Originally created 04/01/04

Big times upcoming for big brothers Klitschko



LAS VEGAS -- The next few weeks will be big for the biggest brothers in boxing, Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko.

Wladimir takes on Lamon Brewster on April 10 in a fight that will show how far he's recovered from his shocking knockout loss a year ago to Corrie Sanders.

Vitali follows on April 24, fighting Sanders for both the WBC heavyweight title and some family pride.

There's a lot at stake, one reason the brothers hired trainer Emanuel Steward to help guide them.

"They are very serious, they are not taking any chances," Steward said Wednesday. "They realize what can happen after what happened last year with Corrie Sanders."

Technically, the Klitschkos can accomplish their goal of being world champions at the same time by both winning, though Wladimir's fight with Brewster is for a fringe title not generally recognized among those in boxing.

But beating Brewster, whose main claim to getting the fight seems to be that he's taken the last year off, would be huge for both Wladimir's confidence and his stature among heavyweight contenders.

"There's a very good American saying, which is, 'Take it step by step,"' Wladimir said. "First we have to get the titles."

Wladimir's fight almost seems the warmup act to his brother's fight with Sanders in Los Angeles. Vitali will fight in the same arena where he made a name for himself last June by going six bloody rounds with Lennox Lewis before being stopped because of cuts.

The same title will also be at stake next month. It was vacated when Lewis retired without giving Klitschko the rematch he wanted so badly.

"I was very disappointed with the decision by Lennox Lewis for retirement," Vitali said. "Millions of boxing fans wanted to see that second fight. Now I want to give the best to be world champion against Corrie Sanders."

Steward, who was the longtime trainer for Lewis and was in the champion's corner when he fought Klitschko, is working on adding some movement and different looks to the stiff Eastern European style the two grew up with as amateurs in the Ukraine.

Steward said Klitschko surprised Lewis with his mental toughness as much as his physical skills. The two fought a slugfest for six rounds, and Klitschko was leading on all three ringside scorecards when it ended.

"I was amazed with his intensity," Steward said. "When he came into the ring he was a man totally obsessed with winning. He was just so much more determined, and we underestimated that."

Steward said he sees Sanders as a dangerous opponent for Vitali Klitschko, and not just because he knocked out Wladimir in February 2003 in a shocking upset. The left-handed Sanders is a big puncher, though his stamina is questionable.

"He doesn't pace himself, he comes out looking to win by knockout," Steward said. "I think the first four rounds are going to be extremely explosive. It's going to be very dangerous in the beginning."

The winner of the Klitschko-Sanders bout will likely be recognized by most in boxing as the legitimate heavyweight champion. The other two major belts are held by IBF champion Chris Byrd and WBA champion John Ruiz.

Steward said the Klitschkos, who both hold advanced degrees and speak several languages, will be good ambassadors for the sport.

"They have a great sense of humor and they're very warm with people," he said. "They're the most accommodating of heavyweight champions I have known possibly since Muhammad Ali."