Vitali Klitschko honors brother in his Hall of Fame moment
CANASTOTA, N.Y. (AP) — Vitali Klitschko had a difficult time grasping the moment.
"It's not reality. It's dream," Klitschko said Sunday during his induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. "I never expected I will be in (the Hall of Fame). I didn't expect one day I become world champion in the United States. I'm very proud to be together with boxing legends. It's a dream to be in with Muhammad Ali."
Klitschko was elected to the Hall of Fame in December, three years after he decided to re-enter politics in his native Ukraine. Also inducted Sunday were four-division world champion Erik Morales and light middleweight champion Ronald "Winky" Wright, while Sid Terris was honored posthumously in the old-timer category.
Honored in the observer category were broadcasters Steve Albert and Jim Gray, while German promoter Klaus-Peter Kohl was honored in the non-participant category. Ring announcer Johnny Addie and promoter Lorraine Chargin were honored posthumously in the non-participant category.
With a Ph.D in his portfolio, the 6-foot-7 Klitschko earned the nickname "Dr. Ironfist." A product of the Soviet athletic system, Klitschko and his younger brother, Wladimir, dominated the heavyweight class for a decade.
Vitali, now mayor of Kiev, boxed professionally from 1996-2013, his fierce jab and aggressive punching the keys to a 45-2 record with 41 knockouts.
No surprise that Wladimir made sure to make the trip to witness his big brother's crowning moment. The bond between the two remains strong.
"I am very proud to have the strongest brother in the world," Vitali said. "We helped each other. I want to say thank you very much, brother, for everything what you did for me and your support. Younger brother, I'm more than sure you will also be here."
Morales won titles in four weight divisions. Nicknamed "El Terrible," the native of Mexico followed his father into the ring and won the NABF and WBC super bantamweight titles. He also beat Guty Espadas Jr. for the WBC featherweight title in 2001, captured the WBC and IBF super featherweight titles in 2004, and in 2011 defeated Pablo Cano for the WBC light welterweight title. He retired with a pro record of 52-9 (36 KOs).
Wright, a native of Washington, D.C., was a 5-foot-10 southpaw who captured the NABF light middleweight title twice (1995-96, 2000) and four world 154-pound title belts. He also competed as a middleweight and scored wins over Sam Soliman and Felix Trinidad, the latter he considered his defining moment before retiring in 2012 with a pro record of 51-6-1 (25 KOs).
For Gray, a veteran of over 700 championship bouts as part of the broadcast team at Showtime, it, too, was an unforgettable moment. He was introduced by former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, a good friend.
"This award is way, way overdue," Tyson said, sobbing. "I'm very proud of you. Well-deserved."
Gray started his career as a video tape editor and sports reporter in Denver in 1977 and was thrust into the world of boxing the next year as a teenage broadcasting novice when he was assigned to interview Ali.
Also touched by the moment, Gray added his own dash of humor as he spoke.
"It's ironic. The man who threatened to kill me in public is now inducting me into the Hall of Fame," Gray said with a smile as he glanced at Tyson. "My journey today has been an unlikely one. The Boxing Hall of Fame immortalized all of these great fighters. So this magnificent honor comes with tremendous humility. How could this happen? I never took a punch."