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Boxing: Boxing: Klitschko says Lewis promised rematch in ring; huge audience in Germany for fight

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posted on Jun, 24 2003 @ 08:29 PM
Associated Press - June 24, 2003

BERLIN (AP) - Vitali Klitschko claimed Tuesday Lennox Lewis promised him a rematch in the ring, although the heavyweight champion then refused to repeat the vow to the cameras.

``Now I'm going to take him at his word,'' Klitschko wrote in a column he penned for Bild, Germany's biggest daily.

``While we were still in the ring, he said to me: We're going to have a rematch. I immediately demanded that he say this in front of the camera, but he didn't,'' he wrote.

The sometimes brutal and fascinating fight Saturday in Los Angeles, which ended because of a deep cut above Klitschko's right eye, appears to have won the Ukrainian lots of new fans in America and across the world.

But it also showed Vitali and younger brother Wladimir - also a top heavyweight contender - long ago conquered German hearts, after fighting out of the country for most of their career.

The fight started at around 4:30 in the morning in Germany because of the time difference, but a whopping 4.6 million either stayed up or crawled out of bed to watch. That is what a popular prime time show in the country draws.

Some said it was the first time in 20 years it was worth sitting up all night to watch boxing - since Muhammad Ali was fighting.

``We're staying awake again. The drama in Los Angeles wouldn't let us sleep, just like we once couldn't with the 'Thrilla in Manila' and the ``Rumble in the Jungle,'' wrote the Berliner Morgenpost, a daily.

Klitschko required 60 stitches to close the nasty cut, which ended the fight after he was leading on all three scorecards. He insisted again, after watching the bout on video, the injury came from a head butt.

``The blows from Lewis looked more dangerous than they actually were,'' Klitschko wrote. ``Because when you really get tagged, than music plays in your head, then birds fly in there. That wasn't the case with me, but certainly with Lewis.''

Vitali and Wladimir may want to repeat the formula in the United States that they used to charm the Germans

The brothers are inseparable, sticking together as they've been hit with numerous setback in their attempts to conquer America. The last blow came when Wladimir was dismantled by Corrie Sanders in a first round knockout two months ago.

``We win together and we lose together,'' insisted Wladimir.

Vitali is 2.02 meters (6-ft-7) and Wladimir an inch shorter and they fascinated the Germans with their size and power, but equally with their brotherly love, Gentleman's image and their Ph.Ds.

Most of all, however, the Germans just seemed to find the Klitschkos likable, the kind of men women want to date and the guys want to drink a beer with.

A popular commercial for Premiere, the pay-TV channel they once fought for, crystalized their image a few years back. Vitali stood near the ring's ropes and held up the WBO title belt he owned at the time.

``For Christmas, I want all four world titles,'' he said, grinning into the camera as Wladimir sneaked up from behind. ``But mama says I have to give two to my little brother.''

The huge blows from Lewis's right and left uppercuts the older brother took also erased the image the brothers are soft, a tag they were stuck with ever since Vitali tore a shoulder rotator cuff, then quit after the ninth round against Chris Byrd.

When Wladimir then beat Byrd to regain the WBO title, he jumped on the ropes, shook his fist and yelled: ``I love my brother - and we are not soft.''

Klitschko wrote in his column that he slept soundly after the Lewis fight until son Egor-Daniel woke him up while staring at his stitched-up eye and said shocked:

``Daddy, that looks bad. Does it hurt?'' Klitschko wrote. ``No, my son, I told him, because your father is a real man. What did my 3-year-old answer? I want to be a real man too, because then I won't feel pain either.''

The Germans were obviously proud of Klitschko, splashing their sports pages with paragraphs lifted from American and British articles praising the Ukrainian.

Despite that, it was a rather glum looking Klitschko that gave numerous interviews to German television, his stitched-up eye hidden behind sunglasses. After all, he still isn't the world champion.

``I don't feel like the loser, but I don't really feel like the winner either,'' he said.

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