Aged 41, Klitschko ruled boxing’s blue riband division for much of the 21st century and leaves the sport with a sterling record of 64(53)-4(3).
He had looked set to take on England’s Anthony Joshua in a heavyweight title rematch at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on November 11th, a bill which would feature Ireland’s Katie Taylor, but he will instead retire with immediate effect.
A gold medalist at the 1996 Olympics, ‘Dr Steelhammer’ turned pro and won the WBO title in 2000 against Chris Byrd. He made five successful defenses before losing the belt to Corrie Sanders in 2003.
The Kazakh-born fighter then unsuccessfully tried to reclaim the title in 2004 against Lamont Brewster before winning the IBF title in 2006, again against Chris Byrd.
Klitschko would make 18 successful defences and unifying the WBO and WBA belts before losing to Tyson Fury in a massive upset in November 2015. The future Hall of Famer returned for one more world title fight against Joshua, trading knockdowns before being stopped in the eleventh of an epic fight at Wembley Stadium.
Klitschko’s statement read:
“Twenty seven years ago I started my journey in sport; it was the best decision I could have made.
“I’ve travelled the world, learned new languages, created businesses, built intellectual properties, helped people in need, become a scientist, entrepreneur, motivator, hotelier, trainer, investor and much more.
“I was and am still capable of doing all this because of the global appeal of boxing, my own talent and, most importantly, because of you, my loyal fans.
“At some point in our lives we need to, or want to switch our careers and get ourselves ready for the next chapter. Obviously I am not an exception to this, now it is my turn.
“I’m doing this with the greatest of respect for the new challenges but also with tremendous excitement, passion, dedication, expectation and hoping that my next career, which I’ve been planning for several years, will be as successful, if not more, than my previous one.
“Instead of saying thanks and goodbye. I want you to continue to join mr on this new and exciting journey. When we’re together, we are more creative, more efficient, more productive and simply stronger in every way. Together we are the driving force.”
Joshua will now defend the IBF and WBA belts against IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria, a fight with less ‘box office appeal, and one which does not seem like it will take place in Las Vegas.
What this means for Katie Taylor’s world title fight is unknown. She may remain on a Joshua undercard, especially if it does take place in Sin City, or perhaps even fight a belt on the Ryan Burnett v Zhanat Zhakiyanov card at the SSE Odyssey Arena on October 21st.