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Boxing: Winner Klitschko a Heavyweight Attraction

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posted on Dec, 9 2003 @ 07:48 PM
Associated Press - December 7, 2003

NEW YORK - Vitali Klitschko was explaining how he dominated Kirk Johnson and why he should fight Lennox Lewis again when a commotion broke out in the back of the room.

Mike Tyson was there, curious to see for himself what this Ukrainian giant of a heavyweight was all about.

"You're welcome here Mr. Tyson," Klitschko said. "Take your place please."

Klitschko could be saying that to a lot of heavyweights after cementing his stature as boxing's new rising star Saturday night by stopping Johnson in the second round in a dominating performance at Madison Square Garden.

Indeed, Klitschko finds himself in command of heavyweight riches after fights against Lewis and Johnson that did everything but win him a title.

Suddenly, the 6-foot-7 better half of two fighting brothers is the hottest heavyweight attraction around, evidenced by the screaming crowd of 10,823 who braved a snowstorm to cheer his every move against Johnson.

Klitschko needed a good performance to show his June 21 fight in which he gave Lewis all he could handle for six rounds was no fluke. He got even more, knocking the once-beaten Johnson down twice before stopping him at 2:54 of the second round with a thudding series of punches to the head.

"We needed an impressive win, now it's a huge fight with Lennox," said Peter Kohl, Klitschko's promoter.

That may or may not happen, depending on whether the 38-year-old Lewis wants to stop counting his millions and relaxing on the beach to return to the heavyweight wars for one last big money fight.

Klitschko thought he was going to fight Lewis on Saturday night, but the WBC champion didn't want to fight again this year. Some think he won't fight again, which would leave Klitschko as the mandatory challenger in a fight against Corrie Sanders for the title.

"Everything depends on Lennox Lewis," Klitschko said. "Lennox Lewis is the strongest fighter in the world. To beat the strongest man in the world is very important."

Klitschko, who before the year began wasn't even considered the best boxer in his family (brother Wladimir was thought to be better), erased a lot of negative views about his boxing ability when he traded punches with Lewis for six rounds in Los Angeles before the fight was stopped because of a bad cut around his left eye.

Klitschko was leading on all three scorecards, but he needed a big outing against Johnson to show it wasn't a fluke.

Johnson looked flabby but came into Saturday's fight with only one loss to John Ruiz and was widely considered a top 10 heavyweight contender. Klitschko, though, waded through him with ease, pounding Johnson with big shots to the head before finally leaving him sprawled on the canvas, holding onto the lower rope.

"I didn't stick to my game plan at all," Johnson said. "He fought a tremendous fight tonight and he stuck to his game plan."

Klitschko, who holds an advanced college degree and speaks four languages, put his arm around Johnson when he came into the postfight press conference and told him he was sorry.

"No, it's just business," Johnson said.

There could be big business in the future with Tyson, who hasn't fought since stopping Clifford Etienne in the first round in February and whose personal problems often threaten to overwhelm him. Tyson wouldn't be likely to fight such a big fighter since the last time he was in the ring with a big man (Lewis), he was stopped in the eighth round.

Still, Tyson remains a big name, something Klitschko recognizes will bring him more money.

"I was a small boy and I saw him on television and you're my idol," Klitschko told Tyson. "I said maybe someday I'll fight you. I would be happy to fight against the biggest name in the world - Mike Tyson."

"Thank you," Tyson replied.


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