Wladimir Klitschko, the former ring rival of Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury, will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the great heavyweight champions in modern boxing.
Alongside brother Vitali, the Ukrainian spent a decade dominating the sport’s most famous division.
During his career, he only fought three British opponents and it appears just one of them earned his respect…
When Klitschko met Haye in their unification, the fight was already long overdue.
The pair had first been due to meet back in 2009, but a back injury to the Brit saw the bout scrapped.
They eventually squared off in 2011 and, despite all of Haye’s trash talk, Klitschko emerged a comfortable winner by unanimous decision.
Klitschko said in his immediate post-fight interview: “It would have been awesome to knock David Haye out.
“I wish I could have proved it [that I was better] with a knockout of David Haye.
“I’m still not okay with his behaviour before the fight, it’s definitely disgraceful to the boxing fans and the sport of boxing the way the man behaved himself.
“Previous fighters I fought, they’re trying in the first rounds and they’re very cautious afterward, that’s exactly what David Haye did.
“He criticised all of them, but he got in the same situation as all of them and he was actually scared of fighting.”
Prior to the fight first being postponed in 2009, Haye appeared at a press conference wearing a T-shirt which depicted him holding up the two severed heads of the Klitschko brothers.
This sat in Wladimir’s memory for two years and meant that he was annoyed he didn’t get to KO Haye.
Klitschko added at his post-fight press conference: “He really p***ed me off with his t-shirt to be honest with you.
“It was really below the beltline and it wasn’t cool. I’m not happy that I didn’t [get a] knockout.”
To end the post-fight presser, Haye clambered up onto the table and showed journalists his broken little toe – which he cited as the reason for his lacklustre performance.
Klitschko told Sky in an interview a few days later: “It’s an excuse. The man has been checked before by medical commissioner and he was clear and ready to fight.
“If you’re in the ring, there’s no excuses. It’s called a sore loser.
“I warned David Haye, ‘Don’t do that. If something happened to you, shut the – up and don’t say anything because that’s gonna get back to you.’”
Four years after Haye failed, Fury succeeded in dethroning Klitschko.
Having earned his spot as mandatory challenger, the Brit travelled to Dusseldorf and shocked the boxing world by outfoxing the champion to take his titles.
Klitschko said at his post-fight press conference: “Today was not a good night for me.
“I wish there would be more clean shots that I could land, I couldn’t find the right distance to land the shots.
“Tyson was quick with his hands, his body movement and head movement – I couldn’t land the right punches.
“I congratulate him tonight, he won the fight.”
However, his attitude towards Fury changed following the various controversial comments the Brit made after the fight.
When they met again at the press conference for their rematch, Klitschko said: “I was looking forward to have a [new] champion that represents the sport in a certain way, in a good way.
“And also myself that I can look up to and say, ‘You know what? He’s doing a great job, I’m okay with that.’
“I’m not okay with that. What comes out of Fury’s mouth, he’s done a lot of statements that are disrespectful.
“For example that all homosexuals and paedophiles belong in the same place. All women belong in the kitchen and on their back.
“So that’s basically where he sees Elton John and the Queen.
“To people that say and think the same way out there, and to you Fury, I wanna say – F*** off.”
He added in a later interview: “I’m fighting a guy who can’t hold his mouth on certain things.
“I was in shock at his statements about women, the gay community, and when he got to the Jewish people he sounded like Hitler.
“The man is an imbecile. Seriously. You cannot put it all together as a representation of the sport of boxing. He’s an imbecile champion.”
Their rivalry worsened when Fury pulled out of the rematch twice as his life spiralled out of control.
The second fight never happened as a result and the pair share bitterness towards each other to this day.
Last October, in reply to a WBC tweet, Fury said of Wladimir’s brother Vitali: “Would have loved to kick his ass also.”
As a result, Klitschko hit back: “Fans, sadly it appears Tyson Fury is abusing substances again.
“History shows he goes off the deep end with irrational, sexist, racial, statements. Truth is Klitschko and ass kick is fantasy for him.
“Klitschko and run, ran, or dodged the rematch is more accurate.
“Just say no, pal.”
With Fury out of the picture, AJ claimed the IBF heavyweight title and then looked to pursue his other vacated belts.
The WBA agreed to sanction a fight between Joshua and Klitschko for their crown.
April 29, 2017 will be a date forever remembered by British boxing fans as 90,000 packed Wembley Stadium to see an historic battle.
AJ floored Klitschko in round five before the Ukrainian returned the favour in round six.
They fought on until round eleven when Joshua hammered home a monstrous uppercut which swung the bout in his favour. He put Klitschko down twice more and stopped him on his feet to claim a dramatic victory.
Klitschko said in his immediate post-fight interview: “The best man won tonight and it’s an amazing event for boxing.
“Two gentlemen fought each other, Anthony was better today than I.
“It’s really sad that I didn’t make it, I was planning to do it, it didn’t work.
“But all the respect to Anthony, congratulations. He got up, he fought back and he won the titles.”
Klitschko then added at his post-fight press conference: “AJ did a good job.
“He was trying, he was focussed and even if he went down, he got up and came back…
“I thought he wouldn’t get up, he managed to get up, respect…
“I think he’s vulnerable, that’s maybe something that he will need to work on, but he’s unified champion today and you have to respect it.”
Despite there being a rematch clause in the contract, Klitschko decided to retire after the contest.
He told the BBC a year on from their fight: “You know what I’m proud of at the end of my career? I finished my career on my feet.
“Most importantly, I knew I’m passing the torch to the younger, better, stronger man.”
Even now, the pair are on good terms and Klitschko told The National in early 2020: “Joshua is a superior athlete, great fighter, Olympic champion.
“Most importantly, he’s a great guy, who carries the torch of this image of a heavyweight champion perfectly.
“I’m proud to call him as a friend, even though we were [combatants]. And I think and I wish that eventually Joshua is going to unify all of the belts. That’s the eventual plan.”
Now, AJ is set to face Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday night.