Wladimir Klitschko has severely criticised a host of British boxers for what he calls their lack of respect for the heavyweight division.
Klitschko, who lost his world titles last year to Tyson Fury after 9½ years as champion, takes on another Briton in Anthony Joshua in a title fight at Wembley Stadium on Saturday night.
The Ukrainian hopes the contest will restore dignity to the sport following what he believes was unacceptable behaviour from the British heavyweights Fury, David Haye, Dereck Chisora and Dillian Whyte.
“When you see people are getting glass bottles on their heads, throwing tables, cursing, being on the stage saying stupid things, yes, it was bringing the heavyweight division down,” said Klitschko.
Haye brawled with Chisora at a press conference in Munich, while Whyte and Chisora were involved in tables being thrown in Manchester. Prior to Klitschko’s contest with Haye in 2012, the Briton wore T-shirts depicting him carrying the severed heads of Klitschko, and his brother Vitali.
In Fury’s short reign, the Mancunian drew stinging rebuke from women’s rights groups and the gay community as the result of his sexist and homophobic comments, while Klitschko has accused Fury of also being anti-semitic.
Klitschko says all of this damages the sport’s image. “It doesn’t do anything good for the people who do it and it doesn’t do any good for the sport. Absolutely it doesn’t. We are one family and we are connected to each other. All of us as fighters represent the sport, in a certain colour, image or association.”
Klitschko is relishing the contest with Joshua in which they will contest the vacant World Boxing Association title and the Briton’s International Boxing Federation crown.
“The build-up to this fight is different to anything else I have had in 21 world title fights,” said the 41-year-old. “I love the fact that the fighters show respect to each other and the fans love it. This is something that is great for the sport of boxing, especially in the crazy world that we are living in, especially in the violent world of boxing – that we are having a peaceful build-up.
“The attention to the previous fight [with Fury] was less than compared to this. It is an upgrade. I do love it. I’m enjoying the pressure ahead of this fight. Anthony Joshua is a great fighter, I’m taking the best out there to fight to be the best. I think it’s challenging and I’m already winning in this situation because I already took on the challenge. My next stage is bigger than my last.”
“Every fight is different, every fight is different and build up is different. It is never the same because you have a human in front of you and not a robot. You are assuming it is going to go this way, then it ends in a different way. Styles make fights.”
Experience, he believes, could be the key in this contest. “Experience is something that you cannot buy, you gain it over the years. It is an advantage. At the end of the day we look at history and you have Mike Tyson, the youngest heavyweight champion at 20 years and he was rolling over guys with more experience than him. You have to love the ambitions of AJ. Let him be ambitious. He has been promising to knock me out so I wish him good luck.”
Meanwhile, Hughie Fury has pulled out of his world heavyweight title fight against New Zealander Joseph Parker after suffering an injury. The 22-year-old, cousin of Tyson Fury was scheduled to face WBO champion Parker in Auckland on May 6, in his first world-title fight.
A statement from Team Fury and Hennessy Sports read: “Hughie has been declared medically unfit to box following a medical assessment.
“He has suffered an injury to his lower back which has been a serious issue for the last three weeks that has left him unable to train to his full capacity.”
Sky Sports Box Office will show Joshua v Klitschko exclusively live. To order go to www.skysports.com/joshua