Whether in sports, business, or politics, the Klitschko brothers— Vitali and Wladimir– are a force of nature not to be reckoned with.
Here is what you need to know about the bigger-than-life siblings:
1. The Klitschko Brothers Have Ruled the Heavyweight Division For the Last Decade
Vitali Klitschko and ‘little’ brother Wladimir Klitschko both made their professional boxing debuts on November 6, 1996 and have since gone on to dominate the over-200 pound division, collectively amassing a record of 108-5 with 94 KO’s and becoming the first brothers to hold world heavyweight boxing titles concurrently.
Vitali Klitschko (45-2, 41 KO’s) was the first to strike with world title gold, in 1999 with his victory over Herbie Hide he walked away with the WBO world heavyweight belt. Vitali, 43 years old, went on to lose the title in his first career-defeat, at the hands of Chris Byrd. In 2004, 6-foot 7.5-inch Dr. Ironfist lifted the vacant WBC title with a win over Corrie Sanders and held it until 2004, and again, after returning from a knee injury, from 2008 to 2013, when Vitali retired.
Wladimir Klitschko (63-3, 53 KOs) is currently in his eighth year as a titleholder, second only to Joe Louis’s record of 11 years. Wlad, 39 years old, won his first title by avenging his brothers loss to Chris Byrd and winning back the belt Vitali had lost. Now riding a 21-fight winning streak since his last defeat, at the hands of Lamon Brewster in 2004, 6-foot 6.5-inch Wladimir Klitschko holds the IBF, WBA, WBO, IBO, and RING titles and reigns unchallenged in the land of heavyweight giants.
2. The Klitschko Brothers Promised Their Mother They Would Never Fight Each Other
Born in Semey, Kazakhstan to a Soviet helicopter pilot (Vitali born 19 July 1971; Wladimir, 25 March 1976), the Klitschko boys’ first taste of combat sports came when Vitali, inspired by American karate and action films, took up kickboxing.
Retiring from kickboxing with a record of 34–1 with 22 knockouts, Vitali went to work with Ukrainian boxing coach Vladimir Zolotarev, and along with him came kid brother Wladimir.
Check out this vintage footage of the Klitschko brothers sparring:
In their documentary “Klitschko,” Wladimir reveals that, unfortunately for fight fans, their mother made them promise they would never fight each other.
“I wouldn’t do it, even for $1 billion,” Wladimir says in the film. “You can’t put a price on a mother’s heart.”
“I think the fight would be fast and furious with Vitali’s face spewing more blood than his younger, more talented brother, but I think Dr. Iron Fist’s chin would hold out better than Dr. Steel Hammer’s beard. I like the current Mayor of Kiev by four- or five-round TKO in a Foreman-Lyle style brawl (but only Baby Bro would hit the deck).”
3. They Both Hold PhDs and Speak Multiple Languages
All this business of Dr. Ironfist and Dr. Steelhammer stems from the fact that the Klitsch bros both have their PhDs (and that they punch really, really hard.)
In 2000 Vitali became the first professional boxing world champion to receive a PhD degree in Sports Science. Wladimir followed him with his own PhD, also from Kiev University.
“I’m very happy that I was able to conclude my studies successfully with this title,” said the elder Klitschko. “The doctor degree means as much to me as my winning of the world title against Herbie Hide. I’m very proud and I would like to thank my family who made things possible.”
In addition to their native Ukrainian, the Klitschkos speak Russian, German, and English.
4. Their Achievements Outside of the Ring Are Just As Impressive as Inside
The Klitschko brothers have proven to be just as proficient in the business and political world as they are inside the squared circle. Artist and athlete management, hotels, film distribution, and internet start-ups are only the tip of the iceberg of the Klitschko empire.
But the crowning achievement for the Klitschko clan came in June 5, 2014 when Vitali was sworn in as Mayor of Kiev (the capital and largest city in Ukraine).
“I want to become Kiev mayor because I love my city very much and want to improve life in it,” Mayor Klitschko told the press in the run-up to the election.
5. The Klitschko Brothers Have an Asteroid Named After Them
Discovered in 2007 by the Andrushivka Astronomical Observatory in Ukraine, Asteroid 212723 Klitschko was named as a tribute to the brothers for their involvement with numerous charities and organizations including UNESCO’s Programme for the Education of Children in Need and Council of Europe.