty, who came into the fight with a 24-13-1 record. Wladimir Klitschko recovered well from the loss, though, winning the WBA Inter-Continental heavyweight title on July 17, 1999, and adding the European heavyweight title to his collection one fight later. After a string of impressive performances, he earned his first world title fight when he took on Chris Byrd on October 14, 2000 for the WBO heavyweight belt.
Klitschko dropped Byrd twice during the contest on his way to a clear unanimous decision victory after 12 rounds. He defended the belt five times before suffering another surprising upset loss. Facing off against southpaw Corrie Sanders, he was caught several times by his opponent’s powerful straight left hand, losing by TKO in the second round. He bounced back with two stoppage victories, but on April 10, 2004, he lost to Lamon Brewster by fifth-round TKO.
Wladimir Klitschko would bounce back impressively from that loss, as he put together a 22-fight win streak starting on October 2, 2004 and lasting until near the end of 2015. He collected quite a few heavyweight titles during this time, starting with the NABF and WBO-NABO heavyweight titles when he beat Samuel Peter by unanimous decision on September 24, 2005. He then stopped Chris Byrd in the seventh round to win the IBF and IBO heavyweight belts.
Over the years, Klitschko won the WBO, The Ring, WBA, and lineal heavyweight titles. It was a streak of near-total dominance, as he stopped most of his challengers and avenged his loss to Lamon Brewster. It came to an end on November 28, 2015 when he fought Tyson Fury, the brash British heavyweight known for his trash talk and unique style. Although their fight wasn’t action-packed, Fury did enough, landing the occasional heavy shot and confusing Klitschko with his movement throughout the contest on the way to a unanimous decision win.