/ 12 December 2004

Heavyweight king of the world

Vitali Klitschko staked his claim to being the true heavyweight champion on Saturday, knocking Danny Williams down four times and giving him a savage beating before finally stopping him in the eighth round.

He then dedicated the win to democracy in his native Ukraine, where he planned to head on Sunday to support the opposition presidential candidate.

”I feel this was the best performance of my career,” Klitschko said. ”But this victory was not just for me, but also for democracy in the Ukraine.”

Klitschko retained his WBC heavyweight title in a lopsided fight that left Williams bloodied, battered and barely able to see.

Williams was taken to a local hospital for a brain scan after the fight, while Klitschko also went to have X-rays taken of his swollen hands to see if they were broken from hitting Williams on the head so many times.

Williams remained game even after the final knockdown in the eighth round, getting up at the count of nine and wanting to continue. But referee Jay Nady decided he had taken enough punishment and waved the fight to a close at 1,26 of the round.

”I feel I am the real heavyweight champion,” Klitschko said. ”I’m willing to fight anybody.”

Klitschko, who owns just one of the three major heavyweight titles, made a case for being the best of the three champions in a dominating effort against a game but completely outclassed challenger.

Klitschko did something Mike Tyson couldn’t do against Williams, knocking him down in the first round and giving him such a beating that Williams couldn’t come back as he did in his upset win over Tyson.

Williams tried his best, plodding after Klitschko in the third round, but he rarely got inside the 2,01m-tall champion’s stiff jab and took a pounding from his right hand.

”My strategy was to use my reach because I knew he would try to get close to me,” Klitschko said.

There had been questions about Klitschko’s stamina and his tendency to cut around his eyes, but he had no problems with either in a fight he dominated from the opening bell.

With his brother, Wladimir, working the corner, Klitschko swarmed all over Williams in the opening round, landing 52 punches to only four for the challenger. He knocked Williams down with 37 seconds left in the round and hit him almost at will.

Klitschko wore an orange flag on his trunks, signifying his support for Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko.

Others in the crowd waved Ukrainian flags and orange flags, the colour of their candidate’s campaign.

Klitschko’s style was unorthodox, but it was devastatingly effective. And, while Williams lasted through nearly eight full rounds, there was no disputing the damage he inflicted on Williams, a journeyman British heavyweight of little repute until he stopped Tyson in the fourth round of their fight in July.

Williams was cut on his right eyelid in the first round, his face was puffed up, and both his eyes were nearly closed from the sheer volume of punches landed by Klitschko.

”He didn’t hit as hard as Mike Tyson, but he was more consistent with his punches,” Williams said.

It was the first defence by Klitschko of the title he won against Corrie Sanders in April, and he continued a recent streak of impressive performances that began when he fought well against Lennox Lewis before losing on cuts after six rounds.

The fight pitted two big men, with Klitschko weighing 113kg and Williams weighing 122kg, despite giving away six inches in height to the champion. Williams had wanted to get inside on Klitschko, but Klitschko would not allow him anywhere close.

Klitschko (35-2, 34 knockouts) knocked Williams down in the first, third and seventh rounds before the final knockdown.

Williams (32-4) was so desperate by the eighth round that he threw a succession of wild left hooks in a futile attempt to turn the fight around. But by this time the crowd at the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino was chanting Klitschko’s name as he continued to dominate.

”I kept fighting because it was the heavyweight championship of the world, but he was just too good,” Williams said.

Ringside punch stats reflected the dominance of Klitschko, who won every round on all three scorecards and landed 296 punches to 44 for Williams.

”I was surprised because he never gave up,” Klitschko said. ”I was surprised how strong his chin was.”

In another fight, Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico remained unbeaten by stopping former champion Randall Bailey in the sixth round of their WBO junior welterweight title fight.

Cotto put on an impressive show, dropping Bailey with a right hand in the second round and forcing him to take a knee for another knockdown after hitting him with a left hook to the body in the third round. — Sapa-AP