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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tough Year for Boxing Brothers

LAS VEGAS -- This was supposed to be the breakout year for Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, the Ukrainian giants with big plans to be heavyweight champions at the same time.

The way it's gone so far, it might turn out to be the year that breaks the boxing brothers.

Seemingly ready to conquer the heavyweight ranks as 2003 began, the Klitschkos now find themselves in search of fights, titles and respect that are proving difficult to come by.

The first crimp in their plans came when Lennox Lewis blew off a planned April 12 fight against Vitali. That was bad enough, but then Corrie Sanders' shocking knockout of Wladimir on Saturday night in Germany really shook things up.

"This is why sport is so interesting," a philosophical Wladimir said. "Nobody knows what comes in the future."

As this year began, Wladimir was coming off a December win over Jameel McCline and had just signed a nine-fight HBO deal, while Vitali seemed assured of his bout with Lewis for the WBC title.

"It's like five minutes before 12 o'clock," Wladimir said after beating McCline. "It's not 12 o'clock yet, but it will be so soon."

Lewis, though, backed out of the fight with Vitali to wait instead for Mike Tyson, leaving the No. 1-ranked WBC contender waiting at the altar. And while he's suing the WBC to force Lewis to face him, Vitali has no fights lined up and waits in limbo for the right scenario to unfold.

Vitali's problems pale in comparison to those of his brother, though, who was knocked down four times before the fight with Sanders was finally stopped in the second round.

Wladimir was the 1996 Olympic gold medalist and thought to be the better of the brothers. But he was beaten so badly -- and so easily -- by the 37-year-old Sanders that it could take years to restore his confidence and reputation.

"You can recover, but it will take a long time. People will always remember that knockout," promoter Bob Arum said. "Look at how long Lennox Lewis took to recover from his knockout loss to Oliver McCall."

Arum helped promote Wladimir's knockout win over McCline and was maneuvering to be involved with his planned two fights in the United States later this year. He said he told Klitschko's German promoter, Peter Kohl, to match Wladimir against a lesser opponent, but that they went with Sanders because he was cheaper.

"The German geniuses who run the show took a guy who punches like a mule and this is what happened," Arum said. "It's all greed. They didn't look at the long term."

Worse yet for Wladimir, he might lose part of his HBO contract because the network won't be interested in his fighting his way back to the top.

After his brother's loss, Vitali got into a shouting match with Sanders in the ring, promising to get revenge for Wladimir's loss.

But Wladimir says he will be the one fighting Sanders, and he wants a rematch as soon as possible. Speaking on the phone from Germany, he blamed the loss on not knowing what to do when he got caught by a big punch.

"I was never hit like that before. Not in amateur, not in sparring, not as a professional," he said. "It was a good lesson for me. Now I know a lot more about boxing."

Wladimir said he will recover and hopes to fight in New York City in the summer, perhaps in a rematch with Sanders.

Vitali, too, must also wait for his chance.

"Our plans with Vitali have not changed. We will both be heavyweight champions," Wladimir said. "Nothing has changed."