Wladimir Klitschko and Vitali | Germany's Most Beloved Athletes?Written by Lee Cleveland
Are two Ukrainians, heavyweight champions Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, Germany's most popular sports figures?
According to Google Insights, software that provides data reflective of regional and international interests based on user searches for the world's largest search engine, the query 'klitschko' finished as Germany's 5th highest trending sports-related search term and first among athletes in 2011.
German basketball star Dirk Nowitzki and two German hockey stars, Vancouver's Christian Ehrhoff and Boston's Dennis Seidenberg of the NHL, didn't place in the top ten.
The Ukrainian brothers, Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, have boxed themselves to the top of the heavyweight division and the German sports scene, as well as into the hearts of that nation's citizens. They are audience favorites in Deutschland, often appearing on talk shows and in advertising.
Storybook careers such as the Klitschko brothers' are not unique in Germany, but the amiable boxing champions have certainly become larger-than-life role models and celebrities there.
2011: Klitschko Year in Review
Lineal heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, 36, fought only once in 2011, defeating then WBA Heavyweight Champion David Haye of the United Kingdom in front of over 50,000 fans in a unification bout July 2nd in Hamburg.
And although it was far from a classic, Klitschko vs Haye was the most hyped heavyweight title fight in seven years and garnered tremendous mainstream attention worldwide.
The Brit's speed and explosiveness in the ring and pre-fight antics and boastful claims outside it, had even boxing's most educated scholars thinking the ultra confident Haye would topple the giant Ukrainian and usher in a new era in heavyweight history.
The fighters split the purse 50-50, earning a reported $24.2 to $32 Million USD apiece.
WBC Heavyweight Champion Vitali Klitschko, 41, fought twice last year. His first title defense took place March 19, 2011 in Cologne, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany against mandatory challenger Odlanier Solis. A Cuban, Solis had won a Gold medal at the Olympics Games in Athens in 2004 and was also a three time winner at the World Amateur Boxing Championships.
In perhaps one of the oddest bouts in heavyweight championship history, Vitali Klitschko defeated Odlanier Solis in the first round. After absorbing a Klitschko right hook to the head, the Cuban awkwardly fell to the canvas and immediately began grabbing his right knee. Although he beat the count, Solis could hardly stand and badly limped while using the ropes for support, prompting the referee to stop the bout.
Photo Courtesy of BoxingScene
In Germany, the fight was broadcast live and exclusively on RTL Television and it was reported that Odlanier Solis earned $1.8 Million USD while Vitali earned a sweet $15 Million USD.
On September 10, Vitali successfully defended his WBC Title again against Polish superstar Tomasz Adamek. The fight took place at the Stadion Miejski in Wroclaw, Lower Silesian, Poland and was televised in the United States via HBO World Championship Boxing.
Adamek, then rated as The Ring's No. 3 heavyweight behind Wladmir and Vitali, was a former light heavyweight and cruiserweight champion and well-respected among insiders. However, Vitali Klitschko's strength and tremendous size advantage were too much for the Pole to overcome as the referee mercifully stopped the one-sided bludgeoning in the tenth round, awarding the bout to the Ukrainian.
Photo Courtesy of BoxingScene
Last week in front of over 30,000 spectators in Bern, Switzerland, lineal Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko (58-3, 51 KO) put on a brilliant performance, stopping number one ranked IBF challenger Tony "The Tiger" Thompson in six rounds.
And recently, WBA Heavyweight Champion Vitali Klitschko (44-2, 40 KO) confirmed a September 8th title defense against Manuel Charr in Moscow. Its been rumored the Charr bout will be Vitali's last as the 41 year old brawler has his sights set on Kyiv's mayoral position and hopes to focus more on the worsening situation in his native Ukraine. Elections will take place in October.
Earlier this year, a documentary film was made that describes the most significant events in the Klitschkos' lives.
Lee is Managing Editor of FightSaga.com, a student of the Sweet Science and longtime boxing fan.
A gym rat in the 1990s, Lee was trained by 1976 Olympic Silver Medalist Charles Mooney and several retired seasoned pros. He was also a sparring partner for former WBA Super Middleweight Champion Steve Little who upset Michael Nunn for the WBA Super Middleweight Title in '94.
Lee created FightSaga.com to honor and preserve boxing's rich heritage, chronicle the achievements of top fighters, celebrate the legacy of big fights and provide a fun, educational experience for fight fans.