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How Wladimir Klitschko became a champion on both sides of the ropes

A more mature Wladimir Klitschko has become less concerned with defending himself against allegations that he is bad for boxing. Justin Heiman/Getty Images

There was a time when any interview with Big Wladimir Klitschko was an awkward interruption, an hour wasted, but then he got knocked out a couple of times and became heavyweight boxing's statesman.

He has also become less angry, less concerned with defending himself against allegations that he is boring, robotic and bad for the heavyweight division. They were, trust me, uncomfortable days for Wlad and, to a lesser extent, his big brother Vitali.

As each challenger withdrew into a shell, forgot the boxing basics and often rolled over when clipped on the chin, Wladimir notched up another defence of his various heavyweight titles. He kept winning, but for some crazy reason struggled with respect.

So far 25 men have lost world title fights to Wladimir during his two reigns. And, so far, eight of those men have entered the ring unbeaten and talking boldly of what they were going to do, how they had solved the Wladimir problem during their training camp, and how they would "break" his great tender heart. Wlad, you see, encourages denial in the men he faces.

So far, just two men have managed to blast-out Wladimir in world title fights and believe me when I say that neither, Corrie Sanders or Lamon Brewster had a "plan" that worked; they simply got lucky in shoot-outs and briefly separated Klitschko from his senses.

It is remarkable and often overlooked that the loss to Sanders and Brewster happened just thirteen months apart. In both fights Klitschko was dropped heavily, hurt and pushed all over the ring. There were serious concerns after Brewster - a nice guy heavyweight with an easy record - beat Wlad in April 2004 in five rounds to win the vacant WBO heavyweight title. It is too easy to forget that Manny Steward was in Wlad's corner that night for the very first time; it looked like Manny had backed a loser.

However, the pair retreated, assessed the future and obliterated the past. Manny gave Wlad the confidence, the belief and chipped away at the big lad's reckless flaws. Inside the ring the change took over, suddenly Wladimir Klitschko had a boxing brain to match the doctorates that were being thrown his way; outside the ring, he started talking up a storm. Hallelujah, the heavyweight void had been filled and in April 2006 - yeah, it took two years for Manny to make Wlad - the heavyweight belt was back in Wladimir's home and he was world heavyweight champion again. That was 18 defences ago and during that nine-year reign a lot of sense has been spoken.

It was Wlad that diplomatically castrated David Haye after their big fight was a big flop, it was Wlad that easily silenced the crowd of haters when Alexander Povetkin fell short in Moscow and it was Wlad that gently exposed the chaos in Tyson Fury's latest rants. It was his words, as much as his fists.

"Tyson is a big guy but he is insecure," Klitschko said. "He needs to keep talking to believe and I will keep listening - I have heard all the claims before. Haye said the same things. I can't take it serious."

Wlad's praise for Anthony Joshua is telling, it shows how Wlad thinks: "Joshua has the skills and the strengths on both sides of the ropes - he has solved the puzzles and he will be a great champion." Wlad, by the way, knows a thing or two about being a great champion on both sides of the ropes.