Wladimir Klitschko tells CNN his gold at the Atlanta Olympics is one of his career highlights
Current WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO champ took gold in the super heavyweight division in 1996
The 36-year-old auctioned his medal for $1 million to help his charitable foundation
Klitschko says he will fight again before the end of this year
An Olympic gold medal is no guarantee of subsequent success as a professional boxer, but it meant the world for Wladimir Klitschko.
However, that did not stop the Ukrainian from selling the coveted super heavyweight prize he won 16 years ago at the Atlanta Games.
“It was absolutely a highlight in my life and also a highlight for the country because Ukraine in 1996 for the first time traveled to the Olympic Games as an independent country,” the 36-year-old told CNN.
“We collected a lot of medals and we got ninth place worldwide, so we got in the top 10, which was a great achievement by the athletes.”
Klitschko will attend Friday’s glittering opening ceremony for London 2012 as the holder of four of the five recognized heavyweight belts.
Unlike his Olympic successor, Britain’s Sydney 2000 champion Audley Harrison, he has a formidable record in professional boxing, winning 58 of his 61 fights – 51 by knockout.
He and his brother Vitali – who holds the heavyweight division’s other title, the WBC belt – have dominated the elite class for the last five years.
But it was one of their many interests outside the ring that convinced Wladimir to auction off his gold medal – so the proceeds could boost the coffers of the charitable foundation they set up the same year he fought his way to Olympic glory.
“I did sell the medal in March and 100% of the funds, which is $1 million, went to the Klitschko Brothers Foundation – we care about education and sport, that is the key in any children’s life,” Wladimir said.
“If they have knowledge they can succeed with that in their adult life and sport gives them the rules – how to respect your opponent, how to respect the rules.
“It is always in life like that, you go down but you have to get up, and sport gives you this great lesson.”
Klitschko’s most recent defense of his quartet of titles came against American Tony Thompson in Switzerland two weeks ago, when the Ukrainian stopped his 40-year-old opponent in the sixth round.
And though he has penciled in another fight before the end of this year, Klitschko has yet to secure an opponent.
“I’m a seasoned fighter and that means I have to stay busy, so I fought twice this year and by the end of the year – November, December – I’m going to defend my titles again,” he said.
“I don’t know who is going to be the next opponent because I just fought recently.”
One of Klitschko’s most recent victories came against former heavyweight champion David Haye in Hamburg last year, and though the Briton retired after the fight he recently returned to the ring to beat compatriot Dereck Chisora.
Haye has repeatedly said he wants to fight Vitali, but Wladimir wouldn’t be drawn on whether the pair would finally square off in the ring, saying his brother’s political ambitions would be his main focus after his bout against Manuel Charr.
“It’s very difficult to follow the wishes of David Haye – he’s going to fight Vitali then he’s not, he’s retired then he’s not,” Klitschko said.
“There is a lot of controversy back and forth, and to make it clear Vitali is going to defend his WBC title in Moscow on September 8 against Manuel Charr and we can’t look beyond that.
“First of all he has to win the fight, then he’s going to have parliamentary elections because Vitali is a politician.
“He’s hopefully going to get enough percentage and pass the line to get to the parliament of Ukraine, so then we’ll see how it goes with David Haye and the fight.”