'Klitschko': Brothers And Boxers Who Fight Hard, But Never Each Other

If you think your kids have the potential for major sibling rivalry, consider the Klitschko Brothers, Wladimir and Vitali. They're the first brothers to hold world boxing titles simultaneously.

Director Sebastian Dehnhardt tells their story in a new documentary simply called Klitschko, and they talk about their story with Scott Simon Saturday on Weekend Edition.

While the Klitschkos lived in Kiev as kids, Vitali says it was boxers like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson who inspired him and took him past his initial response to the sport of boxing — that it was "disgusting." Vitali was so inspired by a televised Tyson fight that he vowed to his friends he'd one day take Tyson's title, despite the fact that he was a skinny kid not resembling Tyson much at all. He remembers that vow and thinks it mattered: "It's very important to have a dream and make a dream true," he says.

But making a dream come true can have its ugly moments. Wladimir remembers watching Vitali fight Lennox Lewis and emerge with a cut so brutal he "couldn't believe how deep the cut was and how much blood was there." And as rough as it might have been if Wladimir suffered the cut himself, it was bad enough as a spectator. "Vitali kept fighting, and it was tough to see your brother bleeding," he recalls. The referee eventually ended the fight on the advice of the ringside doctor, but Wladimir says Vitali "just got stronger and better."

For many boxers, it's not the bleeding cuts that present the only worrisome injuries. Simon asks about the risk of brain damage that many boxers have experienced. "Well, in life you have different examples," Wladimir says. While Muhammad Ali has Parkinson's disease, the brothers once met Muck Smelling, a former heavyweight champion who once defeated Joe Lewis. At 94, according to Wladimir, he was "sharp with his memory, he was sharp with everything you could see in a 94-year-old." Furthermore, Wladimir points out that not everyone fights the same way, and strategy can mean a lot: "We learned the first way of boxing is not to get hit. You can get hit and you learn how to avoid the punches, and eventually you're knocking your opponent out."

The question has to be asked, so Simon asks: Will they ever fight each other? According to the Klitschkos, they won't. Why? "We promised our mom not to fight each other," according to Wladimir. He goes on to explain that taking on your brother in boxing is different from taking him on in tennis or another sport: "It's a serious business." Interestingly, he spins the question back on Simon, asking why he wants to see them fight. He doesn't, Simon answers. In fact, he "would be appalled by that."

"Why did you ask?" Wladimir says.

"That's what we journalists do," Simon says with a laugh. "We ask appalling questions sometimes."

"Fair, fair," says Wladimir.

They certainly don't seem eager to fight each other. Vitali reflects on what it's like to share his profession with his brother, saying, "I give great thanks to my parents, because they give me great present, my youngest brother. Because without brother, my life would be so boring." And it doesn't hurt, he says, to have a brother who happens to be "the strongest man in the world."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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