Fred Sternburg: Well, it's not every day we get to announce that a world heavyweight championship fight is being broadcast live in the U.S., but we're sure happy to be doing it today.
In fact, this Saturday night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern time, Epix will be broadcasting the live telecast of the WBC heavyweight championship fight between defending champion Vitali Klitschko and his opponent, undefeated number-one contender Odlanier Solis of Cuba, a former world amateur champion as well as a 2004 Olympic gold medalist.
On the call today, we have Vitali Klitschko, as well as Tom Loeffler, the Managing Director of K2 Promotions. We also have, from Jamaica, Lennox Lewis, a three-time world heavyweight champion in his own right, who will be doing commentary and analysis on the Epix broadcast.
And, without further ado, it's my pleasure to introduce the President and CEO of Epix, the multi-platform premium entertainment cable channel and service, Mr. Mark Greenberg.
Mark Greenberg: Thanks, Fred. We're really thrilled to be able to put this fight on this weekend. For a number of you, who I've talked to over the years, obviously after a decade of being responsible for boxing at Showtime, we saw this fight as an incredible opportunity to do a heavyweight championship fight.
We always believed that heavyweights have been the bellwether for boxing – you know there are always fight fans who love different classes of fights, categories of fighters, but certainly the heavyweights have always drawn the casual sports fan. And for Epix, which is a joint venture of Paramount Pictures, MGM and Lionsgate, that only launched 15 months ago, this became a really interesting opportunity for us to go and explore the boxing world.
We know that paid TV has always been a major homestead for the boxing world. I was fortunate enough to work on Lennox's fight against Mike Tyson a few years ago at the Pyramid in Memphis. And that certainly was a great attraction.
There's probably been no better ambassador to boxing in the last 15 years than Lennox Lewis. He's always been a class act. We're delighted that he's going to join our announce team.
Our announce team is going to include Sam Rosen doing the blow-by-blow with Tony Paige along with Lennox. We think we have an opportunity to help breathe some life into the sport, as others have been doing as well, by trying to attract a younger audience.
Our multi-platform, which is on the channel on demand, and in this case, EpixHD.com, our Web site, will be streaming the fight live. We think that our web site has been a unique opportunity to draw younger audiences to the paid TV category, and we're hoping to do a similar thing for boxing.
We have, today, on our web site, EpixHD.com, about 3,000 movies – originals, concerts and comedy events. In fact, last night we premiered one of our originals, a "Lindsey Vonn In the Moment" documentary, which we were very excited about.
So we believe there's a lot of opportunity for us to participate in this sport, and we're hoping to continue to do that. We're going to see how this fight does for us. It's been a great promotional device for us to get the Epix brand name out.
We were also happy to announce this morning that we will be putting the Klitschko-Solis fight live in Times Square on the jumbotron, located on Broadway at 44th Street, which is the first time this has ever been done, so we think that'll be a lot of fun. It's a promotional way to gain more awareness for the sport of boxing and for Epix.
So we're thrilled to be part of this event, and we look forward to a really exciting fight on Saturday night.
Fred Sternburg: Lennox, what do you think Solis and Klitschko need to do to win this fight? What do you think the keys to success will be for each man?
Lennox Lewis: Let's start with Klitschko. I believe that he has to really do what he usually does, and that's keep that jab out there and keep his man off balance. He does that really well.
I noticed that he hasn't been moving too much on his feet. He still has to keep that foot movement and give his opponent some different angles.
And as far as Solis, I think he needs to really go to the body and just really come inside on Klitschko and really not get hit while he's coming inside and also use his feet, because I noticed that he's stationary on his feet – a little more feet action. He's got a tremendous history. It kind of reminds me of my own being a world junior champion and having all the different amateur accolades.
I think if he puts a lot of that into motion, use a lot of different amateur moves, such as you know combination punches and some quickness and definitely, like I said, on the body, and throw some good left hooks to the head as well if he reaches Klitschko's. Because, like I said, Klitschko's long and he moves back all the time. So he's a little bit awkward.
Tom Loeffler: We're really excited about this fight, and the boxing fans in Germany are also really excited about the fight. It does have a capacity of 19,000 at the Lanxess Arena, and we just have a few tickets left.
We had an open workout today with Vitali and Solis both at the main Mercedes-Benz dealership here in Cologne. We had over 1,000 people show up for the open workout. So it was a lot of anticipation over here in Germany.
But, as Mark said, and we're really happy with the cooperation with Epix for this fight, but – and we think they're doing a great job of really promoting it in the U.S., but you know this is really a worldwide event. And when you see the production that goes on over here, you know for this type of fight, it's going to be a real treat for all the fans in the U.S. – you know the European ring walks, and just the way the fans react when there's a Klitschko fight here, and especially against an opponent like Solis.
This is probably the toughest opponent that Vitali's fought since he regained the title back in 2008, and, as Lennox was alluding to, there's a lot of similarities. Vitali is a WBC emeritus champion, and Lennox is a champion. They're both great ambassadors of the sport. And it's a great event over here.
Fred Sternburg: Vitali, how is training going? What are your thoughts about your opponent going into Saturday's fight?
Vitali Klitschko: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, everybody. Very nice to talk to everybody. I am very excited and very happy to go inside the ring on Saturday night to fight against Solis.
I want to say it's a very important fight for me. I never fought against the guy who has so many titles as amateur. He's Olympic gold medalist, three times a world amateur champion, and undefeated as professional – young, hungry and very good boxer, Solis.
I know it will be a very interesting fight. It will be a big battle. I am ready for that. And I’ve known him a pretty long time. I’ve followed his career. And that's why I know it will be not easy, but I'm ready to show my skills and show why I – world champion and give my best to – still world champion after Saturday.
Q: Lennox, which of the Klitschko brothers do you consider the better one and why?
Lennox Lewis: Well, obviously the older one is always the better one, I say. Plus, he's the most awkward in my books. He's very long and lanky, and you know he uses that long reach and – his height very well. He also throws a good combination punching, and he knows how to keep you off balance, so definitely Vitali.
Q: Lennox, are you surprised that Vitali is this effective at his age? You know he's pushing 40 and still virtually unbeatable?
Lennox Lewis: Yes. He's got a good diet and he's still got a lot of drive in him to continue, which is great. I've passed my prime in that sense, and I just want to do other things. My big show was Mike Tyson.
So he's still really looking for his big show, something to really give him a true challenge out there. But, until he gets that glory, I think he's still searching in that sense with all these different opponents. Until some guy steps up and says, "You know, I'm the man to really give him that true challenge that he needs."
Q: Let me follow up on that with you, Vitali. Is that what you're looking for?
Vitali Klitschko: You know what Lennox is saying, his good words. I'm very appreciative, and I say many times, I'm very thankful for – thankful for the chance to prove my skills. It was great battle, the fight. Six years ago, Klitschko-Lennox Lewis, he was the first Olympic gold medalist I met inside the ring, and right now I have a fight against Solis.
Solis is also an Olympic gold medalist. This will be my second. A fighter's amateur career is very important for professional boxing, and that's why I know it will be not easy task.
But anyway – I feel right now – in this year, I will be 40. Anyway, I don't want to break the record of George Foreman – George Foreman’s record [as the oldest heavyweight champion], but anyway, I (feel me) well. I live healthy and stay the same weight.
And actually, you know what, it's main point, life is experience, not just as a sport. And my body (play with me), and I have a lot of experience, and that's why I show good results, and in a couple of days, I have a fight against a guy who is almost 10 years younger than me. And I have to show what it means, experience.
Q: You just answered my second question. Let me ask really quick, and then I'll let you go, basically you haven't lost – I mean, I can't think of a round, a single round, that you've lost over the last several years. Do you think you get enough credit for that?
Vitali Klitschko: You know what, it's very important not overestimate yourself and never underestimate your opponent. It's my principle. And that's why I work pretty hard and every fight I do my best. It's like the last fight in my life.
Never underestimate your opponent. And I have always have respect for my opponent and prepare for every fight pretty hard.
Lennox Lewis: Could I address that question? I just wanted to say that you know when you say that he doesn't get enough credit for winning all his rounds, you know in boxing, I think you know that definitely he should definitely get a lot of credit for that, because in amateur boxing you would.
But in professionals, they're really looking – a lot of people are looking to see knockouts to really give you that type of credit. So in that sense, it's different.
Vitali Klitschko: You know what is – knockout is actually the main point in professional boxing. Nobody has a question about who the winner is after a clear knockout. And you know my fight records. I give my best. If I have a chance, I knock my opponent out.
I know it's not easy. Solis has a good eye, good direction. But if I find the chance, I will use my chance to send him to the floor. I (promise) that.
Q: The first is for Tom, and then Vitali can address it as well.
Tom, could you kind of go through what the situation is with Wladimir and David Haye and Vitali down the road maybe having to step in sort of as a pinch hitter, I guess, for Wladimir, if that fight were not to come off because of his injury?
And also, for Vitali, if you could just address what his future is after this Solis fight, assuming he wins. Is he going to keep fighting? Or is there a time where he may step back and vacate his title and let Wladimir try to unify the whole division?
Tom Loeffler: Well, to answer the question, the fight is signed against Haye. And I don't really want to take away from the focus of this fight, because this is really a huge fight in itself, as Vitali mentioned. It's the mandatory for WBC title.
But what I can say is that the fight is signed, and one of the brothers will definitely fight Haye coming up in the next few months.
And I can put Vitali on for the other question. You wanted to know what his future is after this fight?
Q: Right, and if he ever – you know just kind of piggy-backing on that, he's 40 now, is there a time where he may step away and vacate his title and let Wladimir try to unify everything?
Vitali Klitschko: You know what is – it's very important in life – thank you for the question – is step by step. First of all, I have to win this fight. And I explained so many times, it's very important to have motivation in boxing. It's our big motivation to take – I like the world title to stay in Klitschko family,the whole heavyweight title. It's a great, great vision, and we try to make our vision true.
But anyway, without Saturday – without a win in this fight against Solis, I can't think about it, and – it is the first point. And the second point, step by step, after the fight against Solis, I can explain to you about the next plans.
Q: This question is actually for Mark. Mark, will Epix look to become a major player in the world of boxing? And are there any other fights or fighters in particular that you're looking in showcasing after this fight?
Mark Greenberg: Yes, it's been funny. Since you know we announced this venture two years ago, and we've been on the air for a little over a year, I would say I've had every boxing promoter with the exception of one in my office discussing the possibilities.
I will say to you that our business plan when we created the venture to be a new entrant into the paid TV category always included ring sports, whether it was boxing or MMA or wrestling.
Obviously, I've had a lot of experience on the boxing side, so that becomes a very comfortable place for me to be personally, because I know a lot of people who are involved. But more importantly, I think boxing's been a big part of paid TV.
So I can see this – you know we'll evaluate what happens this weekend, but I can foresee this being an important part of our mix. I don't see us as doing as many fights as others. But I think there are ways for us to have a meaningful position in the sport.
And look, I think the sport needs more outlets. Let's face it. I think what happens is, for a lot of the paid networks, and I ran one for a long time, the number of dates seems to dwindle. My guess is, with our announcement, we may see a few of those other networks come back with more dates in the next 12 months, too.
Q: Lennox, I know you fought Vitali I guess about six or seven years ago. And I'm wondering if – I know you've probably followed his career. I think you pay close attention to what's going on.
How would you assess what he has done from the time of his defeat against you to when you retired and then claiming the title going through a bunch of defenses since he's – you know having a long layoff, coming back winning several defenses.
Where does his legacy stack up, in your opinion, in heavyweights, whether it's compared to yourself, compared to his brother?
Lennox Lewis: Yes, I think it stacks up very high. To comeback from a layoff like he did, and to have just a tremendous fight winning the championship back again is a tremendous accomplishment. And even to continue winning at this – at the age he's at and still have the drive that he does is amazing.
So I think he does stack up, and you know in history, these things are going to be definitely noted.
Q: Yes, you'll be calling the fight. And it's been a little while since you've called a fight. Are you looking forward to being back in the broadcast booth in a – not only calling a fight, but being on a heavyweight championship fight against a guy that you're very familiar with, you know because ...
Lennox Lewis: Yes, absolutely, I'm excited about it. I'm looking forward to it. It's not like I don't know Vitali, so it's going to be exciting speaking about him.
Q: Lennox, how do you see David Haye and his chances of beating Wladimir or Vitali. We don't know who will be in the ring, but – so probably Wladimir. How do you see his chances?
Lennox Lewis: I think we should talk about that when that fight happens, but right now you should ask me about Solis.
Q: Would you consider this, right now, the era of the Klitschkos? And do you – would you induct them into the Hall of Fame, you being in there?
Lennox Lewis: It is definitely the era of the Klitschkos. The fact is that both of them hold titles and they're really the kings of the heavyweight division right now.
And as far as the Hall of Fame, that's an automatic question. You know whenever have we had two heavyweight brothers ever holding titles at the same time? I mean, that's an award in itself. So, yes, I would definitely induct them on just that premise alone.
Q: I think I speak for most boxing fans when I say that boxing hasn't seen a competitive, truly memorable heavyweight championship fight, like the fight between the two of you.
That said, Vitali, was Lennox Lewis your toughest opponent to date? And basically same question to Lennox. Lennox, was Vitali your toughest challenger?
Vitali Klitschko: In all my career, I've never taken so many punches. I never met such a strong opponent as Lennox Lewis. I never looked so horrible after a fight like in that fight. And definitely it was one of the hardest fights in my career.
And I'm very appreciative as Lennox gave me a chance to prove my skills against the strongest boxer all time. And I have a lot of experience as amateur, as a professional, and I can definitely say Lennox was hardest fight in my career.
Lennox Lewis: When you say "hardest fight in my career," he was definitely the – when I say "hard fight," he was a guy that I had to figure out. And when I say "figure out," the man wasn't easy to hit. Plus, he was way taller than me and had longer arms than me.
So – and my last major opponent before that was Mike Tyson, so to adapt to his different qualities, such as the height and the reach, was a challenge to me. So he was – he was a big challenge and one of the toughest fights.
Q: Mark, with most pay TV boxing cards, usually there is one play-by-play person. You're doing two. I know Sam Rosen worked very well, Tony Paige also, not only from boxing but also the sports talk radio show he does, and he's one of the best on the air. Why'd you decide to go with two play-by-play people rather then one?
Mark Greenberg: Well, I think you know we feel very comfortable with the team we put forward. I think we added Lennox to that mix, because we thought that added you know a really interesting dimension that, since Lennox has fought Vitali. I think Sam is going to do the blow-by-blow, and I think he'll do a phenomenal job, along with Tony, on the team, and with Lennox.
I think it's a great combination. We're excited about what we've put together. I think it'll work well. The ability to add these three guys to the same announce team will make this an interesting – I think you know when you come to the heavyweights being – the power and the speed that these guys have, Lennox is understanding the sport, who's been an incredible success in the last two decades and a great ambassador of the sport – three-time world champion. It's just really great for us to have him part of our team.
Q: Vitali, how (inaudible) you at this point in your career to gain the appreciation of American boxing fans who haven't seen to quite embrace you in the way that European fans have?
Vitali Klitschko: I would be very happy to fight in the United States. And I know I have fans around the United States. I fought many times in Madison Square Garden and Staples Center, in Las Vegas and other states.
I have a lot of fans around the United States, but (I say this) right now, we fought together (inaudible) more in Europe, because in the United States, there isn't a good opponent. But we would be very happy to fight in the United States and against American opponents or against any opponent.
The question of interest, yes, of course, if American television supports the fight and we have good arena and good proposal, we would be very happy to fight in the United States.
Q: Lennox, first of all, what do you see are the best weapons of Odlanier Solis? And if you had to choose, who do you think is going to win the fight?
Lennox Lewis: Oh, I think Solis' best weapons are his left hook right hand, and just the combination punching in close.
And who do I say is going to win? Obviously the best boxer of the night. I think Klitschko has a tremendous advantage, just because you know the experience aspect, the height, the reach and the fact that he doesn't get hit too often. And he knows how to really use his weight.
So I think the man with the most advantages is obviously Vitali Klitschko. So you know I'm edging him to win.
Vitali Klitschko: I want to say thank you very much for your attention. I'm very happy that this fight will be broadcast in the United States and more than 110 countries around the world. And it will be very – in my personal opinion -- it will be the hardest fight of my career, because Solis is very good opponent. And he's mandatory challenger.
But I will give my best to show everybody I'm very proud to have the same title what many have – Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, and I want to show I am very proud to have the title, and I will give my best to defend the title and stay world champion.
Don't miss the fight. The fight will be dramatic. The fight will be very interesting. And I promise I will give my best to show my skills and to show everybody I am the strongest heavyweight (in the world) right now.
And one more – one more – we want to support Japan during its tragedy. I know one of the judges will be from Japan, and coming from Ukraine, and I was, in 1986, close to Chernobyl. My father was there. And I know how big this tragedy is. And I understand right now the attention of the whole world is on Japan, and everybody is looking how the situation will develop.
I want to support Japan's people. I want to support the people who are fighting right now against this tragedy. And we definitely will make a donation from this fight to support Japan. Because I know how hard is it. I know how dangerous it is because it's touched my family -- the tragedy in Chernobyl, I know how difficult it is right now in Japan.
We just saw the news from Japan and see the news every day. I know all the fans and all the media are watching the nuclear tragedy in Japan. Sport connects people – sport can change the world. And I'm more than sure we have a lot of power to help the Japanese people who have problems – first from the earthquake and from the tsunami and now their nuclear problem.
That is it what I wanted to say. And please enjoy the fight Saturday night.
Lennox Lewis: I look forward to giving you some of Lennox Lewis' insights into the fight, and I'm excited about watching the fight, seeing the fight and for the public hearing from me.
Mark Greenberg: We're just really excited to be having this event on our network. It's fun when you do something for the very first time – a network that's as young as we are – in our second year to do your first fight, to be a heavyweight championship fight of the world, you know we're delighted that we can participate.
And it's been a pleasure working with our partners on this overseas in K2. They've been great. And we're looking forward to Saturday night