Sitting down with the visiting media from Ireland and Britain in Dusseldorf ahead of his world-title bout against Manchester’s former Irish heavyweight champion Tyson Fury tomorrow night, 39-year-old Klitschko was quizzed a number of times about what motivates him to fight on.
What challenges could possibly lie ahead for a man who has dominated boxing’s flagship division for the past decade?
The Ukrainian showed no sign of modesty in his answers as he oozed confidence.
“This probably sounds selfish, but I have a very big ego. It’s not about somebody else, it is about my own satisfaction and my own ego that needs to be satisfied,” said Klitschko, dismissing the idea that he has a list of opponents to tick off. “My ego gives motivation,” he added.
His answers provoked comparisons to other egotists of international sport, drawing questions relating to whether Klitschko considers himself to be the Jose Mourinho of boxing, and if he is the ‘Special One’ of the sweet science.
The champion maintained that “ego is the core of any successful person” and his answers were all in keeping with his methodical and driven nature that has led to a 64-3 record with the last of his three losses coming in 2004 to American Lamon Brewster in a defeat he later avenged.
Fury has attempted to chip away at his opponent’s confidence in the build-up to the bout, which takes place at the 55,000-capacity Esprit Arena tomorrow night.
The challenger has combined wild antics — including dressing up as Batman for an earlier promotional press conference — with dismissive put-downs of the champion and his achievements.
When first questioned about such talk, Klitschko, pictured, maintains his cool and calm demeanour. “Tyson says a lot of nonsense — I can’t give comment to all of it… I don’t think it makes sense to talk about what Tyson says because he talks a lot of rubbish,” said the Ukrainian.
“He is playing into my hands because I know when I am challenged like this I need to perform.” Only once does the mask show any hint of slipping, and that is when a small crack appears.
During a head-to-head sitdown for a Sky Sports promotional programme in the build-up, Fury riled the champion by suggesting that he ‘does not understand heavyweight boxing’.
It seemed an odd critique of a man who has enjoyed such an illustrious career, but it was indicative of a common view that Klitschko — whose clinical approach is often criticised as robotic — does not rank highly among the past greats of the heavyweight division, the likes of Ali, Frazier or Tyson, who fought as much to thrill as to win.This reporter quizzed the champion as to whether this was an example of the fact that his achievements are not recognised or appreciated as much as other heavyweight champions from different eras. It resulted in a strange interaction, where slightly-irked Klitschko, eyebrows raised, quizzed the ages of this reporter and an elder colleague to make his point.
“Everyone is judging out of his experience and out of the competition he is experiencing,” said Klitschko. “How can you explain to [an elder colleague] how to think about life?
“Tyson Fury is bipolar… he is changing his mind on many comments. He has changed his opinion. He is going through a time that he is very insecure.
“To rely on his experience of 24 fights, and his competition in the ring, he is undefeated and he thinks he is the king of the world.
“I don’t blame him because that is where he is at. He is judging other people without his experience… It is immaturity.”
Fury may have been immature at times in his efforts to upset or gain a mental edge over Klitschko, but the champion admits that the challenger is the first man to provoke him in such a manner since David Haye, who lost a lop-sided points decision to the Ukrainian after his walk failed to match his pre-fight talk back in 2011.
Fury was later quizzed as to whether he will revive his wind-up efforts at today’s weigh-in, which is closed to the public due to security concerns arising out of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. “I’m not interested in unsettling him,” said Fury.
“Everything has been done, all the funny acts and the scripts, everything with me trying to sell the fight has been done. I don’t need to do anything anymore, I just need to sit back and smile.”
- Klitschko v Fury is live on Sky Sports Box Office this Saturday.