By Mark Vester

WBO/IBF heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko says the heavyweight division may be under fire from boxing fans in America, but the entire weight class is thriving in Europe. A sell-out crowd of 60,000 are expected at the FC Schalke football stadium in Gelsenkirchen, Germany on Saturday as Klitschko defends his titles against undefeated Ruslan Chagaev.

"It's funny to hear the Americans say the heavyweight division is dead because in Europe the feeling is different," said Klitschko to AFP. "The criticism of the heavyweight division is there but it's going to change some day. There are 300 million living in the Russia region and they are saying there 'Now we have excitement in the heavyweight division'. It depends what section of the region of the world you are living in.

"Forty-six opponents didn't make the distance out of 55 against me, so is that a boring record? I believe that my timing is getting better and in his thirties a heavyweight fighter is getting stronger."

Despite the big business in Europe, Klitschko wants to win over the American fans. His friend and ring idol, the late Max Schmeling, told him a long time ago to take his career to America.

"Max Schmeling told me and my brother, 'If you want to be world champions you have to fight in the USA. That's the way I did and the way you have to do it'," said Klitschko. "We said to our promoter at the time you have to do it like that and since 1998 we have been doing that. Max Schmeling was right. As the champion, you have to be able to fight worldwide."

Emanuel Steward, trainer of Klitschko and former trainer of legends like Tommy Hearns and Lennox Lewis, told AFP that America will come around sooner or later and accept Klitschko.

"American boxing fans are used to America controlling the heavyweight division but Lennox Lewis changed that," said Steward. "At the end of his career, they finally accepted Lennox. But the American crowd have still not accepted that the European heavyweights are controlling the heavyweight division now.

"Wladimir has not had that devastating effect in America, yet. All Wladimir has to do is have a devastating knockout and beat the likes of Chris Arreola and Alexander Povetkin, then America will grab him."

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