Wladimir Klitschko suffered his first defeat in 11 years when Tyson Fury bested him in Dusseldorf, ending the Ukrainian’s dominance of the heavyweight division.
The 40-year-old failed to match the intensity of the Englishman in their fierce bout, resulting in his defeat on a unanimous points decision.
Klitschko now faces a make-or-break stage in his career as prepares to face off against the 27-year-old in their rematch, pending Fury’s return to fitness.
The Ukrainian is backed at 10/11 in the latest boxing odds to triumph over Fury in their bout at the Manchester Arena on October 29 as he attempts to re-establish himself at the peak of the sport.
Wladimir and his brother Vitali have dominated the sport since the start of their careers in the mid-90s, with both men enjoying lengthy spells with the heavyweight title.
The duo were and have been irrepressible in their style, overcoming their opponents with power and strong technique as well as their both physical and mental endurance in the ring.
These attributes have helped Wladimir remain at the peak of the sport even after 68 bouts, but he now faces his biggest challenge to date against the Manchester-born fighter in his desire to compete at the highest level.
His defeat to Fury was his first since the Ukrainian lost to Lamon Brewster in 2004, and only the fourth of his illustrious career.
Klitschko had never been beaten on a points decision before his loss to Fury in Germany, a testament to his brilliance and stamina, although the defeat will raise concerns that age may finally be getting the better of him.
Fury put the pressure on the 40-year-old early in their contest in Dusseldorf, forcing him to react by adopting an aggressive strategy. While it appeared to bring Klitschko back into the fight, the Englishman had regained his swagger in the ring by the latter rounds and managed to close out the victory.
The Ukrainian may have conceded that his stamina could have been a problem by upping the ante in regards to his training for the rematch, even going as far as using a cryosauna.
Klitschko was critical of Fury’s weight during their pre-fight press conference earlier this year, and may have targeted his endurance as a possible advantage due to the power and reach boasted by his opponent along with the levity in which the Englishman greeted his jibes.
The effort being put into training for the bout suggests that Klitschko is making a last-ditch attempt to regain his place on top of the boxing world before retiring like his brother, who called it quits at the age of 41.
With numerous promising athletes on the verge of breaking through into the top echelons of the sport, such as Anthony Joshua, another failure from Klitschko on the biggest stage could signal the end of his career.
The 40-year-old will put himself under immense pressure to avenge his loss in Germany, and has set his stall out with his vigorous training regimes.
However, father time remains undefeated and should Fury best him once again, it may be time for one of the greats of the sport to call it quits.