Wladimir Klitschko was never really embraced by the average boxing fan, despite dominating a lackluster heavyweight division for the better part of a decade.
He understands why, even as he looks to change his ways in what could be his last hurrah next week against Anthony Joshua in London.
"It's not as boring as it was with me during all those years," Klitschko said. "You can like me or hate me but when one person conquers it all, it is boring. I totally get it."
It wasn't just Klitschko's dominance that soured boxing fans on him. It was the way he fought.
Every opponent was kept at arm's length. Punches were traded cautiously - probably with good reason, considering what Lamon Brewster did to him back in 2004.
Klitschko never won any style points, though he kept winning against a series of opponents who could never seem to crack the code. Then Tyson Fury entered the picture, making Klitschko look slow and old in breaking his 11-year winning streak to win his heavyweight titles.
Now Klitschko challenges the unbeaten Joshua for the title once again. He does so as an underdog going into enemy territory, with 90,000 fans expected to be cheering their countryman on a week from Saturday at Wembley Stadium.
At the age of 41, he says he feels like a new fighter. Even better, he says he feels like really fighting.
"I understand I don't have titles anymore, but in a certain way I feel relieved," Klitschko told The Associated Press. "I feel calmer, more free. Before it was all defending and caution. Now it's different, and I like the feeling that I don't have any pressure."
Both are Olympic gold medalists (Klitschko in 1996, Joshua in 2012). Both are massive heavyweights with the skills usually found in smaller fighters. Both have the kind of knockout power that may make it a short night in London.
And Klitschko now says it's time to throw caution to the wind.
"I have nothing to defend so I need to bounce back and be the hunter," he said. "Joshua has the title and it's something I will need to get. It will be a totally different attitude. I will not hold myself back."
After regaining a piece of the heavyweight title in 2006, Klitschko made 18 successful title defenses in a row before losing to Fury in a desultory effort. He's won 64 of 68 fights and has fought for the heavyweight title 28 times.
"I think I've been very, very fortunate with having Joshua as my opponent," he said. "For the first time in a long time I'm an underdog. He's either great, or I'm still great. The question marks on both fighters make this a fight for the fans."