Klitschko's face was bleeding: the best fight of the Ukrainian legend's career, which left many questions
On 19 July, the mayor of Kyiv and heavyweight legend Vitali Klitschko, the "Doctor Iron Fist", who won 41 of his 45 professional wrestling victories by knockout, celebrates his birthday. Today, the famous boxer is 52 years old. His career has seen many spectacular fights. But ironically, it is believed that Klitschko Sr. lost his best fight to the British Lennox Lewis.
On the Ukrainian legend's birthday, OBOZREVATEL decided to recall one of the best heavyweight battles of the 21st century, which took place on 21 June 2003 at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles and ended in drama for the future politician.
LEWIS'S HONOUR. After British heavyweight Lennox Lewis knocked out Mike Tyson in the eighth round on 6 June 2002 to defend his WBC, IBO and IBF belts, his career took a break for more than a year. The "Lion" even lost his IBF title because he refused to defend it against Chris Byrd. Eventually, Lewis looked around and decided that Vitali Klitschko could be the most worthy challenger to fight him.
After defeating Larry Donald by technical knockout in the 10th round, the Ukrainian became the number one ranked fighter in the WBC, but in early 2003, negotiations broke down. There were talks that Lennox was even thinking about a rematch with Tyson, but the WBC could not stand it any longer, allowing a second fight with Mike only after he had met their challenger Klitschko Sr.
It was planned that on 21 June 2003, Lewis would meet Kirk Johnson to defend the IBO belt, and Vitali would face Cedric Boswell. After that, the leaders of their respective weights would face each other. However, Kirk was injured and withdrew from the fight on 6 June. The 4500 tickets purchased were left in limbo.
However, the HBO channel and Emmanuel Stewart were not going to give up on the planned fight and persuaded Klitschko, who signed a contract for his main fight three days later.
Interestingly, after the announcement of the Klitschko-Lewis fight, the remaining 10,000 seats in the arena were sold out in four hours. In fact, the fight between these two "monsters" could have filled the stadium, but it was too late to change anything.
On 21 June 2003, the current WBC and IBO world champion and former absolute champion Lennox Lewis entered the ring against the former WBO champion Vitali Klitschko, who had less than two weeks to prepare for the fight.
The Ukrainian was considered an underdog that night, with bookmakers accepting bets on the winner at 4:1 in favour of Lewis. Despite this, Vitali dominated the fight, depriving Lennox of his speed advantage.
In the first two rounds, Klitschko regularly landed his jabs to Lewis' head. And in the second three minutes, the Ukrainian hit the Briton's left eye with a right punch, which caused a small cut. As a result, unexpectedly for many, the challenger seized the lead in the judges' notes.
But at the beginning of the third round, Lewis had an attack that turned out to decide the outcome of this battle of the titans. It is believed that the British "Lion" threw a powerful swinging right punch, and Klitschko did not have time to dodge it, which led to a cut above Vitali's left eye. Although the future mayor later claimed that the wound was caused by his head.
Despite the cut, the Ukrainian continued to box. He worked mainly from the defensive, but reached Lennox's chin with his long arms. There was a moment when Vitali almost knocked Lewis down. However, from round to round, the cut of the "Iron Fist" increased.
It was very difficult for Klitschko's team to stop the blood from pouring out of the boxer's face. The Ukrainian began to see worse in his left eye and missed a dangerous uppercut. And in the break between the 6th and 7th rounds, Dr Paul Wallace advised referee Lou Moret to stop the fight, which he did, fearing for Vitali's health.
Klitschko himself was against it. And he can be understood. At the time the fight was stopped after the sixth round, Vitali was winning on the cards of all three judges - 58:56. But the referee was relentless. The fight was stopped and the Ukrainian was awarded a technical knockout defeat due to a deep cut.
THE QUESTION REMAINS."My plan for the fight was to take the fight to the seventh or eighth round. Everything worked out perfectly. It wasn't easy for me, but I felt like I was winning this fight. I knew that my punches were going to cause Lewis a lot of trouble!" said the upset Vitali after the fight.
And Lennox, trying to save face after an unconvincing fight, responded to his opponent's words with irony: "Didn't Klitschko have enough to deal with?" And in subsequent interviews, at every opportunity, he emphasised that the Ukrainian was lucky that the referee stopped the fight.
According to available information, Lewis's fee for the fight with Vitali was $7 million, while the Ukrainian received $1.4 million. The boxers could have won an even bigger prize for the rematch, because despite the technical knockout, the question remained in the air as to who was still the strongest in the pair and what would have happened if the Ukrainian had not suffered that unfortunate cut.
Talks of a rematch between Vitali and Lennox excited boxing fans and the media until 6 February 2004, when Lewis officially announced his retirement in London. Apparently, he was not at all confident in a second victory over Klitschko.
And after a while, not without reservations, the British Lion recognised the Ukrainian's skills: "Vitali was the smartest of my opponents. He used his clumsiness to good effect. Everyone said that I should have fought him again, but for me this fight was like the chocolate icing on the cake that marked my retirement from the sport. When I took that fight, I was ready mentally, but physically I wasn't in the best shape. I beat him in worse shape, so there was no need for a rematch. My uppercuts became a problem for him."
After the drama in Los Angeles, Klitschko Sr. never lost again - he won 13 more victories and went into politics as WBC champion.
Earlier, OBOZREVATEL reported that Lennox Lewis predicted the Usyk-Fury fight.