Lee Groves

10: Best Over-40 Fighters

7. Vitali Klitschko: Record after age 40 – 3-0 (2)

How’s this for a difficult to conceive fact: “Dr. Ironfist’s” current 53-month WBC heavyweight title reign is almost twice as long as the combined length of his two previous title tenures (28 months). Two other facts address why Klitschko is on this list; first, the last 20 of his 53 championship months have taken place beyond age 40 and second, only his younger brother Wladimir presents a serious threat to his reign, a threat that will never, ever become reality.

Klitschko has fought only three times since marking his landmark birthday and while he’s somewhat slower and less nimble, his aesthetic and mathematical dominance has remained. The over-40 version of Klitschko still fights with his hands dangerously low but because his 6-7 height towers over every opponent he long ago accounted for every possible punching angle and worked out ways to avoid each one. Plus, his subtle footwork enables him to easily cut the ring on mobile opponents and his still formidable strength and power takes care of those who choose to launch a frontal assault.

Tomasz Adamek was thought to be the most formidable challenger to either of the Klitschkos in September 2011. The former light heavyweight and cruiserweight titlist was shooting for an unprecedented three-division sweep and at 44-1 (28) he theoretically had the speed and skill set to keep Big Brother too focused on defense to mount his own attack. Moreover, Klitschko bravely chose to fight Adamek in the challenger’s home country of Poland. But while Adamek was the crowd favorite, Klitschko showed why he was the betting choice as he methodically sliced, diced, dissected and dominated the challenger from first moment to last. After nine rounds Klitschko was ahead 90-80 on all three cards and his cause was helped by a sixth round knockdown. A series of unanswered punches slowed Adamek to a standstill and a flush jab-cross-jab to the face prompted referee Massimo Barrovecchio to stop the slaughter.

Dereck Chisora gained his shot at Klitschko courtesy of a putridly rendered split decision loss to Robert Helenius that should have been an overwhelming victory for “Del Boy.” While he wasn’t thought nearly as highly as Adamek, the 15-2 (9) Chisora was rugged, durable and willing to engage. If Klitschko hadn’t been on his game, those assets could have worked in the 29-year-old’s favor. But once again, Klitschko’s savvy and work rate gradually wore down the younger man and in the end he earned a 119-111, 118-110 (twice) verdict.

Klitschko’s most recent fight against the 21-0 (11) Manuel Charr was a typical steamroller performance. The brash 27-year-old German-based Lebanese talked a great game and probably intended to back up his words with action but once the opening bell sounded Charr couldn’t find a way inside. Klitschko’s busy hands kept Charr on the defensive and set up a knockdown late in round two. A sharp jab opened a severe cut over Charr’s right eye early in the fourth and Klitschko’s constant hammering worsened it to the point that the fight was stopped at the 2:04 mark.

Klitschko has already put together one of boxing history’s most successful comebacks by winning the title from Samuel Peter his first fight out and registering nine successful defenses. His work beyond age 40 is just one of the big reasons why he’s a sure-fire future Hall of Famer. Because he remains active – and because the division remains weak – his chances of moving up this list are excellent.

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