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24 Feb 2008 07:43
International Boxing Federation heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko seized the World Boxing Organisation belt on Saturday with a unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Sultan Ibragimov.
Ukraine’s Klitschko (31) improved to 50-3-3 with 44 knockouts as he jabbed his way to a clear, if unspectacular, victory.
It was the first unification contest in the crowded heavyweight division since 1999, when Briton Lennox Lewis beat Evander Holyfield at Madison Square Garden.
The judges at ringside scored the bout 119-110, 117-111 and 118-110 for Klitschko, as Russia’s Ibragimov fell to 22-1-1, with 17 knockouts.
Klitschko may have emerged with the victory and a second championship belt, but his solid defence against the Russian southpaw failed to impress the crowd of 14 011 at Madison Square Garden.
Sporadic jeers punctuated the leaden early rounds as Klitschko relied on his height advantage and his jab and seemed reluctant to unleash his powerful right hand.
Klitschko did land a big right to Ibragimov’s head, and Ibragimov responded with a left to Klitschko’s ribs as the action heated up a bit in the seventh round. Klitschko hurt Ibragimov again with a right in the eighth, and he followed up with another.
Ibragimov went down, but it was ruled due to a push and not a knockdown.
Klitschko knocked Ibragimov into the ropes with a series of combinations in the ninth round, but again the Ibragimov escaped the knockdown.
Klitschko said he didn’t want to risk throwing his right more and missing.
Klitschko made the fourth defence of the title he won from Chris Byrd in April 2006. His victory was a step toward unifying the fractured division, in which unbeaten Ruslan Chagaev of Uzbekhistan holds the World Boxing Association title and Oleg Maskaev, a Kazak-born Russian-American, owns the World Boxing Council crown.
“I thought I was going to knock this guy out—it wasn’t easy,” Klitschko said. “I know you’re not satisfied, but I have to keep the belts and knock everybody else out.”
Klitschko said his path to domination in the division is simple—keep fighting and keep winning. “As impressive as possible,” he added. “Not over 12 rounds.”
On the undercard, Irish middleweight John Duddy emerged with a split-decision victory over Walid Smichet. The 10-round fight was meant to be a warm-up fight for Duddy prior to a likely world-title shot against undisputed champion Kelly Pavlik.
But it turned into a struggle as Montreal-based Smichet exposed his opponent’s defensive flaws and opened a cut above his left eye.
Judge Frank Lombardi scored the 10-round fight a 95-95 draw, while John McKaie and Don Trella both saw it 98-92 for Duddy, who improved to 24-0.
Duddy (28) is expected to be Pavlik’s opponent for his first defence of his undisputed middleweight title on June 7.—Sapa-AFP
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