Boxing: Klitschko rides heavy punches to claim belt

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The Independent Online

In a fight that did not save the heavyweight division, but at least woke it up, Vitali Klitschko proved that he inherited a better chin than his younger brother, taking some of Corrie Sanders' best left hands early and late before stopping the part-time boxer with 14 seconds left in the eighth round.

And when the referee John Schorle, had to rescue the 38-year-old Sanders, who knocked out Wladimir Klitschko in 207 seconds 13 months ago, Vitali had perhaps earned the right to call himself Lennox Lewis's rightful heir.

Vitali Klitschko started slowly in the same Staples Centre ring where he gave Lewis a tussle 10 months earlier before cuts forced the bout's stoppage after six rounds, with Klitschko ahead on all official cards. Sanders went after Vitali the same way as with Wladimir, with booming left hands.

In the eighth round, Sanders' face was covered in blood but he was landing big punches, accompanied by some vicious right hooks. But as he was pressing forward, he ran into a big right hand from Vitali. A few combinations quickly followed and, although Sanders somehow did not fall, it was over.

"I was surprised he never went down," Klitschko said. "He took so many punches, it was unbelievable."

Sanders' manager, Vernon Smith, said "He got beaten by a better fighter."

The winner said he was not thinking about any unification bouts, preferring instead to let his brother try to win a belt and fulfil their dream of being concurrent champions.

"I hope Lennox Lewis will come out of retirement," Klitschko said. "Lennox was the biggest name in boxing, in the history of boxing. He beat everybody. He didn't beat me."

Lewis congratulated Klitschko in the dressing room, before repeating his vow to stay retired.

* Matt Skelton stopped Michael Sprott at the Rivermead Leisure Centre in Reading, on Saturday night in the 12th and final round to win the British and Commonwealth titles.

The end of Sprott's brief reign looked inevitable from round one but his desire kept him going in a fight that he never looked capable of winning.

In an ideal world, Skelton will at some point this year meet Audley Harrison in the type of clash that would generate more excitement than any British heavyweight title fight since Lennox Lewis defeated Gary Mason in 1991.