| Lennox Lewis celebrates his victory over Vitali Klitschko Saturday
Los Angeles: Britain’s Lennox Lewis scored a bloody sixth-round technical knockout win over Vitali Klitschko Saturday, successfully defending his WBC and IBO titles and confirming his status as the top heavyweight of his era.
In one of the most brutal and exciting world heavyweight bouts in recent years, Lewis and Ukrainian Klitschko staged a gladiatorial battle, the two giants standing toe-to-toe trading blows through six tough rounds.
But as the bell rang to start the seventh and Klitschko’s left eye sliced open, referee Lou Moret stopped the fight, Lewis raising his arms and thumping his chest in victory.
“I was getting to him, look at his face, just look at his face,” Lewis said. “I was going to stop him. He’s a legitimate No. 1 contender...but I hurt him more than he hurt me. It was only a matter of time.
“He has an unusual European style and it took me a while to figure it out. He woke me up but he could not go the distance with me. I wanted to dog him, I wanted a dog fight.”
When the bout was halted, Klitschko was ahead 58-56 on the cards of all three judges and charged across the ring towards Lewis. The near-capacity crowd of 15,939 at the Staples Center was also surprised, booing loudly before cheering Klitschko as he remained in the ring soaking up their applause.
“Right now I feel like the people’s champion,” said Klitschko. “I did not want them to stop the fight under any circumstances. I felt like I was winning, I knew I was hurting him with my punches. I controlled the fight but he is not so easy to fight, he is very good. I hope there will be a rematch.”
With the eye wound flapping across Klitschko’s battered face, Dr Paul Wallace said he had no choice but to halt the contest.
“When I went into the ring the second time I asked him to look at me,” explained Wallace. “When he raised his head up, his upper eyelid covered his field of vision so he had to move his head to see me.
“At that point I had no other option than to stop the fight. If he had to move his head to see me there was no way he could defend himself against a punch.”
The first world heavyweight title fight to be staged in Los Angeles in 45 years marked Lewis’ first appearance since his eighth-round knockout of Mike Tyson in Memphis last June.
Lewis (41-2-1) weighed 256.5 pounds, the heaviest he has been for a fight, and appeared ring rusty in the early rounds. For one of the few times in his career, Lewis met a taller opponent but the 6-foot-7 Lewis, 37, will now look to close out his career with one or two more big pay-days, starting with a likely showdown with Roy Jones Jr later this year. But the champion said he would consider a rematch with Klitschko if the money was right.
It was only the second defeat for Klitschko (32-2).