Wladimir Klitschko: Boxing's record-breaking heavyweight who dominated a generation

"Dr Steelhammer" - who has refused a comeback at 45 - will go down as one of the great fighters in heavyweight history.

Anthony Joshua is looking to do something for the first time since Lennox Lewis defeated Evander Holyfield in 1999 - become undisputed heavyweight champion.

The 2012 Olympic champion is set to take on domestic rival Tyson Fury in a summer showdown with Saudi Arabia favourite to host the event in July or August.

It will be the first time two British fighters compete for the status as heavyweight's best with all four major world titles on the line.

Joshua - currently enjoying a second reign as unified champion - will certainly take note of an all-time great in Wladimir Klitschko - a legend AJ shared the ring with four years ago.

When it comes to world title defences and his reign as world champion, Klitschko holds the longest cumulative days as heavyweight king - 4,382 days - as well as holding the most wins as unified champion.

The Ukrainian icon - who walked out to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers' 'Can't Stop' was the most dominant fighter of his generation rightly got inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame class of 2021.

The only asterisk on his record is not being undisputed champion but it comes with good reason.

His brother Vitali held a version of the world title at heavyweight too. Having promised their mother they would not fight each other, they kept to their word.

Known as the 'Klitschko Era', Wladimir and Vitali ruled together for more than a decade and are in the Guinness World Record Books as the pair of brothers with the most heavyweight world title wins at 40.

In 2004, Wladimir made the best decision of his career by hiring the late, great Emanuel Steward following knockout defeats to Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster.

Klitschko would transform into the complete fighter under Steward.

The power from his left hook was a punch hard enough to knock any opponent but it was his jab which became his best weapon under the tutelage of Steward.

Together, Klitschko would avenge his defeat to Brewster in imperious fashion and beat all contenders and champions, including David Haye.

His unification bout against Haye was a standout performance by Klitschko, especially after the way the British fighter had handled himself during the build-up.

Dominated by trash-talk and threats, Haye - who wore a t-shirt with both of Klitschko's heads ripped apart in New York - got beat down and taught a lesson by Wladimir in Germany.

Wladimir Klitschko dominated David Haye to unify the heavyweight division in 2011
Wladimir Klitschko dominated David Haye to unify the heavyweight division in 2011

"I wish I could have proved it [that I was better] with a knockout of David Haye," Klitschko, who beat Haye via unanimous decision, said.

"I'm still not okay with his behaviour before the fight, it's definitely disgraceful to the boxing fans and the sport of boxing the way the man behaved himself.

"Previous fighters I fought, they're trying in the first rounds and they're very cautious afterward, that's exactly what David Haye did.

"He criticised all of them, but he got in the same situation as all of them and he was actually scared of fighting."

In 2012, Klitschko revealed he was training with Johnathon Banks as Steward continued his recovery from a bowel operation.

In news which left the boxing fraternity devastated, Steward passed away in October of that year.

Klitschko would fight the following month and outpointed Polish slugger Mariusz Wash in Hamburg to retain his WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO and Ring titles. He dedicated his win to the boxing legend.

Another five successful defences would follow, including a unanimous decision victory over Alexander Povetkin in Russia and Kubrat Pulev, who he knocked out inside five rounds.

In his 21-year career as a professional - Klitschko, who won the 1996 Olympic gold medal at super heavyweight in Atlanta - called time on his career following defeat to Joshua in 2017 and left a legacy only most could dream of.

Klitschko comeback would break records

Klitschko has hinted about making a comeback several times since hanging the gloves up.

"Dr Steelhammer" would love the chance of breaking George Foreman's record as heavyweight's oldest champion at 45.

Vitali, now the Major of Kyiv, said it would take more than $80million to tempt his younger brother out of retirement.

Vitali said: "When the news came that a TV channel had offered 40million dollars to make a comeback, I called him and asked what was going on." He said, 'This is an offer that does not really interest me.'

"When, a few weeks later, I was talking about an 80million dollar offer, I called again and asked, 'What is the situation now?'

"He said, 'This is not an offer that changes my mind, maybe I'll start thinking about it at 100 million dollars'.

"Never say never - and that has not changed in his status as a boxer retiree at the moment."

Regardless of his decision, Wladimir Klitschko will keep his legacy intact as one of the most dominant heavyweights of all-time.

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