by Johnny Walker
World heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, having just signed a three-fight deal with HBO, was determined to deliver a performance tonight that would convince skeptical North Americans that he isn’t the “boring” fighter he is often derided as here by certain boxing critics.
Mission accomplished for “Doctor Steelhammer.”
Klitschko (63-3-0, 53 KOs) continued his increasingly amazing dominance of the heavyweight division this afternoon at the O2 World Arena in Hamburg, Germany by utterly annihilating one of the best opponents he’d faced in years, the previously undefeated Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev.
Though Pulev (20-1, 11 KOs) came out aggressive and showed amazing toughness, he was simply no match for a man who seems to still be improving at the age of 38.
Pulev came after Klitschko early, and for a brief moment seemed to take the champion off guard. But this was not the Klitschko of over a decade ago who could be rattled easily. Before Pulev knew it, he had been put on the canvas twice in round one by Klitschko, who was throwing atomic bomb left hooks that shook the Bulgarian to his very core.
Pulev tried to mug for the crowd and amazingly, made it through the the initial round when many lesser fighters would have called it quits. But Klitschko was not about to let his Bulgarian foe off the hook.
The two fighters did a bit of wrestling in round two, but Klitschko was adamant that this would be no repeat of the aesthetically ugly Alex Povetkin fight. In round three, Pulev managed to sting the champion with a thudding body shot, but Klitschko replied with wicked power blows that deposited Pulev on the canvas for the third time in the fight.
Still, Pulev showed his heart in round four by refusing to give in, as his numerous Bulgarian fans chanted his name. He even managed to score with a nifty right-left combination that prompted a couple of booming left hooks in reply from the champ as the stanza came to a close.
But Wladimir Klitschko was a man on a mission on this night, a night where he wanted to throw some of the often unfair criticisms of him in North America back in his critics’ faces. And he did that in round five, after weathering perhaps the hardest punch Pulev landed all night, a big right hand that resounded throughout the arena.
Undaunted, Klitschko responded with an immense, crushing left hook that left Pulev’s face a puffed-up, bloody mess as he hit the canvas again, this time for good. Pulev was knocked out at 2:11 of round five, given a boxing lesson by a man who is now ascending into the level of boxing legend, with over a decade of superiority, and of making skilled, tough opponents like Kubrat Pulev look quite ordinary, often to Klitschko’s own detriment.
Wladimir is simply too good. Aside from his now-retired brother Vitali, no one else is in his league.
And tonight, Dr. Steelhammer was aggressive, combative, powerful, and exciting. He delivered on all fronts.
Perhaps his tedious stalker, Shannon Briggs, who was in the arena but kept away from the champ by security, might reconsider his fervent desire to fight Wladimir after taking a look at Kubrat Pulev’s face after the fight — Pulev was to be taken to the hospital to be checked out — something that should bring back painful memories for Briggs, who spent two weeks in hospital after being badly beaten by then WBC champion Vitali Klitschko in 2010.
There will be many names bandied about for Klitschko’s next opponent: Bermane Stiverne, Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury, Lucas Browne, and even Shannon Briggs.
But with Klitschko’s new emphasis–spurred on by trainer Johnathon Banks–of search and destroy, an approach geared to finally win over that HBO constituency that has resisted him, it’s hard to imagine any of those names faring much better than the admirably game Kubrat Pulev did tonight.
Hail to the champ.