Wladimir Klitschko not ready to give up on Olympic dream

Wladimir Klitschko
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NEW YORK — World heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko still hopes to compete in the Rio Olympics, but that does not appear possible.

“Wladimir Klitschko is not eligible for any of the qualifying paths,” an International Boxing Association (AIBA) official said in an email Friday, citing qualifying procedures here and here.

In 2013, AIBA, which is boxing’s international governing body for Olympic competition, also said Klitschko was ineligible, but added then that exceptions could be made to allow certain boxers into the Olympics as it moved toward allowing professionals to compete in the Games.

On Wednesday, Klitschko did not sound ready to give up on returning to the Olympics while at Madison Square Garden, where he will fight American Bryant Jennings in a title defense April 25.

“I’m not ready to talk about it in particular, what it looks like, because AIBA, that’s the sanctioning body of amateur [boxing], needs to get along with professional boxers,” the Ukrainian Klitschko said. “I’ve heard about the rules. There’s certain amount of boxing fights and experience, whatever the rules are, I’m not right now familiar with that, because I think it hasn’t been confirmed 100 percent yet.

“If there is a chance, I would love to participate. Any other sport, they can play professionally [and play in the Olympics]. It’s a shame for boxing that professional boxers cannot perform in the Olympics.”

Klitschko declined to give a deadline on when he would decide whether he will try to make the Olympics, if given the opportunity.

“I hope not the Olympics after Rio. I’m going to be 45 next Olympics [he will actually be 44], after Rio,” he said. “I hope things will be cleared up in the next half-year, and then we’ll go from there.”

Klitschko won the Atlanta 1996 Olympic super heavyweight gold medal.

“That was my dream, to fight again at the Olympics, 20 years later,” Klitschko said. “Not just to fight, but to win the gold again.”

Klitschko smiled when asked to recall his experience in Atlanta, saying “the Olympics have changed my life.”

“I have great memories,” Klitschko said. “Meeting Muhammad Ali. … He was visiting the [athletes’] village, gathering a lot of people. I was one of them. It was exciting to see him in person. I didn’t get a chance to shake his hand.”

Klitschko said that was the first time he was close to Ali. The two Olympic champions have met several times since.

Klitschko’s second memory was of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing on July 27.

“One of the memories is the bombing of the disco, where my friends went to, and I was there before,” Klitschko said. “But I left, because I have to be in the schedule and sleep. When I heard the next morning, which was right on the other side of the campus where we were staying, it was really sad. Thankfully, nobody from my team got injured, but they were there.”

Does Klitschko’s older brother, Vitaly, regret not being an Olympian?

“I think he does in certain ways, but another side, he’s happy because I won the gold for both of us,” Klitschko said.

Vitaly is now the mayor of Kiev. Klitschko laughed when asked if Vitaly might unretire.

“I can joke about it,” Klitschko said. “Sometimes before the fights, he says, ‘Man, these are such exciting times. I am missing it.’ But of course not. His responsibility now is mayor of city of Kiev, for four million people. There’s no way.”

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