Lewis retains heavyweight title

Lennox Lewis retains the WBC title in a controversial decision that stopped challenger Vitali Klitschko after the sixth round.

updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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Los Angeles:

Vitali Klitschko was bloodied but still willing. He had given Lennox Lewis all he wanted and more, yet after six rounds he sat bleeding on his stool as a ring doctor ended his chance of becoming heavyweight champion. Klitschko hurt Lewis during six brawling and sometimes brutal rounds, exposing the 37-year-old champion as an aging fighter, who just a year ago had looked devastating when he stopped Mike Tyson in the eighth round. An entertaining fight ended when the ring doctor ordered it stopped after the sixth round because of a bad cut over the challenger's left eye. Klitschko was winning the bout on all three scorecards. All three ringside judges had the Ukrainian winning 58-56 when the fight was stopped. Klitschko, bleeding badly from a cut over his left eye, jumped off his stool in disbelief, yelling "No, no, no" and going across the ring toward Lewis as if he wanted the fight to continue. "I can see very well," Klitschko complained. "I don't know why the doctor stopped the fight." Lewis was tired, but more than willing. "If the fight went on, I would have knocked him out," said Lewis, who became only the third heavyweight champion his age or older to successfully defend a title. "There is no way he could have finished the fight. He was just deteriorated anyway." The crowd at Staples Center booed wildly, and Klitschko held his arms up in victory. "Right now I feel like the people's champion," Klitschko said. "I did not want them to stop the fight. My strategy was to take it into the seventh or eighth round and my strategy was working perfectly. Even Lewis contended: "He's a legitimate No. 1 contender." Lewis, who earned a reported $10 million, improved to 41-2-1, 32 knockouts. Klitschko is 32-2 with 31 knockouts. Klitschko went into the fight - with just two weeks notice - a 4-1 underdog and wasn't even supposed to be the best fighter in his family. That honor belonged to his brother, Wladimir, who worked his corner against Lewis. But the 6-foot-7 (1.98-meter) Ukrainian came out and traded punches from the opening bell, rocking Lewis in the second and third rounds and hitting him with almost every left jab he threw. Lewis looked tired and old, but did enough to come back and land uppercuts and right hands. "We are big guys and any punch is going to hurt," Lewis said. "I do give him credit. I gave him a chance to fight. He has an unusual European style. I was just getting my second wind." One big right hand appeared to open a cut in the third round that proved to be the undoing of Klitschko. Because the cut was caused by a punch and not a head butt, it didn't matter that Klitschko was leading on the scorecards when the fight was stopped. Ring doctor Paul Wallace said he stopped the fight not because of the blood, but because Klitschko's eyelid was covering his eye and he had to move his head to see. "When he raised his head up, his upper lid covered his field of vision," Wallace said. "At that point I had no other option but to stop the fight. If he had to move his head to see me, there was no way he could defend his way against a punch." The normally mild mannered Klitschko, who speaks four languages and holds an advanced college degree, was visibly angry and had to be restrained by his brother at one point. "He is a great fighter. I won this fight in points," Klitschko said. "I want a rematch. I showed everybody that I can fight Lennox Lewis." He's not likely to get a rematch, assuming Lewis continues to fight. Lewis is eyeing a possible bout with Roy Jones Jr later this year that could mean huge money for both fighters. Klitschko was trying to become the tallest heavyweight champion ever and the two fighters combined for a record 504 pounds (227 kilograms) between them. Lewis weighed 256 pounds (115 kilograms), the heaviest of his career, and he appeared soft in the middle. For one of the few times in the 6-foot-5 (1.93 meter) champion's career, he was punching up at an opponent. "I knew his condition was not good, he's very heavy. He couldn't fight hard," Klitschko said. "I know I was hurting him with my punches." Klitschko landed a big right hand 1:45 into the second round that shook Lewis, whose chin had been questioned after being knocked out by Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman in other title fights. "He woke me up," Lewis admitted. Lewis had a vast edge in experience, coming into the fight with 15 wins in 17 title fights. He had been off a year, but seemed to be in his prime at a time when most fighters are in decline. Klitschko was fighting for a major title for the first time and fighting in the United States for only the second time. Klitschko spent much of his career fighting on cards in Germany with his brother, and his record was littered with a string of unheralded opponents. (AP)