Though a major celebrity in his former adopted home of Germany, in 2004 he moved with his older brother (former heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko) to Beverly Hills.
Klitschko first achieved world attention at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. He defeated Paea Wolfgramm in the finals for the Super-Heavyweight gold medal. Standing at 6' 6"" (200 cm), Wladimir is large, even for a heavyweight, yet has a lean and muscular frame. He usually dominates opponents with his quick jab, punching power, and fluid body movement. Klitschko is prone to suffering knock-downs. He has also suffered rare episodes of sudden mid-fight exhaustion, due perhaps to a suspect cardiovascular conditioning program.
Klitschko turned professional with Universum Box-Promotion in Hamburg, Germany under the tuteledge of Fritz Sdunek. On October 14, 2000, in K"lnarena (Cologne) Germany, Klitschko won the WBO Heavyweight Championship from American Chris Byrd (who had won it from Vitali six months earlier). After five successful defenses of the belt, Wladimir suffered an upset loss to South African Corrie Sanders on March 8, 2003 in Hannover, Germany. Klitschko was knocked down four times before the fight was stopped in the second round.
After two minor bouts in Germany, Wladimir again fought for the vacated WBO Title on April 10, 2004 in Las Vegas. He was defeated by TKO at the end of fifth round by American Lamon Brewster. The fight was stopped by the referree when Klitschko appeared exhausted and non-responsive. Speculative accusations that Klitschko had somehow been drugged were never proven.
After defeating American DaVarryl Williamson on October 2, 2004 and the previously undefeated Eliseo Castillo on April 23, 2005, Klitschko faced Nigerian Samuel Peter on September 24, 2005 in Atlantic City, New Jersey in an eliminator match at for the IBF and WBO number-one contender ranking. Despite being knocked down three times and repeatedly forcing clinches with his opponent, Klitschko dominated more rounds of the fight and earned a unanimous-decision victory.
On April 22, 2006 in Mannheim, Germany, Klitschko again defeated Chris Byrd, this time by technical knockout, after a decidedly one-sided contest for the IBF and the previously vacated IBO world heavyweight championships. Referee Wayne Kelly stopped the fight in the seventh round after a punishing knockdown that severely lacerated and bloodied the face of Byrd.
With his impressive performances against Byrd and Samuel Peter, Wladimir is now regarded by many as the top heavyweight in the world.