Hayden Panettiere: Will Klitschko affiliation propel fiancé and bolster heavyweight boxing in U.S?
Yesterday, heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (63-3, 54 KOs) made his 17th straight successful title defense, knocking out top contender Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria in Round 5 at O2 Arena in Hamburg, Germany last night.
The fiancé of star actress Hayden Panettiere, the 38 year old, 6'6½" Klitschko has won 21 fights in a row, is unbeaten in the last ten years and is universally recognized as the best heavyweight in the world.
With a net worth of over $30 Million USD (Celebrity NetWorth), Klitschko has orchestrated one of the most successful boxing careers ever and continues to rule over the sport's heavyweight division with a proverbial 'iron fist.'
A native of Ukraine who made his Germany is adopted home in the late 1990s, Klitschko is exceedingly popular in Europe and literally iconic in Deutschland.
How popular is Wladimir Klitschko in Germany?
On Saturday and according to Google Trends, the query 'Klitschko' tied 'Schlag den Raab' for the trendiest search in the nation affectionately known as the 'Land of Chocolate.'
When Wladimir Klitschko fights, regardless of the venue's location, it's an "event" in Germany not unlike The Kentucky Derby and NCAA Final Four in the United States.
Also on Saturday, the query 'Klitschko' and variations thereof finished No. 1 in Google UK, Google Poland and Google Switzerland. The same can be said for Friday on Goggle Ukraine and today for Google Russia.
And so far in Google Hungary, 'Klitschko vs Pulev' is No. 1 while 'Klitschko' is trending at No. 2.
But in the U.S., Klitschko's popularity is modest at best.
And while last night's fight was televised live on HBO in the United States late in the afternoon, Klitschko vs Pulev still received little fanfare stateside as the 38 year old champion, no matter how dominant, has thus far failed to garner the respect and admiration of previous champions such as Jack Dempsey, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson.
Enter Hayden Panettiere.
If you are a fan of Panettiere or Hollywood in general, how familiar were you with the champ prior to his relationship with the young actress?
These days, you will find Wlad appearing on American celebrity news sites far more often than was the case prior to his involvement with Panettiere.
Pregnant with their first child, Panettiere stars as Juliette Barnes in the ABC musical drama series Nashville, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress. And prior to her current role, she was cheerleader Claire Bennet on the NBC series Heroes (2006–2010), receiving much acclaim.
So, will Hayden's status as a mainstream actress give her soon-to-be hubby a bit more juice in America?
High-profile relationships often generate increased public interest in one or both individuals.
Who remembers Robin Givens?
Before marrying then-heavyweight champion Mike Tyson in 1988, most Americans were unfamiliar with the young actress despite her role as Darlene Merriman in the ABC sitcom Head of the Class. While, perhaps, the Tyson-Givens relationship is not comparable to the Klitschko-Panettiere romance from a stability standpoint, one cannot deny Givens' career surged after she married Mike.
For better or worse, she became a mainstream actress almost overnight.
Will something opposite but similar happen with Wladimir Klitschko? Will his fights now generate a greater buzz in the U.S?
There's an old adage in boxing: "As goes the heavyweight division, so goes the boxing business." Lately — here, in the U.S. — the going has been slow.
Will the Wladimir Klitschko-Hayden Panettiere pairing help catapult a great champion into the American mainstream and ultimately become the spark that ignites heavyweight boxing in the U.S?
It may seem far-fetched but, good or bad, we live in a society that thrives on celebrity news and entertainment, and even moreso today than years past.
... Stranger things have happened.