Boxing

Vitali Klitschko: The Comeback Continues

By Timothy Seaver, photo by Pavel Terekhov: In Stuttgart Germany, on Saturday night, Vitali Klitschko retained his status as one of the heavyweight division’s best fighters, as well as his WBC title, with a win over the tough Cuban fighter Juan Carlos Gomez. A general calm seemed to hang about the German audience. Due perhaps to their faith in Dr. Iron Fist and his pugilistic abilities, or maybe there is a reluctance from the German people to embrace the Ukrainian Klitschko as one of their own. Perhaps still, they were given little cause to celebrate a fight that was decidedly uneven.

It was clear from the pre-fight dialogue that Gomez was not afraid of the massive Klitschko. In the moments before the fist bell, the face of the Cuban fighter, shaded beneath the wide rim of a showy white hat, appeared cool and unbothered by the close presence of his opponent. Across the ring Vitali stood, his wide shoulders and tall frame seemed like an artist’s rendition of calm stoicism. Neither man’s countenance foretold a tale of dread, but instead, showed the confidence inherent in fighting men..

The Black Panther began by taking the fight to Klitschko, as he scored with several quick punches at the start of the first round. It was a good round for Gomez, but by no means a dominant one.

By the second and third rounds, the 6’7’’ Klitschko began to land the punches that would come to dominate the fight. Like moving tree limbs, his long jab, and quick right hand found their mark upon the face of Gomez.

The fourth round saw a continuation of this pace. Gomez never adjusted his game all that much; either because of pressure from his larger enemy, or a lack of physical resources. This refusal to adjust was the reason Gomez would remain on the receiving end an increasingly severe abuse. As for Vitali, there was little need to change his game, since his punches continually found their mark. No single punch from his “Iron Fists” was a knock out style shot, but they all appeared to land with a strong, thudding whap which continually shook the Cuban’s solid frame.

It was in the fifth when Vitali’s work began to be seen upon Gomez’s face. Both physical punishment and questions of confidence were beginning to reveal themselves. The former with bruising and a trickle of blood, the latter could be seen in his sinking eyes. It can be dangerous when blood seeps from a fighter’s face, but not nearly as harmful as when confidence begins to leave.

A cut formed on the top of Klitschko’s head in the sixth round, the result of an unintended head butt. This did little to boost the confidence of Gomez, who began to hold on more. The huge Ukrainian had been breathing through his mouth for several rounds at this point, but his body did not seem quite as tired as his face would indicate.

The Black Panther had a little success in the seventh round when he connected with a solid left to Klitschko’s face. That damage, however, would not prove to be lasting, as Klitschko landed a half upper cut, half hook with his right hand. The blow sent Gomez down to the canvas, and while he got up to survive the round, it was becoming evident that though the fight was scheduled for twelve rounds, the last bell would sound well before that point.

All confidence seemed gone from Gomez by the eighth round. Although he had fought bravely and resisted much pain, he appeared to accept what the audience had come to believe; victory was not his on this night. He did, however, find the strength to make it into the ninth round. As that round began, the eyes of the referee were watching him closely. The ref knew what kind of torture he had taken, and title fight or not, he would not let the brutality grow to excess. After an odd point deduction against Klitschko for a supposed head butt, and another trip to the matt for Gomez, 44-2 (35), the ref stopped the fight.

The next step for Klitschko, 37-2 (36), is uncertain. The most obvious opponent for Vitali shares his last name. A fight with his brother Wladimir, however, seems very unlikely. In light of this, the best thing Vitali could do for the sport is to face as many top-ten opponents as he can. The fans deserve some good shows, and a man of Vitali’s abilities can afford to fight several times a year. If the heavyweight division is as limited as some believe, and Vitali can’t prove himself against opponents of great quality, then let him prove himself with quantity. If a single fight with a great opponent can’t happen, he should face many decent opponents and give the fans some good shows while he’s at it.

At age 37, he may not have a lot of years left; he can’t spend that time waiting for a big show that may never come.

Article posted on 23.03.2009





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