Ukrainian heavyweight boxers Vitali, left, and Wladimir Klitschko pose… (Natalia Kolesnikova / AFP/Getty…)
In the sport of boxing, there are thousands of sideshows and two real issues: Will Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao ever fight each other, and will the Klitschko brothers ever do the same?
The answers, in order, are: probably not, and never.
If you are a boxing fan, you hate both conclusions. If you are a human being, you will come to understand the Klitschkos' stance. Younger brother Wladimir articulated it nicely once again over lunch the other day.
"Don King once offered us $100 million to fight," he said. "My reaction was, how much is your mother worth?"
Wladimir said when he and Vitali used to merely spar, it got bloody and dangerous.
"The last time we sparred, and that was years ago," he said, "I broke my leg. After that, we said no more."
Recently, that stance became even more important.
The Klitschkos' mother, Nadia, became a widow July 13. Her husband, Wladimir Rodionovich, died of cancer after a long battle. He was 64, a former colonel in the Russian Air Force and one of the men put in charge of the cleanup of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986. His youngest son said that his cancer was directly attributable to his work at Chernobyl, and that, even at only 64, he was among the last of his military friends to die.
"I was 10 when Chernobyl happened," said Wladimir, whose family was in Kiev, Ukraine, 100 miles away. "Our father told us the Russians were hiding the truth, that something very bad had happened."
So the vow of Wladimir and Vitali to never fight each other took on additional importance July 13.
The timing of the senior Klitschko's death in Kiev also turned out to be especially significant to Wladimir, who had won his 14th fight in a row 11 days before, in a noisy and controversial matchup against England's David Haye in an outdoor soccer stadium in Hamburg, Germany.
Wladimir said that, at the services, the priest said his father had had nothing to confess at the end, but only said that he had been able to see his dream come true, when he watched his son beat Haye on TV. Wladimir's victory that night meant that he and Vitali now own all the heavyweight boxing titles. Wladimir is champion of the WBA, IBF, IBO, WBO and Ring Magazine sanctioning bodies. Vitali is the WBC champion.
"My father was my biggest fan," Wladimir said. "I heard it from the priest. I really didn't know that before."
Wladimir is 35. He spends a lot of time in Los Angeles, and the Klitschkos' company, K2 Promotions, has an office in Marina del Rey. Vitali just turned 40. He has lived part time in Bel-Air for years and planned the births of his three children here, so they would become American citizens. Both brothers speak four languages.
They have dominated the heavyweight division for much of the last decade and, despite their ages, appear poised to carry on. Especially Wladimir.
"When I won the Olympics [for Ukraine, in Atlanta in 1996], I think that that is all there is," he said. "Then I realize that there was something else, pro boxing. I figured I'd do that until I was maybe 25. Then I thought about stopping at 30. But I feel better every year, 32, 33, 35.
"I will know when it is time, but it's not now."
Nor is it for Vitali, who will fight Tomasz Adamek of Poland on Sept. 10. That will be in a new soccer stadium in Wroclaw, Poland, scheduled to open in 2012.
"The tickets are almost sold out," Wladimir said, "but we don't have any seats for them to sit in yet."
And then, in November or December, at a yet-to-be-determined site against a yet-to-be-determined opponent, Wladimir will fight again. Part of his eagerness to get back in the ring is his dissatisfaction with the Haye fight, which he won overwhelmingly on all cards. In a fight seen that night of July 2 on HBO, Haye got on his bicycle for the entire 12 rounds and pedaled. The fans booed and veteran ringside analyst Larry Merchant ripped him repeatedly, and accurately.
"I haven't even watched it," Wladimir said. "I can't yet. I'm not satisfied with the fight. He was amazingly quick and fast, but he just ran. He never wanted to fight.
"If you have lost the first 11 rounds — and I'm sure his corner was telling him that — then you come out in the last round, close your eyes and start swinging away."
That didn't happen, and Haye, who had trash-talked the Klitschkos and previously taunted them with an altered picture on a magazine cover of him holding Wladimir's bloody head in his hands, danced to safety one more time in the 12th.
Boxing fans want blood and guts. The Klitschko brothers give them strength and strategy. They are both about 6 feet 7 and 250, both careful in their approach to opponents, and both somewhat dismayed that their legacy seems to be that they are boring. The legacy they'd like, and think they deserve, is that they have been consistent and durable.
"When I hear I am boring," said Wladimir, whose record is 56-3, "I always answer one way: 49 knockouts."
Vitali could answer the same way. His record is 42-2, with 39 knockouts.
Boxing fans need to let go of their preoccupation with a Klitschko-Klitschko fight. They also need to start appreciating what the brothers have given to the sport. Anything else is a useless waste of energy.
"We know how to fight," Wladimir said, "and we aren't going to change how we do it."