? ???? You’ve got to figure there’s going to be a lot of bleary-eyed Ukrainians stumbling down the stone streets of Kiev on their way to church late Sunday morning.
That’s what happens when one of the local boys does good, gets his name in bright lights and in all the papers and mentioned on local and national TV.
When one of the Klitschko boys fights for the heavyweight championship of the world, you know bartenders across the Ukraine are reaching up for the vodka on the top shelf, the best stuff in the joint. And you celebrate, win, lose or draw.
Ukrainian Vitali Klitschko fights Lennox Lewis for the heavyweight championship of the world Saturday on HBO at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Or at least he fights for what’s left of the heavyweight championship. Right now, there are at least three guys who can officially stand up in any saloon in the world and claim to be heavyweight champion of the world. They include Roy Jones Jr., Chris Byrd and Lewis.
But if you ask the guy who just changed your oil at Jiffy Lube who the heavyweight champion of the world is, he’ll probably say Lennox Lewis. After all, Lewis is the guy who busted up Mike Tyson more than a year ago, or back before Jones and Byrd won a small piece of the heavyweight crown.
Lennox was supposed to fight Kirk Johnson on Saturday, but Johnson injured himself training earlier this month and Klitschko, who was getting ready to fight Cedric Boswell on the same card, was suddenly the last guy left standing who was in shape and a legitimate top contender.
For Klitschko, it was like getting handed the keys to the new family car.
“Vitali, is there any chance you might want to fill in for Kirk, fight Lennox Lewis for the heavyweight championship of the world?”
“Mr. Buckner, would you like a do-over on that ground ball in the ‘86 Series?”
For Klitschko, this fight is a dream come true. Or at least that’s what he told the world when it came pounding on his door last week, asking why he took the fight on less than two weeks notice.
“I am in the best condition because I was already training for a fight,” Klitschko said on a recent conference call. “And I have been waiting for this fight for a long time. I have been waiting for this fight for almost three years. I am really prepared and I really want this fight. I am very excited and I want to give my best.”
He’ll politely tell you he’s not afraid of Lennox Lewis and doesn’t really care about anything Lewis might say. He’s heard it all before, heard it for most of his career.
“(Lewis) says I am not strong enough and not in a champion’s league,” Klitschko says. “I‘ve heard about it a lot, but I do not worry about it. All my other opponents were saying the same thing, but where are they now? Only one guy (Byrd) beat me, and he was losing the fight when I got hurt. They are not in the same position as I am.”
If Klitschko isn’t getting all the respect he’d like, he can thank Byrd for crashing his party.
In their April 2000 fight, Klitschko’s heart was put on trial when he lost to Byrd while sitting on his stool following the ninth round after suffering a torn rotator cuff. He was comfortably ahead on all cards at the time.
“The one fight American fans saw me fight was against Byrd,” Klitschko said. “And I got a lot of (criticism) after the fight. But it was my own decision (to quit). If you are injured and cannot move your left hand, continue to fight and lose the fight by TKO, then it is too late to explain afterward that you were injured. My left shoulder is good now and I’ll give all my best and do everything I can do to win this fight. I want to show how good my shoulder is against Lewis.”
Bartender. A round for the house.