April 4, 2000
Hamburg, April 3, 2000. On a press conference at Steigenberger Hof in Hamburg today former WBO heavyweight champion Dr. Vitali Klitschko took a stand on his fight on Saturday. Together with promoter Klaus-Peter Kohl, chief coach Fritz Sdunek and doctor of sports medicine Dr. Peter Benckendorff the big Klitschko brother explained why there was no other choice but to stop the bout.
DR. VITALI KLITSCHKO:
"I know I disappointed many of my fans. After the fight I was told people question my heart. That hurts me deep. But I made my decision. Health is more important than a victory."
"Byrd landed a punch on my left arm in round three. That was the moment when it began to hurt and the pain become more and more the longer the fight lasted. I really had a lot of pain. I didn't show my pain to my opponent because that would have made him strong. But in the end my arm hurt too much and felt dump. I was almost completely unable to use it."
"The biggest potential of an athlete is his health. That's why I feel bad now, because I'm injured. I want to thank everybody who believes in me. Many people at the begin of my career had their doubts: 'Is Vitali real good? Does his opponent stand a chance?' Now the sceptics dig up their doubts again."
"The most important thing to me right now is to recover. I will be back. The people who believed in me I want to say Thank You. The people of have doubts I want to tell: We talk again after my next fight."
"I feel alright and strong and I promise: I will regain my world championship title!"
Coach FRITZ SDUNEK:
"Despite of a lot of stress our preparation went fine. Vitali was physically in excellent condition. During training he even took the doctor title but unfortunately in the fight he lost his world title."
"From time to time Vitali after hard days of training was discovering a slight pain in his shoulder. But it always disappeared during the stabilization phase in the last two weeks. Four days before a fight Vitali was always 100% physically."
"Our game plan was to set up his opponent patiently in the first three rounds. Then he should increase the pressure. But in round three Byrd landed a punch on Vitali's left shoulder. From that moment on he couldn't realize our game plan anymore."
"After round four Vitali returned to the corner complaining about a huge pain. I knew it was serious, because Vitali usually never complains about pain. He is a real tough guy. When he complains about pain it must be unbearable. In round nine Vitali tried very hard to knock out Byrd with a lucky punch. But he didn't succeed. Afterwards he could not even raise his arm for a clinch anymore.
"Many athletes quit fights moaning. Vitali stopped like a man. On Saturday I reproached myself that I didn't stop the fight two rounds earlier. Today, after reading the medical diagnosis I reproach myself for not stopping it three rounds earlier."
DR. PETER BENCKENDORFF, doctor of sports medicine:
"We examined Klitschko today and found a tear in the rotator cuff, the complex structure of the muscles and tendons of the shoulder. This structure is responsible for raising and turning the arm. These movements were impossible from the point on where the injury happened."
"The pain caused by such an injury is extreme. It's only imaginable for somebody who suffered such an injury himself. The pain takes away your concentration and your ability to think. It would have been insane for Vitali to continue fighting."
"The injury does not only cause pain but also a dump feeling and weakness of the arm. In addition there was the danger that after even more stress the tendon could have tear altogether. Even clinching wasn't possible for Klitschko anymore as he couldn't raise his arm anymore."
"After the fight I talked to referee Gernaro Rodriguez. He confirmed that he exactly remembered the moment of the injury. It was a punch from Byrd that landed on the left arm of Vitali. That explains all and it's clear that he couldn't win that night. It was the typical mechanism of this kind of injury. When you raise your arm you produce a bottleneck between the bones of the shoulder. If this region takes a punch then the tendon tears."
"You can heal it conservatively or with an operation. In any case Vitali should be treated that way that he never discovers problems with that shoulder again. First his arm must be fixed for four to six weeks. The arm may not be loaded."
Promoter KLAUS-PETER KOHL:
"Health has the first priority. When the trainer and the boxer decide to stop a fight I agree with it."
"We lost a fight and it's a huge disappointment but we will be able to make up for it. We still believe in Vitali. He was ahead on the score cards. Despite of being injured he continued fighting and won rounds. It was more important to stop the fight in time than to win it. We lost a fight but fortunately we did not lose a fighter!"
"If Vitali would have continued and would have been knocked out nobody would believe afterwards that it was because of an injury. Vitali tried everything until the end to knock out Byrd."
"Now we must move on calmly and decide whether Vitali should be operated or not. It's about his career!"
At the time of the stoppage Vitali Klitschko was ahead on all scorecards, once with 89:82 (Klitschko won eight rounds, Byrd won one round) and twice with 88:83 (Klitschko won seven rounds, Byrd won two rounds).