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Illustration: Lo Cole

There is a moment in Joe Louis’s fine autobiography, My Life, where the former heavyweight champion describes how his waning powers left him for good during his final fight with Rocky Marciano. “From the seventh round I knew I just didn’t have it,” he writes. “I said to myself, ‘Oh, if I just could have gotten to you five years ago.’ But it wasn’t five years ago and I was bleeding like a stuck pig. My age gave me away: all of a sudden my legs gave out. I was washed up.”

Related: Tyson Fury shocks Wladimir Klitschko to take world heavyweight title

Louis was 37 years old. He had been the undisputed champion for more than 11 years and fought in 27 world title fights. But now he had nothing left. “They had to lift me off the stool for the bell in the eighth,” he remembers. “I was glad I wasn’t fully conscious when referee Ruby Goldstein stopped the fight. There was no doubt Marciano had beaten the shit out of me.” Afterwards, when Louis was on the massage table, the doctor told him he could not fight for at least three months. “I turned my head and looked at the doc and said, ‘Do you mind if I don’t fight no more at all?’” wrote Louis, sounding both grateful yet wistful. “I thought, like many fighters before and after me, that I’d always be some kind of superman. That’s the dream. Not the reality. I just didn’t have it any more.”

Louis’s words came to me after watching Wladimir Klitschko’s ponderous attempts to catch up with Tyson Fury on Saturday. There will be other fights. There may be other victories. But, like the Brown Bomber against Marciano, his legs looked to have gone. He just didn’t have it any more.

So how will Klitschko be judged? The verdict in some quarters on Saturday night was that he had been found out. Faced with a taller opponent with a superior reach he had been found wanting when his plan A – establish the jab – was unable to take effect. He certainly looked terrible against Fury. The Ukrainian was never one of the sport’s more fluid movers. But in Düsseldorf he fought with the stiffness of someone who had suffered a couple of slipped discs.

Such disrespect is not new, of course. During his career Klitschko has also been accused of lacking a killer instinct; of lacking a chin; of being one of the most boring champions to watch in heavyweight history. It did not help that in recent times even the right hand has been thrown sparingly, when the opponent was softened and prepared for the kill. Late-era Klitschko fights have involved too much jab-jab-clinch. The boxing equivalent of catenaccio.

But in the future, when people are debating the top 10 heavyweights of all time, Klitschko will be in there. How could one discount a fighter who on Saturday fought in his 28th heavyweight title fight, overtaking Louis’s mark, and establishing a record that is likely to last until most of us are dead? A man who, having regained his heavyweight title by stopping Chris Byrd in April 2006, made 19 defences – nine of which came against unbeaten fighters – and was unbeaten for a decade?

One has to be a special fighter to post those kind of numbers, whatever the era, whoever the opponents. There is some truth in the argument that Klitschko has achieved such success because the heavyweight division is so anaemic these days, with many elite American athletes preferring to go into the NFL or the NBA rather than get whacked in the face for a living. But this can be overstated.

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Fury and Klitschko talk up ‘explosive’ rematch after world title bout – video

Go back into the archives and someone somewhere will always be arguing that the heavyweight division is in decline. Look at the opponents Louis fought during his ‘bum of the month’ era in the 1930s, for instance – or better still, check out footage of him pummelling Johnny Paychek on YouTube. And remember Louis, who is usually regarded as the second best heavyweight of all time behind Muhammad Ali, struggled against Billy Conn, for instance, who weighed 12st 6lb when they fought, putting him inside the light heavyweight limit. Ali, of course, was dumped on his pants by Henry Cooper, who weighed 13st 3lb in their first fight in 1963.

In fact in Louis’s autobiography, written in the late 70s when Ali was coming to the end of his career, he claims that “Ali’s a great fighter but I think a Rocky Marciano or Jack Dempsey would rate ahead of him. Ali makes too many mistakes, his hands are down a lot and he takes too many punches to the body.”

Tellingly Louis also adds: “The one thing wrong with the fight game now is that there aren’t enough good heavyweights around. When Ali goes, the game will be in bad shape. Ken Norton and Jimmy Young aren’t the type to carry a championship.” He was right about that but Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson certainly were the type.

So when it comes to evaluating Klitschko we should perhaps not be too unkind. Personally I think a peak Ali would have bamboozled him. Holmes, Sonny Liston, George Foreman and Lennox Lewis would have got around his jab. And a prime Joe Frazier and Tyson would have been too quick. You also couldn’t count out Jack Johnson, Louis, Evander Holyfield or his brother Vitaly either. But I can’t see too many other fighters in history who would have toppled Klitschko at his best. Yes his fights have been repetitive and often dull. But why mess with a winning formula?

Citizens of Hamburg on Sunday rejected a bid for the 2024 summer Olympics with more than half voting against it in a referendum, killing the candidacy in its infancy, Hamburg mayor Olaf Scholz said.

Close to 52 percent voted against the 7.4 billion euro ($7.84 billion)project that was bidding to host the world's biggest multi-sports event along with Los Angeles, Rome, Paris, and Budapest.

The International Olympic Committee will elect a winner in 2017.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Ken Ferris)

The moment Andy Murray has pursued with such fanatical zeal finally arrived, unforgettably, on Sunday when an outrageous lob arced over Belgium's David Goffin to seal Britain's first Davis Cup title for 79 years.

Fittingly for a player who has almost single-handedly guided his country to the title this year, the indefatigable Murray ended Goffin's inspired resistance with a moment of sheer brilliance few could conjure to complete a 6-3 7-5 6-3 victory.

It gave Britain a winning 3-1 lead and started a party that hundreds of visiting fans decked out in union flags and Scottish saltires will keep going long into the night in medieval Ghent.

Murray, who put in a triple-shift over the weekend and looked exhausted at the end of a tense three-hour contest, collapsed on to the claycourt before being swamped by his team mates, including brother Jamie, and captain Leon Smith.

Sportingly he clambered to his feet to console Goffin who had gallantly clung on to the hope of keeping alive Belgium's chances of winning the title for the first time.

Murray then saluted the 'Barmy Army', who roared his every winner over a weekend that rubber-stamped his place in the chronicles of British sporting greatness, if any had doubted it after he ended a 77-year wait for a men's champion at Wimbledon in 2013, a year after winning the Olympics and U.S. Open.

"I probably haven't been as emotional as that after a match that I've won," Murray told reporters later as dance music still reverberated around the vast warehouse-like arena on the edge of the city.

"It's incredible that we managed to win this competition. I didn't know that would ever be possible. It's great."

World number two Murray, whose return to the team in 2013 accelerated Britain's rapid rise from the depths that begun when Smith took charge in 2010, has won 11 live rubbers in this year's run, matching Ivan Ljubicic's total for Croatia in 2005.

He has won all eight singles he played while teaming up three times with brother Jamie for crucial doubles wins, one of which came on Saturday to put Britain 2-1 ahead.

"Really impressive from @andy_murray. One of the best Davis Cup years in history," former U.S. Open champion and world number one Andy Roddick said on Twitter.

The small Scottish town of Dunblane, where the Murray brothers grew up, could justifiably claim its name should be inscribed on the trophy.

Fellow Scot Smith, who took over when Britain were on the verge of relegation to the Davis Cup's fourth division, paid tribute to the whole team but described Murray's mammoth contribution to the country's first title since 1936 as "one of the best achievements of all time."

"It's incredible for all of us to watch how he's managed to win that many rubbers, that many wins," he said.

"Just now what's important is what's been achieved. It's monumental."

Murray is the first player since American Pete Sampras in 1995 to win three live rubbers in a final.

There was a sense of inevitability about the outcome on Sunday with Belgium trailing 2-1 and needing to win both reverse singles. But Goffin, roared on by a soccer-style crowd inside the claustrophobic arena, forced Murray to play his best tennis.

Goffin squandered a break point at 2-2 in the opening set and Murray then pounced, scorching a backhand winner off a weak second serve to take a lead he never relinquished.

There was no chance of Goffin fading though. He played some sensational tennis to stay with Murray in the second set but a tired forehand into the net in 11th game gave Murray a break and the Scot struck a stupendous forehand winner to seal the set.

Murray wobbled briefly when he dropped serve early in the third set but he responded to move 5-3 ahead before providing the most spectacular of climaxes to a memorable year.

(Editing by Toby Davis)