War and Peace

Wladimir Klitschko raises the Ukrainian flag in Hamburg

Autor: Ryan Gresham. Wladimir Klitschko’s brisk dismantling of Kubrat Pulev at Hamburg’s 02 World arena Saturday night was like a rerun we had seen many times before. Pulev pawed, ducked, and plodded for a handful of clumsy rounds as he tried to dodge Klitschko’s onslaught, but the previously undefeated Bulgarian finally crumbled under a stealthy left cruise missile in the fifth, ending up twisted and glassy-eyed on the canvas while many in attendance pelted him with whistles and jeers.

Every fan of heavyweight boxing knew the routine – and all of them know that Wladimir Klitschko truly is a force. The Ukrainian pugilist has more belts than Karl Lagerfeld, and only the great Joe Louis now has more heavyweight title bouts to his credit.

But the drama Saturday transcended the relatively small confines of boxing. In his post-fight interview mid-ring, Klitschko first warmly thanked his fans in Hamburg – his adopted home of nearly two decades – before solemnly addressing the large Ukrainian contingent watching. He began, in German, by dedicating the fight to the people of Ukraine, noting what a difficult time it was for the country. But he finished the soliloquy (which had the unnerving ring of a eulogy) in his native Ukrainian – to the cheers of many on hand, and despite the admonition from his interviewer to keep his comments in ratings-friendly German. It was clear that Klitschko had fought for more than just a few division belts.

By boxing standards the post-fight scene wasn’t that weird. In fact, Klitschko’s behavior was understandable and even expected. For a brief moment Saturday night Ukrainians were on top and in control. But standing there in the safety of Hamburg after his performance, the great Klitschko clearly knew that while one battle had been won, tougher ones outside the ring awaited.