Boxing


Klitschko Flattens Brock; Ali Stops Burton

12.11.06 - By KIRK LANG: IBF heavyweight title holder Wladimir Klitschko, fighting in his first main event at Madison Square Garden, destroyed American Calvin Brockís dreams of becoming a champion this past Saturday with a perfect 1-2 combination in the seventh round of their scheduled 12-round affair.

A huge right hand sent Brock face-down on the canvas. Lying there as if he had been hit by a human-sized fly swatter, Brock somehow made it to his feet. However, referee Wayne Kelly, seeing Brock was on wobbly legs, called it off at the 2:10 mark. Before the fight-ending shot, Klitschko had stunned Brock earlier in the round with another straight-down-the pike right hand that followed a left hook. Klitschko closed the show in spectacular fashion but the fight itself was far from spectacular. "It wasnít one of his better performances," said Emanual Steward, Klitsckoís trainer, "But with that said, itís hard to be perfect every night."

Brock, a member of the 2000 United States Olympic boxing team, fought a much better fight than many so-called experts believed he would. Although the smaller man in the ring - the fight program had Brock listed at 6'2" and Klitschko at 6'6" - Brock held his own over the first four rounds and actually fought better against Klitschko than Chris Byrd, who lost his heavyweight to Klitschko in April. When Klitschko challenged Byrd for his title, Byrd was considered the best of the heavyweight title holders.

Brock proved more difficult to hit than Byrd, who has a reputation as a slick and crafty heavyweight. "The Boxing Banker" fought with a high guard and often blocked or moved out of the way of Klitschkoís offensive bursts. However, Klitschko, over the first four rounds, never really let his hands go. He fought at a measured pace, perhaps trying to avoid what happened to him when he fought Lamon Brewster in April 2004. Klitschko tattooed Brewster with an amazingly high number of punches over five rounds but eventually wiped himself out, allowing Brewster to notch a 5th round TKO.

Learning from his mistakes, Klitschkoís punch output against Brock was far more minimal than what he registered when he faced Brewster. Klitschko, 47-3 (42), controlled Brock, 29-1 (22), with his left hand by keeping it halfway extended. When he went on the offensive, it was more a push than a punch. He rarely threw a sharp, snapping jab. Although Brock often found it difficult to get past Klitschkoís long left arm, he managed to out-punch "The Steel Hammer" over the first four frames. According to the CompoBox punch statistics, Brock landed 49 of 171 punches throughout the first four rounds (29 percent) while Klitschko connected on 34 of 159 attempts (21 percent).

In the fifth round however, Klitschko began to solve the Brock puzzle and turned up the heat. He dominated the stanza with quick jabs - not seen earlier in the bout - and had more success landing his power punches, most notably the left hook. A number of jabs snapped Brockís head back. Klitschko looked more fluid in the fifth frame and moved well on his toes between tagging Brock with jabs that seemed like they couldnít miss their target.

While the jab was the key punch in the round, Klitschko landed two right hand bombs just before the bell to close out the stanza. The power punches elicited "oohs" from the crowd of 14,260, hundreds of whom went to the fight with small and large flags of the Ukraine to visibly show their support for Klitschko.

Although Klitschko worked the jab beautifully in the fifth, he did not keep it up in the sixth, perhaps because he was thrown off his game by a cut he suffered above his left eye. While referee Wayne Kelly ruled the cut was caused by an accident head butt, Klitschko did not know this. He said at the post-fight press conference that he thought it was caused by a punch.
Feeling a sense of urgency, and with the fear in his mind that the fight could be stopped and Brock would win by TKO, Klitschko ended matters in the next round. In losing to Klitschko, Brock saw his undefeated record disappear. Going in, he was 29-0 with 22 knockouts.

Steward pointed out that Brock was the third undefeated fighter Klitschko has faced in four fights. The only one who wasnít undefeated was IBF champion Chris Byrd "who was the number one heavyweight champion," said Steward, who added, "So he (Klitschko) has been fighting really good fighters compared to everybody else. Heís been fighting the best fighters out there."

Brock, who was rated in the top five by the IBF, WBC and WBA, said he never saw the right hand that ended the fight, since it came immediately after Klitschkoís jab. Although Brock was disappointed he didnít win the IBF belt, he promised he will become a world champion on another night.

"Itís not over for me," he said. "A lot of fighters have a loss, or two, or three, before they become a world champion. This was just my first one and I donít feel bad about it. My spirits are very high because I gave my best effort and I was in there with the best in the world, as of today. I lost to the guy thatís regarded by everybody as the most legitimate heavyweight title holder."

Klitschko, asked who he wants to fight next, said, "Anybody who holds a title. It doesnít matter who." He admitted he will not feel like a true champion until he becomes the undisputed champion.

In the nightís co-feature, Laila Ali, daughter of Muhammad, defended her WIBA and WBC super middleweight titles with a fourth-round stoppage of Shelly Burton, who was 8-2 (2) going into the fight. The official time was 1:58.

Fighting where her father had fought Joe Frazier in the "Fight of the Century" 35 years earlier, Laila Ali had a competitive opponent in Burton, of Las Vegas, NV. Burton, clearly not in awe of Aliís reputation as the best pound-for-pound female boxer, took the fight to her taller opponent. Over the first two rounds, Ali jabbed and moved as Burton marched forward, stayed busy with her hands and kept applying pressure. In both frames, Ali didnít really explode with shots until the final 15 seconds or so. In the third round however, she got her power punches going earlier. Halfway through the stanza, she nailed Burton with a succession of big right hands. In the latter part of the round, Ali willingly fought off the ropes near her corner and got the better of Burton. When Burton stepped away from Ali, Laila waved her in, as if to say, "Donít move away, Iím right here."

Ali also did some fighting off the ropes in the fourth round and just like when her father got off the ropes to knock out heavyweight king George Foreman in Zaire, Africa in 1974, Laila Aliís opponent would see the fight get stopped when "She Bee Stinginí " got off the ropes and launched a quick -fisted assault. Ali landed three or four right hands that had Burton trying to move away from the leather coming at her. However, her attempt to evade Aliís attack proved futile. A flurry of right hands and left hooks, with Burton not returning fire, forced Arthur Mercante, Jr. to wave the fight off. Mercanteís father - Arthur Mercante, Sr - refereed Ali-Frazier I, which took place in the same arena.

Laila Ali, who improved to 23-0 (20), said of Burtonís performance, "Up until that moment (the knockout), I thought that she did a good job."

Questions/Comments: kirklang@yahoo.com

Article posted on 13.11.2006



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