KLITSCHKO CRUSHES GRITTY GOMEZ
The best heavyweight in the world, WBC Champion Vitali Klitschko knocked off mandatory challenger Juan Carlos Gomez in nine one-sided rounds in Stuttgart, Germany. Unlike most of the Klitschko Brothers’ opponents of late, Gomez actually came to fight and make Vitali work for his win. But like most of those opponents, he was eventually overwhelmed and knocked out.
Heading into the bout, there was a great deal of controversy about the size of the ring. The camp of Gomez, a slick boxer at heart, was upset that the ring was an astounding four feet smaller than the agreed upon size. The error, if it was indeed an error, was corrected in time to save the fight, but Gomez never really used the ring to his advantage anyway, making the whole complaint seem like smoke and mirrors.
Instead, Gomez, a natural cruiserweight, stayed right in the pocket with the much larger Vitali for much of the fight and landed enough left hands to win the first round. He ended the round grinning at the champion. From there, however, it was all Klitschko.
After breaking from a clinch with the Cuban in round two, Vitali tagged Gomez with a sharp one-two to the head. That brought forth another grin from Gomez, followed by another clinch. Another straight right hand knocked Gomez’ head back, but the challenger continued to grin and stick his tongue out. Undeterred, Klitschko went on landing big jabs and straight rights to the head of the normally slick Gomez, who tried to rally in the waning seconds only to be nailed by another right from Vitali at the bell.
The jab was landing regularly for Klitschko by the third round. Whenever Gomez tried to lunge in and score around it, he was met with a right from the champion, who was using his reach advantage to perfection. A straight right near the end of the round seemed to stun Gomez briefly as he showed some unsteadiness. Klitschko showed more aggressiveness in the fourth, going after Gomez and pounding in two right hands around the guard, followed by one to the body and two stiff jabs to the head. Vitali continued to drill Gomez with big head shots, sending the Cuban back to his corner with a swelling right eye.
A minute into round five, Gomez’ puffy eye became a cut eye, but Referee Daniel Van de Wiele didn’t rule whether it was the result of a punch or a headbutt, even though the blood appeared after Gomez stuck his head into Vitali’s chin. It didn’t appear likely to matter regardless as Vitali had dominated the fight to that point and would continue to do so the remainder of the way. A good exchange of power shots ended the round, with Klitschko getting the best of it with his sharp, straight rights to the head of Gomez.
In round six, clearly down on points and cut, Gomez separated himself from most of the Klitschko Brothers’ opponents as he went after Vitali and scored with straight left hands, showing that he was at least going to try to win the fight rather than wait for the referee or his corner to stop it as Lamon Brewster, Sultan Ibragimov, Sam Peter and Hasim Rahman had done over the past year two years. The result was more punishment, including a jarring left hook to the mouth, to which Gomez responded by opening his mouth wide. But he wasn’t willing to let Vitali walk all over him. Somewhere in the action of the round, Klitschko suffered a cut on the top of his head, creating a bloody mess but no real danger to the dominant champion.
Gomez forced a grin after eating a three-punch combination to the mouth in round seven, but he quickly fired back with his own rally, even blasting the champion with a hard one-two across the mouth that made Vitali dip into the ropes in retreat. But Klitschko answered that with a nasty straight right that knocked Gomez’ head back into the ropes. Seconds later, Vitali landed a monstrous right to the side of Gomez’ head that momentarily froze the challenger up. Gomez then staggered sideways and got caught with a left hook as he fell onto a knee against the ropes.
Gomez was quickly up after the count of one and confirmed to Van de Wiele that he was fine to continue. With a minute left in the round, Klitschko blasted Gomez with hard punches to the head, but Gomez grinned and fired back with his own shots. After taking a big right hand across the mouth, Gomez covered up in a corner, trying to avoid the heavy thunder from Vitali. Gomez grabbed Klitschko around the neck to escape, but Vitali turned and smacked in a right before toppling forward on top of Gomez against the mat. Van de Wiele ruled it a slip and allowed the action to continue, with Vitali catching Gomez repeatedly, yet Gomez was able to stay on his feet and clinched to survive the brutal round.
Klitschko began the eighth round, biding his time, while Gomez chose to keep his distance and try to get his legs back under him. In the final thirty seconds, Vitali struck with a straight right to the body and a three-punch combination to the head that doubled Gomez over against the ropes, appearing out on his feet. Van de Wiele looked to be stepping in and stopping it but stopped himself short as Gomez turned sideways and absorbed another three punches to the head from Klitschko. Gomez again made it through another rough round and didn’t quit on his stool like so many other heavyweights have done and others would do in his position. He was a boxer without one-punch knockout power in a fight that he couldn’t possibly win on points, yet he refused to be lumped among men like Rahman and Peter by giving up without a fight.
Vitali landed a huge straight right early in round nine, and the fighters immediately clinched. Gomez quickly pulled away, holding his left eye, which was also now cut. Van de Wiele then made a bizarre call by taking a point away from Klitschko for an intentional headbutt, even though both men had leaned into one another. Vitali corrected the injustice by marching in and hurling big shots at the gloves of Gomez, and, already on unsteady legs, the Cuban went down on his hands and knees against the ropes. Gomez stood by the count of six, blood now dripping down from a cut on the bridge of his nose, but he didn’t quit and even went after the champion.
After a failed assault, Gomez stumbled sideways on rubbery legs, catching punches to the head. Gomez kept coming forward, both arms throwing, but Klitschko hit him with a right-left combination. Vitali then pulled back and slammed Gomez’ head back with a big time straight right hand. A left-right combination followed, but Gomez was still on his feet in front of the champion. Klitschko drilled Gomez with a sharp jab to the side of the head as Gomez was turned sideways, and that was enough to send the challenger stumbling into the ropes, doubled over. Standing behind Gomez, Vitali stuffed in two left hooks to the mouth against the ropes and waited for the call, and Van de Wiele finally waved off the massacre.
The win had to be particularly satisfying for Vitali, given that Gomez invested a lot of time in hounding the WBC Champion for a fight, showing up at his training sessions and publicly calling him out. Next up for Vitali appears to be a mandatory fight against Oleg Maskaev for reasons no one can seem to explain. Maskaev was knocked out by Peter this time last year and hasn’t beaten anyone of consequence since, which just goes to show how bad the heavyweight division is. There are no worthy challengers on the horizon for either Klitschko brother, save perhaps David Haye, who, like Gomez, is a true cruiserweight, not a heavyweight. Vitali’s best option after disposing of Maskaev would be to try to get a fight with the winner of the rematch between Ruslan Chagaev and Nikolay Valuev, both of whom have been simply terrible champions since fighting over the meaningless WBA title.
In the meantime, Vitali remains the best heavyweight in the world, and it really isn’t a close race whatsoever.
Tags: Boxing, Heavyweight boxing, Vitali Klitschko