Published — Monday 12 November 2012
Last update 12 November 2012 6:04 am
HAMBURG: Wladimir Klitschko had to go the distance to defend his WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight belts by decision against Mariusz Wach of Poland on Saturday.
The 2.02-meter (6-foot-7 1/2) Wach was the tallest opponent Klitschko faced in his 16-year professional career but offered little threat against the faster and 2-kilo (4-pound) lighter Ukrainian.
The judges scored it 120-107, 120-107 and 119-109 to Klitschko, who was troubled only at the end of the fifth round, when Wach surprised him with a right hook before a flurry of punches left the defending champion on the ropes.
"He caught me in the fifth, but then I slipped," said Klitschko, who was left with a small cut under his left eye and must have been relieved to hear the bell.
Klitschko left the 32-year-old Wach wobbling in the seventh with a devastating right blow followed by a series of combinations. Wach somehow hung on.
The two-time Polish champion was clearly in trouble in the next, when Klitschko was delivering punches at will and it seemed only a matter of time before he ended it.
Wach displayed incredible stamina to continue, but his only hope was for a lucky punch that never came.
"That was the hardest fight of my career," said Wach, who dropped to 27-1 (15 KOs) after his first loss. "I want to apologize to everyone for not living up to expectations. I really wanted to win. Thank you so much to my family."
The 36-year-old Klitschko said Wach "boxed brilliantly."
Klitschko improved to 59-3 (51 KOs) after his first bout since the death of his longtime trainer and friend Emanuel Steward.
"I want to remember one man, who can't be here today unfortunately. Emanuel Steward, we miss you, we're thinking of you," Klitschko said.
Fans also paid tribute to the late American before the bout when the bell was rung 10 times in his memory. Steward, who was in Klitschko's corner for nine years, died at the age of 68 on Oct. 25.
"It was hard for (Wladimir), very hard," said Vitali Klitschko referring to his younger brother's preparations following Steward's death.
The older Klitschko, who holds the WBC belt, said the fight "was unbelievably brutal. (Wach) just didn't want to fall. He somehow kept standing."
Sylvester Stallone greeted fans beforehand as part of the promotional campaign for the Rocky musical which opens in Hamburg on Nov. 18.
Mares keeps crown with decision
In Los Angeles, Mexico's unbeaten Abner Mares retained his World Boxing Council super bantamweight title Saturday with a unanimous decision over Panama's Anselmo Moreno at the Staples Center.
Mares, keen to keep World Boxing Association bantamweight world champion Moreno from finding his groove, attacked relentlessly and sent the challenger to the canvas in the fifth round -- the first time Moreno had been knocked down in his career.
Two judges scored it 116-110 and the third saw it 120-106 for Mares, a former bantamweight world champion who was making the first defence of the belt he claimed with a unanimous decision over Eric Morel in El Paso, Texas, in April.
Moreno fell to 33-2-1 with 12 knockouts and said he thought the fight was closer than the scores indicated.
Mares, however, said he wasn't surprised by the decisive nod from the judges.
"I felt my pressure, my aggression, was getting the best of Anselmo," Mares said. "He was just backing up. The only time he was taking advantage and taking control of the fight was when I was waiting too long."
Mares, who improved to 25-0 with one draw and 13 knockouts, said his strategy was to keep the technically skilled Moreno from finding his rhythm, otherwise, Mares said, "he'll pick you apart".
Mares now has his sights set on Nonito Donaire, the "Filipino Flash" who is scheduled to defend his World Boxing Organization super bantamweight crown against Mexico's Jorge Arce on December 15 in Houston.
"I want to fight Nonito Donaire," Mares said. "That's the only guy to fight. We want to fight the best."
On the undercard, Mexico's Leo Santa Cruz retained his International Boxing Federation bantamweight world title with an impressive ninth-round stoppage of game compatriot Victor Zaleta.
Santa Cruz knocked down Zaleta with a left hook in the fourth round and sent him down with a combination in the seventh.
Despite taking a battering, Zaleta kept pressing forward, but when Santa Cruz caught him with a hard right that knocked him down again the referee called a halt at 1:42 of the ninth.
Santa Cruz, making the second defense of the title he won with a unanimous decision over South African Vusi Malinga on June 2, improved to 22-0-1 with 13 knockouts. Zaleta fell to 20-3-1.
Unbeaten Welsh fighter Nathan Cleverly retained his World Boxing Organization light heavyweight title with a convincing eighth-round stoppage of Shawn Hawk.
Cleverly, fighting in the United States for the first time, improved to 25-0 with his 12th win inside the distance.
He dominated from the opening bell and sent Hawk to the canvas twice in the seventh round and again in the next before referee Tony Crebs called a halt one minute and 53 seconds into the eighth round.