Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko and former five-division champion Floyd Mayweather were the two biggest stars to emerge from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Klitschko became one of the most dominant heavyweights in history and Mayweather became the pound-for-pound king, earning more money than any fighter ever, before retiring in September.
While Klitschko said he and Mayweather have never met, despite fighting in the same Olympics and both spending much of their careers associated with HBO, Klitschko has long been an admirer of the total focus it took for Mayweather to go undefeated.
“Life is up and down except for Floyd Mayweather,” Klitschko said, referring to his undefeated record. “You have to give him credit. I am not his fan, but for boxing, hands down, he never became cocky to where he lost focus. He was always a true professional and did his job. He was disciplined. Many fighters are talented and good but can’t match that success. He was disciplined. I’m not like a Floyd fan outside of [the] ring but he is absolutely disciplined and a true professional inside the ring.
“I have three failures on my record. He didn’t have any and that takes a lot of concentration. I have more fights than him but still, what he did was impressive.”
The 39-year-old Klitschko, a Ukraine native who lives in Miami, will make the 19th defense of his second world-title reign when he faces mandatory challenger Tyson Fury, 27, of England, on Saturday (HBO, 4:45 p.m. ET/PT with a prime time replay at 10:15 p.m. ET/PT) at the 55,000-seat ESPRIT Arena in Düsseldorf, Germany, where a sellout is expected.
Klitschko (64-3, 54 KOs) said he likes facing undefeated opponents such as Fury (24-0, 18 KOs), who will be the ninth one he has faced during his current title reign.
“I think it’s a downside to be undefeated. You are so confident and your attitude is so up in the sky you don’t know the other side,” Klitschko said. “Undefeated guys don’t know their limits and you can show them their limits unless you are Floyd Mayweather. But there’s always an exception to the rule. Guys are vulnerable when they are undefeated.”
Mayweather retired at 49-0 following his easy decision against Andre Berto on Sept. 12. But Klitschko, like many, figure Mayweather will be back to take a shot at 50-0, for which he can make another boatload of money.
“I think he still has some fight there,” Klitschko said. “I think the 50-year-old record, you know, to be tied with Rocky Marciano is cool. I don't know, sometimes maybe he gets a little nervous as we (saw) in the U.S. Open with (Serena Williams losing). But there's a lot of pressure when you do the steps in the history that you want to be remembered for. So I kind of understand Floyd on one hand.
“On the other hand, I still really believe that he's not going to retire for some reason, even if he announced it. But I think he's going to go ahead and do at least one more (fight).”