KIEV: Intelligent, studious and inquisitive are not words generally used to describe heavyweight boxers.
But according to Professor Leonid Volkov they sum up Ukraine’s best-loved boxer, Vitali Klitschko, who rarely boasts of his intellectual endeavours despite being a doctor of science in Ukraine and a professor of philosophy in Germany.
Volkov, who guided the elder of the Klitschko brothers through his degree and subsequent doctorate, says it is Klitschko’s innate intelligence combined with his strength which will help him to beat Lennox Lewis on Saturday in Los Angeles, when the two battle for the World Boxing Council (WBC) title.
“The difference is that he is a thinking boxer, unlike others.
“He watches and he learns,” said Volkov, a former cyclist and now retired professor from the Pereyaslav Khmelnitsky Teachers’ Training Institute.
“It is difficult to beat him because he knows where the next punch is coming from, he analyses bouts. “He is not that kind of boxer who just wants to get stronger...he is interested in developing his mind as well as his body, developing his intellect. “He just wants to be more and more clever.”
For Volkov, who is still in contact with Klitschko and younger brother Vladimir after he mentored them through their studies, the fact that Vitali studied for his PhD in Ukraine while his career was taking off showed he was disciplined and hard-working.
Serious, but with a sarcastic sense of humour, Klitschko would not be stopped in his pursuit of a doctorate, planning his methodology meticulously and setting up his own experiments.
“He was a student of physical education and for the first couple of years he was a dedicated student.
“He never missed a lecture or a class...Then gradually he became successful as a boxer and he started to get individual supervision,” Volkov said.
“He would study by himself....and this is how he graduated from the institute and got his degree.
Then five or six months later, Vitali came up to me and said: ‘Leonid Viktorovich, I am interested in one question – being talented at sport, being good at sport – what does it mean? Am I gifted or have I made myself talented?’”
That was how he started his PhD.
Acknowledging that Britain’s Lewis was the more experienced of the two boxers, Volkov – like most of Ukraine – believes Klitschko will take the title in Los Angeles.
“I believe in Vitali this time. He is an experienced, clever boxer.
“ I don’t merely want him to win but I feel that he will win in the fifth or sixth round,” Volkov said, adding that he has always had one piece of advice for Klitschko. “I have always said to him: ‘Don’t let yourself get hit on the head, science needs you.’” – Reuters