Vladimir Klitschko insists he only wants to fight the best challengers in the heavyweight division. So he gladly accepted undefeated Calvin Brock as his opponent for Saturday's IBF title bout.
Klitschko comes off one of the most impressive showings in his 49-fight career, a seventh-round knockout of Chris Byrd to win the IBF crown. After disposing of Byrd, and realizing none of the other heavyweight champions wanted a piece of him in the ring, Klitschko asked his handlers for the best available contender.
They had little trouble finding Brock, who is 29-0 with 22 knockouts and was a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team in Sydney.
"My goal is to unite the titles," Klitschko said before weighing in at 108 kilograms (241 pounds) to 101 (224 1/2) for Brock. "But if those other champions don't want to fight, we will fight whoever is the best, and that is Calvin Brock.
"Of course, he is in great confidence, he wants to be a champion of the world. So this is his chance, and that's why I think he will be very well motivated, and I don't want to underestimate Calvin at all."
Klitschko, from Kazakstan, and whose brother Vitali once held the WBC title and now was retired, wants more than a successful defense from his work at Madison Square Garden.
"I want to bring more popularity to boxing," the 30-year-old Klitschko said. "Here and in Europe and everywhere.
"I know the criticism is still there, but it will lessen as I win more fights."
The main criticism of Klitschko, as it was for his brother, is a lack of versatility in the ring. But working with noted trainer Emanuel Steward, Klitschko believes he'll have some surprises for the 31-year-old Brock.
"Wladimir trains harder than anyone I've been involved with," Steward said. "People said Chris Byrd was the most respected heavyweight champion and Wladimir asked, `Can I get him?' He got him and he beat him.
"He was faster than Chris Byrd, as fast as Byrd was. You can't see his punches; he's as fast as anyone I've seen since Muhammad Ali."
That might be an exaggeration, but the point is well made: Klitschko won't just stand around looking to land one big punch, reports AP.
Nor will Brock, who has made his way through the heavyweight ranks without meeting many high-quality opponents. But anyone who brings an undefeated record and so many knockouts into the ring is a threat.
"Despite what everyone else might be thinking or saying, I've faced all the odds and I'm here to face the most legitimate heavyweight champion in the world," Brock said. "Is this the right time for me to challenge for the heavyweight title? Indeed it is.
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