NEW YORK – Travis Walker and Raphael Butler knocked down then-World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko during sparring in late 2005, according to trainer Dickie Wood.
Witnesses on those separate November days in 2005 have been reluctant to speak about the incidents at the gym formerly known as the La Brea Boxing Academy.
That is not the case with Wood.
“I was there the whole time, and I saw it all,” said Wood, who co-trains Walker and serves as the head trainer for Diego Corrales.
“He (Klitschko) was throwing a jab and he pulled back and was coming forward. Butler hit him with a right hand and Klitschko went down and his knee twisted underneath him. That was the last day of sparring. It was on a Friday, one week before the fight against Hasim Rahman on Nov. 12, 2005.
“The day before, Walker hit him with a body shot. It was a left hook to the body, and it knocked Klitschko down.”
Heavy-hitting heavyweights Walker and Butler co-headline Friday, April 6, 2007, on “ShoBox: The New Generation.” SHOWTIME will air the doubleheader at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the west coast).
The undefeated Walker (22-0-1, 17 KOs) will face fellow unbeaten George “El Torito” Garcia (13-0, four KOs) in the 10-round main event. In the co-feature, Butler (25-3, 1 ND, 20 KOs) will meet Art Binkowski (14-1-3, 9 KOs) in an eight-round bout. Goossen Tutor Promotions and Secondsout Promotions will co-promote the event from The Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn.
Most sparring partners would boast if they had knocked down a world champion. Walker and Butler adhere to a different way of thinking, however.
For the past one-and-one-half years, in fact, the up-and-coming heavyweights have been respectfully silent and have mostly refused to discuss the training sessions. The only thing you will hear from Walker and Butler is a humble repentance.
Walker, who is coming off a career-best victory on “ShoBox” over 2004 Olympic Jason Estrada, barely will acknowledge the Klitschko knockdown occurred.
“I really don’t want to talk about that,” said Walker, who will turn 28 slightly more than two weeks after the “ShoBox” telecast. “I feel that what’s done in the gym should stay in the gym.”
While Walker won’t say much, Butler is apologetic.
“I keep telling Steve not to bring it up because I’m not the type of guy that boasts about stuff like that,” Butler said of his manager, Steve Munisteri. “I actually felt really bad about that because it was an $8 million fight for the championship. That was his (Klitschko’s) life. He lives boxing. I felt bad for that whole situation.”
“I am actually more interested in who they can knock down when there is no head gear,” said promoter Dan Goossen. “It is great experience to spar with a fighter like Vitali, but, when everything is said and done, those are all learning experiences that hopefully carry over when the bell actually rings for your fight.
“What will really speak volumes is if they (Walker and Butler) are able to knockdown great fighters as they continue their climb through the heavyweight ranks.”
For Walker and Butler, the Klitschko incident is all in the past. The only thing on their minds is preparing for their nationally televised fights April 6 on SHOWTIME.
No strangers to sparring against top-ranked boxers, Walker and Butler also have trained with Sultan Ibragimov and Oleg Maskaev.
“These two have always been in there with the top guys,” Munisteri said. “They were back-to-back National Gold Glove Champions. These guys are the real deal.”
The young boxers flourish from facing tough opponents like Klitschko, Ibragimov and Maskaev in the ring. It’s how they gauge their progress as fighters.
“I thrive from training against good fighters because that’s where the competition is,” Walker said. “I know that they are at the top of their games, so that shows me what I need to strive for and how hard I need to work to get where they are.”
Sparring against top opposition has resulted in early ring success for both Butler and Walker. Since turning pro in 2004, Butler has KO’d half of his opponents in the first round. An equally devastating puncher, Walker recorded a hard-fought, eight-round majority decision in his last bout Nov. 17, 2006, on “ShoBox” over Estrada.