Wladimir Klitschko, who dominated the heavyweight ranks for a decade with his cautious style and devastating knockout blows, announced his retirement Thursday at the age of 41.

“As an amateur and a professional boxer, I have achieved everything I dreamed of, and now I want to start my second career after sports,” the 41-year-old Ukrainian said in a statement released by his management company.

He also released a video announcing his decision on his website, which attracted so much attention that he said the servers failed.

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After bursting onto the scene with a gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Klitschko held the unified heavyweight belt from 2006 until 2015, when he lost a unanimous decision to Tyson Fury in Germany, the site of many of Klitschko’s bouts and his adopted home country. His last fight was in April, when Britain’s Anthony Joshua scored an 11th-round TKO of Klitschko in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium in London, a fight that generated interest in the heavyweight ranks that hadn’t been seen since the 1990s. A potentially lucrative rematch with Joshua was expected in November, possibly in Las Vegas, but Klitschko’s retirement means Joshua likely now will face mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria.

Klitschko finishes his career with a 64-5 record. He won 23 bouts as world champion; only Joe Louis had more successful championship defenses. Klitschko’s career overlapped with that of older brother Vitali, also a heavyweight champion, though the two never met in the ring after they promised their mother that they never would fight.

But the younger Klitschko wasn’t without his critics, who bemoaned his robotic defensive style and his tendency to tire out his foes with constant clinching and noted the fact that he rarely faced strong competition, unlike the heavyweights who ruled the weight class from the 1970s until the early 21st century.

“This is every single Klitschko fight you’ve ever seen: jab, jab, hold, jab, jab, hold, jab, right cross, hold, jab, left hook, hold, jab, hold, jab, hold, jab, hold, repeat. It’s an artless maths formula,” the Guardian’s Tim Starks wrote in 2013.

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Nevertheless, Klitschko still will go down as one of the greatest heavyweights to step into the ring.

“I would have never imagined that I would have such a long and incredibly successful boxing career,” Klitschko added.

SOURCE: The Washington Post, Matt Bonesteel

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