Saturday afternoon's slaughter of Juan Carlos Gomez by reigning WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko was so predictable that only the question of when Gomez would be knocked out remained. Well, that and whether or not he'd die in the ring. (He didn't.) The fight was held in Germany, where Klitschko has a huge fan base, but unfortunately the only American channel to carry it live was ESPN Classic. (I couldn't help being reminded of "The Ocho" from Dodgeball.) Apparently, boxing has reached such a sad state of affairs that not only does the heavyweight champion not rate a first-line cable broadcast, but ESPN didn't even bother to send commentators to the fight, instead talking over a live feed from the venue.
The first round began with the 35-year-old, smack-talking Gomez running straight to Klitschko with a flurry of jabs. Both fighters pawed at each other, Klitschko looking awkward as usual and not connecting any meaningful punches. This was the only round Gomez could conceivably have won. From round two on, Klitschko began connecting solid right hand punches, spelling doom for Gomez. Round two also marked Klitschko beginning to drop his hands, which seems to be the Ukranian's equivalent of Lincoln Hawk turning his hat around. Gomez developed noticeable swelling over his right eye and began tripping over his own feet, attempting to hold Klitschko in order to stop the onslaught.
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A strong effort on the part of Gomez at the beginning of the sixth round didn't seem to faze the 36-2 Klitschko, who took the punches with ease despite a bloody cut on his head from an earlier head butt. He delivered more punishment to the bloody right eye of Gomez, who once again tripped over himself, this time falling to the ground. He should have stayed there, as he got up to become the target of several more perfect Klitschko right hand power punches. Soon after, a bizarre hybrid of an uppercut and right hook from Klitschko sent Gomez to the mat again, this time pulling all 6'7" of Klitschko down on top of him.
Gomez may have solidly lost this fight, but he definitely proved his chin in the buzz kill that was round eight. After barely making it through the previous round, looking for all intents and purposes like he was about to quit on his stool, he stubbornly continued to take punch after punch from Klitschko, refusing to go down. At one point he turned his back to his opponent and looked at the ground, obviously contemplating giving up. But he made it to round nine through sheer force of will.
Early in round nine, the referee took a point for a phantom "intentional" head butt on the part of Klitschko. Seemingly in response, the 37-year-old champion knocked his opponent down for the second time. After Gomez stood up, Klitschko battered him further until the fight was stopped by the referee at 1:48 in round nine.
Juan Carlos Gomez is no chump. He is a twelve-time WBC Cruiserweight champion and he does have a few heavyweight wins under his belt. Unfortunately, a champion's level of greatness at cruiserweight rarely translates as he moves through other weight classes, especially when continuing to fight at the championship level (unless he happens to be Evander Holyfield). The lesson learned by Gomez tonight ought to give some pause to another ex-cruiserweight titleholder - British heavyweight David Haye, who is gunning to take on Vitali's brother Wladimir this summer.