02.10.04 – By Phillip Przybylo: On an eerie night in Las Vegas, former WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (photo: Tom Casino/Showtime) endured a flash knockdown and a cut-inducing headbutt to earn a technical split decision over DaVarryl Williamson. The once highly touted phenom may have not put the exclamation mark on his comeback, but he managed to make a vital first step in reclaiming his standing in the division, his pride, and confidence.
The scheduled ten round bout began tentatively for the fighters, who mirrored each other in more ways than one. Both are well educated, heavy punchers with questionable chins, and on pivotal stops on comeback trails. Moreover, both were dead set on not making the first mistake. Williamson may have landed a better shot or two, but Wladimir appeared to have edged the first round out based on his aggressive posture and generalship.
For a year and a half, fans have been waiting to see the younger Klitschko return to the powerful, intimidating form that garnered comparisons to past champions like Liston, Tyson, and Dempsey. In round two, the packed crowd at Caesars Palace caught a glimpse of it. After managing to sneak in
an impressive right hand, the 1996 Gold Medalist followed it up with two vicious jab-straight right combination. He controlled the rest of the round with a punishing jab. Wladimir’s fans were no doubt having flashbacks to the glory days of years past.
The following stanza went by with less notable action. However, Wladimir handedly won it without exerting himself in the least. The real test was yet to come.
From the looks of things, “Touch of Sleep” was merely biding his time for a wake-up call in the fourth round. Dodging a 1-2 combination, Williamson set up and knocked down Wladimir in the first half of the round. Klitschko’s glove and knee may have tasted the canvas for a half a second, but it gave Williamson the courage to try to finish the job.
There was not a soul watching who did not have flashbacks to Lamon Brewster and Corrie Sanders. Deja vu all over again.
In the anxious moments of the middle part of the fourth, Klitschko held on as if his career depended on it. It did. Williamson would not connect with a punch half as meaningful as the one that knocked down his opponent. By the explosive final minute, it was Wladimir who appeared to be the dominant one, so much that two of the judges only scored the round 10-9 for Williamson. Those last sixty seconds may have been the turning point in Wladimir’s career.
The fifth and final round saw Wladimir dicate the pace with his jab again. He looked as if he was going to eek out another methodical round until the two fighters clashed heads just seconds before the bell. Blood immediately squirted out of a laceration that may have been over an inch (more than anything, closer to 4 centimeters for my international readers). Unable to stop the gash down the middle of his forehead, Referee Jay Nady stopped the bout and went to the scoredcards.
Two cards read 49-46 for Klitschko. One had it 48-47 for Williamson. This side of Eastside had it 48-46 for Wladimir.
Williamson, who falls to 20-3, made a good enough account of himself to deserve a rematch. Despite Klitschko’s heavy-handed blows, Williamson was unphased and definitely had a chance to win the fight. Wladimir’s coming out party will have to wait for another day as he was not as controlled and complete of a fighter as he was pre-Corrie Sanders. But he did fight back after being knocked down, and any small positive outcome is a huge step forward for Wladimir Klitschko (43-3).
The end of an heir? Not just yet.
Undercard Action Provides Thrills
Jeff “Left Hook” Lacy won his first world championship after thoroughly beating Syd Vanderpool in the last few of rounds of an eight-round TKO. Lacy’s hard fought victory makes him the first 2000 US Olympian to win a world title (in his case, the IBF super middleweight belt).
Lacy had to overcome slick veteran gamemanship by Vanderpool in the opening rounds as well as a plethora of damaging blows through the fourth round. The first in a tale of two fights was hotly and evenly contested. Lacy often found himself slugging with a crafty and talented fighter he had
never come close compared to previous opposition. In those exchanges, Vanderpool expertly countered his over-enthused opponent while Lacy laid intent on being a one man wrecking crew. “Fight of the Year” caliber action from both fighters.
To his credit, Lacy remained steadfast and stubborn. The five-year age advantage may have also played a factor as Vanderpool slowed a little in the fifth (and the second fight in a tale of two fights). Lacy quickly picked up on it and violently stalked him for three minutes straight. In the sixth round, the first cracks in Vanderpool’s defense and gameplan showed when Lacy landed a resonating left uppercut, staggering the Canadian. Although unable to capitalize, it was only a matter of time for the former Olympian.
The eighth round featured destruction only Jeff Lacy could produce. It is the kind of total violence that has many pundits proclaiming him the Mike Tyson of the 168-pound division. Slamming hooks to the body and landing terrifying uppercuts, Lacy’s powerful punches only seemed to increase with meaning as the seconds slowly ticked away. Staggering around the ring, Vanderpool could hardly defend himself by the middle of the round. By his own account, he was about to take a knee. Referee Robert Byrd mercifully stopped the fight before it could happen.
After winning the vacant IBF crown, Lacy (17-0) has a lot of work ahead of him. He is going to have to learn a lot on the job, so to speak. There were errors that warrant addressing in the future. His jab was virtually non-existent, he got caught in one too many exchanges, and he failed to go back to basics once he had his man hurt in the sixth (opting for unlanded bombs instead).
Still, he has a nice head on his shoulders, unbelievable power, and the potential to correct any mistake he made. He should make a fine champion.
Vanderpool falls to a record of 35-3. After some time off, he may be back in the title scene again somewhere down the line. Tonight, his opponent was just too much to handle.
In the fight preceding the main event, Kassim “The Dream” Ouma ended up being too much for Verno Phillips and took his IBF junior middleweight championship in the process.
Phillips took the first two rounds with relative ease, but Ouma increased his activity level for the next five rounds. The native Ugandan was unrelenting with 1-2 combinations and was headed to a lopsided victory when the eighth round began.
But Phillips, as he has done his whole career, came back. He was simply doing things that a beaten 34-year old should not do. Fighting his way with thudding body combinations, he took most, if not all, of the next three rounds. Going into the championship rounds, it was still anybody’s fight.
Nobody told Ouma that, though. The eleventh proved to be the most decisive and damaging of rounds. A left hook to the body had Phillips doubled over in pain. He refused to take a knee and took more punishment instead. The titlist fought back valiantly but could not muster more than thirty seconds of action.
For the last round and a half, Ouma proved he was worthy of the title. A deserved unanimous decision was granted to him by scores of 114-113 (twice) and 117-110. This side of Eastside had it 116-113.
Ouma rises to 20-1-1, and Phillips falls to 38-9-1.
There are doubts as to whether or not the IBF should have stripped Ronald “Winky” Wright of his belt, but it should not take away from the spirited warfare of the two men. Similarly, there are doubts if the public could perceive Ouma as a champion, but there is no doubt that he is now a major player in the division.
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