'Klitschko': Bruise brothers the subject of new doc
NEWARK STAR LEDGER
October 21, 2011
by Stephen Whitty

Those of us who love boxing know it is utterly indefensible. But that doesn't keep us from loving it.

Because what makes it so horrifying — two men, stripped to the waist, battering each other with their own fists — is what makes it so hypnotic. Forget pennants and trophies. The stakes in this sport are real, and dangerously high.

Making them even higher over the last decade or so were the Klitschko brothers. A pair of strapping Ukrainians, they entered the heavyweight division like Dolph Lundgren in "Rocky IV." And how they triumphed is detailed in the straightforward, beautifully photographed German documentary "Klitschko."

Drawing on extensive interviews with the brothers, as well as with their parents, trainers, opponents and followers, it's a no-nonsense look at what it takes to become a champion — and what it takes out of a man to hold on to that title.

The boys, Vitali and Wladimir, were born into the grubby, Brezhnev-era Soviet Union. Their father was a career military man; the family moved from one ugly outpost to the next. (At one point, their dad was in charge of a cleanup detail at Chernobyl; not surprisingly, he's been battling cancer for years.)

Both boys were fans of martial arts (banned, at the time, for its pernicious "Western" influence — as if there were anything inherently capitalistic about kung fu). Further stops included kickboxing, the Olympics and finally the heavyweight circuit.

They then moved to Germany, where their uber-mensch image made them instant celebrities. Still, there were hurdles to overcome, including some surprise losses and the slick entreaties of Don King (the brothers, smartly, didn't sign with him).

Both brothers were famous for the physical damage they inflicted; nobody since Mike Tyson had seemed to punch quite so hard. Yet they took a beating, too, as seen in gruesomely graphic footage of Vitali's 2003 fight with Lennox Lewis, in which Lewis opened a bloody cut above Vitali's eye the size of a small canyon.

It was a remarkable battle. Even more remarkable was that Vitali tried to fight on, even with his face a mask of blood.

"Klitschko" is clearly an authorized biography; you'll find nothing here about their private lives (like the fact that Wladimir dated actress Hayden Panettiere for two years) and little about their personal foibles or future plans (although Vitali's involvement in Ukrainian politics is mentioned).

With their easy domination of the sport, the Klitschkos have become their own dynasty — and, perhaps, their own problem. If they're so good, who's left for them to fight? One opponent — in an interview taped long before "The Warrior" — suggests the only solution is for them to climb into a ring and fight each other.

But that's a nonstarter. You see, they already promised Mama.