Tuesday, May 30, 2023  |



Vitali Klitschko is unstoppable

Fighters Network

The beating Juan Carlos Gomez took from Vitali Klitschko on Saturday in Stuttgart, Germany is etched on his face. Photo / Marianne M├╝ller

There’s nothing beautiful about the way Vitali Klitschko fights.

The 6-foot-7¾ Ukrainian is lumbering, a bit like George Foreman in the comeback portion of his career. He’s not the least bit graceful. And his punches, while powerful, don’t have the violent snap of some other top heavyweights.

However, his ability to break down an opponent is awesome in the most literal sense of the word.

On Saturday, in Stuttgart, Germany, Juan Carlos Gomez came to take Klitschko's WBC heavyweight title. He was smaller by four inches but, at 35, the former cruiserweight titleholder has the experience and ability to compete with anyone. Or so it seemed going into the fight.

In the first round, it seemed Klitschko (37-2, 36 knockouts) might have a fight on his hands as he and Gomez (44-2, 35 KOs) pawed with their lead hands to feel one another out. By the third round, though, Klitschko began to take control.

The bigger man connected with enough jabs to set up his right, which landed more and more frequently – and with more and more effect – as the fight went on. Meanwhile, Gomez, as slick as he is, found it almost impossible to hit Klitschko consistently.

And the reason isn’t complicated: Klitschko is a very good boxer who finds ways to land punches while keeping his opponents from inflicting their own damage.

In effect, this is what you have: A huge, immensely strong man who has the well-honed ability to use his frightening natural tools to break you down both physically and mentally. That’s exactly what happened to Gomez, who was stopped at 1:49 of the ninth round.

First round: Gomez is confident .

Second and third rounds: Gomez already is getting frustrated at his inability to get to Klitschko, who is beginning to land clean punches consistently.

Fourth and fifth rounds: Gomez is beginning to fall apart as Klitschko, with a steely expression, wears down the smaller man with hard and increasingly accurate right hands. Gomez is cut above the right eye.

Sixth and seventh rounds: Klitschko suffers a gash on his head in the sixth but it makes no difference. In the seventh, Klitschko lands a half-uppercut and Gomez – hurt and weary of taking punishment – takes a knee.

Eighth and ninth rounds: Gomez, all but finished, turns his back for a moment in the eighth and seems about to give up. In the ninth, Klitschko gives him no choice, putting him down again and following with an unanswered flurry. The referee mercifully ends the carnage.

Job complete: A 6-foot-3¾, 230-pound man with experience, ability and confidence rendered utterly helpless in machinelike fashion – the same fate as Samuel Peter in October, when Klitschko won the title. Awesome.

Are we saying he can do this against anyone? No. Lennox Lewis proved that another big fighter with ability can give Klitschko trouble. A well-schooled, extremely athletic fighter – someone like a Larry Holmes — could pose problems. And, obviously, his brother would give him a fight but they will never meet.

Thus, at the moment, no heavyweight in the world can cope with Klitschko’s combination of size and ability to use it effectively. The only thing that can stop the 37-year-old, it seems, is age.

Also on the card, Chris Byrd provided evidence that he isn’t finished.

The former heavyweight titleholder, who once beat Vitali Klitschko when Klitschko had quit because of an injured shoulder, looked lifeless in a ninth-round knockout loss to Shaun George at light heavyweight last May.

However, fighting at cruiserweight on Saturday, he stopped late replacement Mathias Sandow (4-3) in the fourth round of a scheduled eight-round bout. Byrd (41-5-1, 22 KOs) said afterward that he would like to face THE RING cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek.

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]