Wladimir Klitschko, the former rival of Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury, will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the great heavyweight champions of modern boxing.
Alongside his brother Vitali, the Ukrainian has spent a decade dominating the sport’s most famous division.
In his career he has only fought three British opponents and it seems only one of them has earned his respect …
When Klitschko met Haye in their unification, the fight was already long overdue.
The duo were due to meet for the first time in 2009, but a back injury caused the Briton to abandon the fight.
They eventually clashed in 2011 and, despite all of Haye’s trashy talk, Klitschko became a comfortable winner by unanimous decision.
Klitschko said in his immediate post-fight interview: “It would have been great to knock out David Haye.
“I wish I could prove it [that I was better] with a knockout of David Haye.
“I still don’t agree with his behavior before the fight, it’s really shameful for boxing fans and the sport of boxing the way the man behaved.
“The veterans that I have fought, they try in the first rounds and they are very careful afterwards, that’s exactly what David Haye did.
“He criticized them all, but he found himself in the same situation as all of them and he was actually afraid to fight.
Before the fight was first postponed in 2009, Haye appeared at a press conference wearing a t-shirt that depicted him holding the two severed heads of the Klitschko brothers.
This stuck in Wladimir’s memory for two years and meant he was annoyed that he didn’t get to KO Haye.
Klitschko added during his post-fight press conference, “He really pissed me off with his t-shirt to be honest with you.
“It was really under the belt and it wasn’t cool. I’m not glad that I didn’t [get a] Knock out.”
To end the post-fight presser, Haye climbed onto the table and showed reporters his broken little toe – which he cited as the reason for his lackluster performance.
Klitschko told Sky in an interview a few days later: “It’s an excuse. The man has already been checked by the medical commissioner and he was clear and ready to fight.
“If you are in the ring, there are no excuses. It’s called a sore loser.
“I warned David Haye, ‘Don’t do that. If something happened to you, shut it up – and don’t say nothing, because it’ll come back to you. ”
Four years after Haye’s failure, Fury succeeds in dethroning Klitschko.
Having earned his place as a mandatory challenger, the Briton traveled to Düsseldorf and shocked the boxing world by beating the champion to win his titles.
Klitschko said in his post-fight press conference: “Today has not been a good night for me.
“I wish there were sharper shots I could land, I couldn’t find the right distance to hit the shots.
“Tyson was quick with his hands, body movements and head movements – I couldn’t land the right shots.
“I congratulate him tonight, he won the fight.”
However, his attitude towards Fury changed following the Briton’s various controversial comments after the fight.
When they met again at the press conference for their rematch, Klitschko said: “I was looking forward to having a [new] champion who represents sport in a certain way, in a good way.
“And me too that I can admire and say, ‘You know what? He does a great job, I agree with that.
“I don’t agree with that. What comes out of Fury’s mouth is that he made a lot of disrespectful statements.
“For example, all homosexuals and pedophiles belong to the same place. All women have their place in the kitchen and on their backs.
“So that’s basically where he sees Elton John and the Queen.
“To the people who say and think the same out there, and to you Fury, I mean – F *** off.”
He added in a later interview, “I’m fighting a guy who can’t hold his mouth on certain things.
“I was in shock at his statements about women, the gay community, and when he got to the Jewish people he looked like Hitler.
“This man is a fool. Seriously. You can’t put it all together to represent the sport of boxing. He’s a foolish champion.
Their rivalry escalated when Fury pulled out of the rematch twice as his life spiraled out of control.
The second fight never happened and the two share bitterness towards each other to this day.
Last October, in response to a WBC tweet, Fury said of Wladimir Vitali’s brother: “I wish I had kicked his ass too.
As a result, Klitschko hit back: “Fans, unfortunately it looks like Tyson Fury is substance abusing again.
“History shows that he gets to the bottom of things with irrational, sexist, racial statements. The truth is Klitschko and the ass kick is a fantasy for him.
“Klitschko and running, running or dodging the rematch is more precise.
“Just say no, mate.
With Fury out of the picture, AJ won the IBF heavyweight title and then looked to pursue his other vacant belts.
The WBA has agreed to sanction a fight between Joshua and Klitschko for their crown.
April 29, 2017 will be a date British boxing fans will remember forever as 90,000 Wembley Stadium packed to witness a historic battle.
AJ hit Klitschko in the fifth round before the Ukrainian reciprocated in the sixth round.
They fought until the eleventh round when Joshua hammered a monstrous uppercut that turned the fight in his favor. He knocked Klitschko down twice more and brought him to his feet for a spectacular victory.
Klitschko said in his immediate post-fight interview: “The best man won tonight and it’s an incredible event for boxing.
“Two gentlemen faced each other, Anthony was better today than me.
“It’s really sad that I didn’t do it, I was planning on doing it, it didn’t work.
“But with all due respect to Anthony, congratulations. He stood up, he fought back and he won the titles.
Klitschko then added at his post-fight press conference: “AJ did a good job.
“He was trying, he was focused and even if he was going down, he was getting up and coming back…
“I thought he wouldn’t get up, he managed to get up, respect …
“I think he’s vulnerable, maybe that’s something he will have to work on, but he’s a unified champion today and you have to respect him.
Despite a revenge clause in the contract, Klitschko decided to step down after the contest.
He told the BBC a year after their fight: “You know what I’m proud of at the end of my career? I ended my career on my feet.
“Most importantly, I knew I was passing the torch to the younger, better, stronger man.
Even now the duo are on good terms and Klitschko told the National in early 2020: “Joshua is a top athlete, a great fighter, an Olympic champion.
“More importantly, he’s a great guy, who perfectly carries the torch of this image of a heavyweight champion.
“I am proud to call him a friend, even though we were [combatants]. And I think and I wish Joshua would eventually unify all the belts. This is the final plan.