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Ole Klemetsen


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In Norway's boxing history, the name Ole Klemetsen stands out as one of the most important. In his time, the 90's, he was the only noteworthy Norwegian professional boxer who once fought for a world title. Ole was a hard puncher who scored 36 ko's in 45 wins, both of them a Norwegian record. No other prizefighter from this country has had this many wins or knockouts. Unfortunately, like with so many other great punchers, his chin was less than sturdy and he lost some fights due to sudden and violent knockouts which would have been avoided had he been blessed with a better chin. He won the European light heavyweight title in his time, but was capable of achieving even more. One thing stood in the way: his own father.


Ole Klemetsen was born 27 August 1971 in Stavanger, in southwest of Norway, its' fourth largest city. He was born in a colorful family as his father was of part Romani heritage and they travelled around together with their own family band, performing at gigs across the country. His father John was always fiercely protective of Ole, his younger son, and was a boxer himself in his youth, as amateur. He therefore was eager to see his two sons become boxers, John jr and Ole, but Ole showed to be the only one with the talent and the will to pursue this career. He grew up to be 6'2 and with deadly punching power in both fists. Young Ole had a rather successful amateur career first, winning the bronze in the 1991 World Championships in Australia, as well as a bronze in the European Championships in Gothenburg that same year. He also took part in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and was eliminated in the quarterfinals on points, ending fifth. Right after that, his father took him to Detroit to see the famous trainer Emmanuel Steward. Steward was very pleased with what he saw in Ole and later in an interview for a Norwegian tv channel he said that he has the potential to become as big and great as Ali and Robinson! However, the reluctance from his father John's side to cede control and authority to Steward made the two clash and Steward would soon bow out. But before that, Ole made his pro debut 21 October 1992 in Las Vegas and easily dispatched Armando Dragone by first round ko-in only 52 seconds. Also his next two fights didn't go past one round while the fourth ended after three by corner retirement, but in the fifth he had to go the 4-round distance for the first time to win against 4-0 Bob Charlez.


He was 6-0 when he faced John McClain, who had a record of 4-1-1, but was a hard puncher and as tall as Ole. The fight took place 9 March 1993 in Atlantic City, but just before the fight, Steward disappeared and could not be found, so Ole had to go in the ring with only his father behind him, acting as his replacement trainer. John later stated that he thought Steward was trying to teach him a lesson. Wether that had any effect on Ole is uncertain, but he would suffer his first loss and in a devastating way; after first catching McClain with some good shots, he was hit with a big left hook while charging against him while McClain was on the ropes and knocked down. He got up but was on shaky legs before a big right hand put him out of the game, after only 51 seconds of the fight. He rebounded by knocking out English Nigel Rafferty in 2 in London. After a couple more fights in America and parting ways with Steward shortly after the McClain fight, Ole relocated to Denmark and started fighting from there. He made a streak of 19 wins, mostly by knockout and most notably defeated Rocky Gannon by KO1 in 1994. He fought against American Lenzie Morgan for the WBC Intercontinental title 2 March 1996 in France and easily won by KO2, winning his first belt. Morgan had only been stopped twice before that, despite 18 losses on his record when he faced Klemetsen. Ole then defended his belt against Congolese-French Mohamed "Joe" Siluvangi, who was undefeated at 16-0-1. It was 2 April, exactly a month later, at Elephant & Castle Centre in Southwark and the fight was televised live on Norwegian TV2 channel. Early on, the taller Klemetsen was the better man, but he got rocked badly in round 6 and hurt a couple times after that, but still finished strong. It didn't help eventually, as he lost his title by a point, 113-114 on all three scorecards.


Right after that, he faced the Albanian-Swedish Luan Morina and dispatched him in only 12 seconds! Morina had stated before the fight that he would not be knocked out by Klemetsen. 1997 would be his best year, as he first stopped the solid American Rodney Toney by TKO2 (in a fight above 175), before facing Crawford Ashley for the European belt 4 October 1997 at Alexandra Palace in Muswell Hill. Before the fight, the cocky Ashley was very dismissive of Klemetsen's chances and said there is no way he can win. But Ole proved him and all other sceptics wrong when he stopped Ashley in only 2 rounds, first putting him down with a glancing left hook before knocking him out with a monster left hook at the end of the round. Ashley was nowhere near beating the count. After one easy fight against Bulgarian Kalin Stoyanov (TKO1), he got the offer to fight for the IBF title against Reggie "Sweet" Johnson. Johnson had been a champion at middleweight and was only 5'10 but very strong and a very good all-around boxer. Prior to the fight, which was in Pesaro, Italy, John Klemetsen provoked Reggie by singing a mocking song within his hearing reach, titled "Bye Bye Reggie". Reggie then attacked him and a brief scuffle ensued, where Ole was also involved. Reggie's entourage also mocked Ole who was visibly provoked, but his mother stopped him from intervening. It was 29 May 1998 when the two collided and Ole stood his ground against the older but technically superior and much more seasoned Johnson, but was knocked down once in the first round and ultimately lost by unanimous decision. The scores were 116-107, 114-109 and 114-112.


His father said that that was where he should have hung em up, but Ole kept on fighting and later that same year he suffered another devastating knockout in first round against Peter Oboh. It was a surprise, just like with McClain, since Oboh had a record of 6-4-0 but was a hard puncher obviously. Ole also had a fight only a month before that, which he also won by KO1. He simply walked into a big left hook after being the better man and the fight was over just 5 seconds before the end of round 1. His last achievement was knocking out the faded former two-time WBC super middleweight champion Thulani Sugar Boy Malinga in January 2000, in a fight for the IBA title. Ole won by TKO8 in Kolding, Denmark and thus won against a former world champion for the first and only time in his career. This victory made him a mandatory for the European title against Clinton Woods of Sheffield. It was 29 April at Wembley Arena when the two fought. After a back and forth war, Ole was stopped on his feet when Woods landed a big uppercut to his chin in round 9 and he staggered into the ropes before the fight was stopped by the referee. That was pretty much it. After that, he won the vacant Nordic title by disqualification in 2 against his compatriot and future world title challenger Thomas Hansvoll, 9 February 2001, before getting knocked out in the rematch on 16 June that year, also in 2 rounds.


After retirement, Ole became a popular media personality in Norway. In 2008, a documentary about his career and his own family came out, titled "Blood and Honor". His father passed away in October that year, of prostate cancer. Ole was taking part in a reality show "Champions' Champion" at the time, a show where former sportstars competed in trials of endurance and strength. All in all, Ole's career did not live up to the promise he showed and what Manny Steward had predicted, mostly because his career was not guided right and because of the inability of his own father to cede all control to Steward, resulting in Steward's departure and a lesser trainer taking over. Steward has definitely done wonders for fighters like Lennox Lewis, guiding him to greatness after a devastating ko loss, and the same he has done with Wladimir Klitschko. Losing him definitely limited Ole's success in the ring and sealed his fate. Otherwise, he had the talent to make it big as a light heavyweight.

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