by T.K. Stewart


For former heavyweight titlist Vitali Klitschko, a product of the old sport schools from the glory days of the Soviet Empire, his has been a boxing career that is sometimes seen as a secretive, KGB-like journey through the murky underworld that is professional boxing. 


Klitschko, the son of a former Soviet Air Force Colonel, makes his long awaited return to the squared circle in less than two weeks and for his rabid fans it will be a much celebrated occasion.  He has been away from the rigors of the ring for nearly four years, but because of his favored status with Jose Sulaiman's WBC, he will go straight to Berlin, Germany and into a title shot against Samuel 'The Nigerian Nightmare' Peter.


Vitali and his younger brother Wladimir (the belt holder of the IBF and WBO titles) are aiming to fulfill a boyhood fantasy of holding versions of the heavyweight championship simultaneously.


"Without dreams, life is boring," says the 37 year old Vitali. "For years it has been my dream to be a world champion at the same time as my brother."


Klitschko retired from boxing in 2005 because he was repeatedly stricken with a host of training injuries.  He suffered from everything to a bum shoulder to a bad back to a thigh injury to a creaky knee.  Some blamed the injuries on anabolic steroids and Klitschko once tested positive for the banned substances as an amateur. In 2005 he went through a period where his enormous body (6'7 1/2" tall and 250 pounds) was breaking down on him all at once.  Instead of continuing, Klitschko, then the WBC heavyweight titlist, simply retired.


What was interesting to watch, is that each time he was injured, Klitschko would be quickly whisked off by his handlers to a clandestine hospital somewhere in the heart of Europe - or even Southern California (What's the difference?). It was tough to determine whether he was operated on, simply rehabbed or if he was really injured at all as he was usually kept far from the peering eyes of the free press.  


Any news that would be leaked out from whatever undisclosed bunker he happened to be hunkered down in was usually a carefully worded press release that said all was well and that he would make a complete and total recovery.  The injuries became so frequent that many within the boxing industry doubted the validity of the medical maladies and whispered that Klitschko, despite his record of 35-2(34)KO's, was afraid to fight. 


Hasim Rahman, a former heavyweight titlist himself, has claimed for years that Vitali was terrified of him and that when Klitschko repeatedly pulled out of their match that was scheduled for at least three different dates, that it was because of fear and not because of injury.


Rahman even released an open letter to Klitschko in 2005.  It read, in part: "I am writing you because it seems that you forgot about me, your mandatory challenger.  I must be the most invisible 6 foot 2, 240-pound black man on the planet. You have ducked out on me since April 30th, June 18th, and July 30th with varying excuses and injuries which I never quite believed existed."  


For the fight against Peter, Klitschko is training deep in the heart of the Austrian Alps, far removed from the inquisitive eyes of the boxing press and the distraction of unwanted intrusions.  The remoteness is one component of a well organized structure and almost scientific system that has been developed to have Klitschko at peak performance for the night of October 11th.  Nobody outside of the Klitschko camp knows for sure, but it's all cloak and dagger stuff which purportedly consists of doctors, nutritional programs, high altitude training, medications and medical tests.


"I know my body well, better than a doctor," said Vitali recently. "I feel great, I spend every day in the training gym and after that I go to the doctor. The doctor gave me a medication test and I got the green light from him. My coach gave me a training test, and I had an excellent result. I don't think about problems. I feel great and I look forward."


Last week, during an international conference call with reporters from around the world, Klitschko, who recently ran for the mayor of Kiev, Ukraine and has a strong dislike for his prior rulers - the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and for the current Prime Minister of Russia, Vladimir Putin, showed that he still has a bit of the old secretive KGB side to him and alluded to the fact that he may have spies keeping a careful watch on the Nigerian who is training in Germany.   


"I can't explain if Peter is better or not," said Klitschko. "I prepare for 100 percent. I know he's a very tough fighter and that's why I prepare very well. That's why I studied his whole career and that's why I know everything about him. My people are everywhere around Germany. That's why he should be careful."


Vitali and younger brother Wladimir have always reminded boxing fans of the fictional character, Ivan Drago, from the movie Rocky III.  Drago was a robot-like creature/creation from the Soviet sports system bent on destruction and seemingly built for the sole purpose of winning the heavyweight championship. 


Both Klitschko brothers possess Doctorate degrees in Sports Science from the University of Kiev, speak several languages, are avid chess players and are ambassadors for the United Nations. Both have colossal, Adonis-like physiques, shy away from junk food and since they came onto the professional boxing scene over a decade ago - have been described as the 'heavyweights of the future' by many boxing writers.    


Neither, however, has really ever lived up to their awesome potential.  Wladimir has stamina problems, a weak jaw and confidence issues which have derailed him on more than one occasion.  On the other hand, Vitali, with his many injuries, has been nicknamed "Britali" because of his brittle body.    


Despite glowing praise from the many fans of the Klitschko brothers, Ivaylo Gotzev, Samuel Peter's manager, is fed up with Vitali Klitschko.  Peter has been preparing for this fight under the watchful eyes of bodyguards, in Germany's Black Forest and Gotzev will only be happy when he sees Vitali standing in the ring.  If that happens it will mean that Klitschko has finally made it through a training camp for the first time in four years - unscathed.


"Let me add this to this conversation, because we've been hearing about how well they're preparing in the Alps," said Gotzev on last week's conference call.


"Everything is top secret. They’ve installed their little spies in all angles of the Black Forest. You know what, Vitali?  Here's where it's going to come down, brother.  October 11th it's you and Samuel Peter in the ring. There's no friends, there's no company, nobody out there helping you, because for those twelve rounds you better be ready."


Klitschko, always calm and in control, like some sort of Russian Czar, just laughed off Gotzev's comments and put the outspoken manager on the defensive by asking, "Why do you bring these body guards to send Samuel Peter to the Berlin arena? You're afraid of me."

Klitschko was then asked by a reporter on the conference call who he had been using for sparring partners in order to prepare for Peter's aggressive style and clubbing punches.


Reporter: "Who have you been sparring with for this fight?"

Vitali: "The name? It's a secret. It's top secret."

Reporter: "There's no secrets in boxing."

Vitali: "They want to know everyone."


Vladimir Putin, once the leader of the KGB, also known as the 'secret police' - would be proud. 


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