Klychko's sensational failure in Kyiv: after this knockout, the champion did not fight in Ukraine
25 years ago, on December 5, 1998, Ukrainian heavyweight legend Volodymyr Klychko lost for the first time in his professional career. And it happened in Kyiv, in the first fight of the "Steel Hammer" in front of his audience. According to three main versions, the offender of the future champion was a little-known American, Ross Puritti.
As Vitaliy Klychko later admitted, it was he and Volodymyr who initiated the boxing night at the Kyiv Sports Palace. Prior to that, the brothers had easily defeated everyone in Germany, where their promotional company was located. But they really wanted to perform in front of their countrymen.
"We wanted to hold our fights in Kyiv to show the interest in professional boxing among Ukrainians. In addition, many people have only seen boxing on TV and had no idea how great a show it is. The main difference between professional and amateur boxing is that pro boxing is a synthesis of show and sport. I believe that it is only because of this synthesis that there is such interest in it," the future mayor of Kyiv emphasized.
From January to November 1998, Klychko Jr. fought eight fights and won all of them. And in a fight with American Marcus McIntyre (15-1), which ended in a knockout in the 3rd round, Volodymyr won the WBC international championship.
Before meeting with Puryear in Kyiv, Klychko's record was impeccable - 24 wins in 24 fights and 22 by knockout. The 1996 Olympic champion looked very powerful, but only five of his fights lasted longer than three rounds and one lasted up to the 8th three-minute mark. So the rising star had no experience in long fights.
Purity, in turn, was a typical juggernaut. Although his record included 24 wins and 13 losses, he faced many celebrities in the ring, including Larry Holmes and Chris Byrd, Hasim Rahman and Corey Sanders. The fight with Volodymyr took place two weeks before Ross' 32nd birthday. And although the American was technically weaker than the Ukrainian, he was not inferior in his arm span, was almost 10 kg heavier and had a wealth of experience that Klychko had not yet gained.
On that day, December 5, Volodymyr entered the ring at the Kyiv Sports Palace with the intention of knocking out his opponent in front of his audience. So from the first round, he set a very high pace, and Puryear tried to hide behind a solid defense and not make unnecessary movements so as not to lose strength early.
Several times Klychko Jr. managed to shake the American with his punches, and at one point it seemed that Purytti's head was practically hanging - a little more and the Ukrainian would achieve his goal. However, Ross showed an amazing ability to endure and withstand heavy blows from his opponent.
In the eighth round, Klychko became slower and even missed a two to the body. His legs started to get tired and shut down, but he continued to fight for some time thanks to his aggression. An unpleasant wake-up call for Volodymyr came in the ninth round, when the American threw a combination that hit the Ukrainian, but he failed to capitalize on his success.
"I should have listened to myself and my corner's advice... Instead, I listened to the audience. I underestimated my opponent from the start, and that was a huge mistake. After watching his fight tapes, I was sure that I could easily beat him and knock him out no later than the sixth or seventh round... I had a great desire to win. I continued to box to the end. I pushed through the pain, through the 'I can't', but I was absolutely exhausted," Volodymyr recalled.
In the 10th three minutes, Klychko's fatigue was visible to the naked eye and the American stepped up to the plate. The Ukrainian missed more and more often, and in the last minute of the round, the Ukrainian found himself on the ring floor twice. But while the first time the referee saw no reason to open the score, the second time Volodymyr failed to avoid a knockdown, and the bell for the break saved him from losing. But it was only a reprieve.
Puritti continued to attack his young opponent, and during Ross's prolonged attack in the 11th round, Klychko's trainer Fritz Zdunek ran into the ring and literally stood between the boxers, thus stopping the fight. And who knows, maybe he saved the future champion's health. And the American sensationally won by technical knockout.
"I wanted to impress the Kyiv audience, but I didn't have the proper concentration. I didn't prepare for the fight physically and psychologically as I should have, and as a result, I just wasted all my energy. I was an arrogant and self-confident 22-year-old boxer who felt invincible and thought that nothing could happen to me. And I paid a high price for that," Volodymyr later admitted.
"What was the plan? Avoid the knockout and try to win. He won every round until the 11th. I didn't do much, I just took punches because my form left much to be desired. In fact, he was beating me until he was tired...", said Ross Puritti.
Vitaliy Klychko also believed that his brother lost because of psychology: "Before the fight, I was absolutely sure that Volodymyr would win. I based it on his excellent preparedness. He sparred with very good partners, went the whole distance at a high pace, including sparring for 12 rounds. He looked great in training. Nobody could get behind him at all. Everything was great during the preparation period. I think the main mistake lies in psychology."
By the way, Klychko Sr. also boxed on December 5, 1998, in Kyiv, defending the EBU European title. And he was so angry about his brother's defeat that from the first seconds of the fight he literally beat the Italian Francesco Spinelli, who had 19 wins and 4 losses. As a result, the referee was forced to stop the fight in the 1st round, and Spinelli ended his sports career.
Three years later, Vitaliy also took revenge on Piuritti, who refused to hold a rematch with his younger brother. The Ukrainian won by TKO in the 11th round. In general, the American did not use the chance to restart his career after his sensational victory over Volodymyr. In 2007, he ended his career with 20 defeats on his record.
For some time, the "Iron Chin Boss," as Puritti was known, trained amateur boxers, even working with Golden Glove champion Charles Ellis, who had a short but explosive professional career. He then settled in Kansas with his wife, Twyla, and five children and sold Lexus cars in Wichita.
But Volodymyr moved on from his first defeat, admitting that he learned a lot from that fight. He went on to become the world heavyweight champion in three major versions, but never boxed in Ukraine again.
Earlier, OBOZ.UA told how Volodymyr Klychko avenged his brother by "blinding" his opponent and becoming the world champion for the first time.