By Cliff Rold
37-year old World Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko (60-3, 52 KO) of Kiev, Ukraine, picked up his 60th win while making his 14th consecutive defense of the IBF Heavyweight belt and seventh consecutive defense of the lineal Heavyweight crown on Saturday night at the SAP-Arena in Manheim, Germany, dropping 28-year old Italian challenger Francisco Pianeta (28-1-1, 15 KO) of Gelsenkirchen, Germany, three times en route to a stoppage in round six. Klitschko also retains the WBO and WBA “Super” Heavyweight belts.
Klitschko came into the bout at a chiseled 249 lbs, Pianeta at 240 ¼. The referee was Ernie Sharif.
The champion wasted little time buzzing Pianeta with a stiff right hand just thirty seconds in. Klitschko would land another similar bomb about a minute later, Pianeta looping in some southpaw right hooks in between. Pianeta started firing straight shots to the body, keeping his hands high. Klitschko, allowed to measure with the left, kept looking for the right and also mixed in a hard left hook late in the round.
Pianeta landed a decent combination to start the second but it was Klitschko controlling most of the round. Pianeta was blasted with a right late and bravely waved Klitschko forward, his courage commendable.
A left cross landed with Klitschko’s back to the ropes, forcing the champion to hold halfway through the third and raising a cheer from the crowd. Klitschko, continuing to measure with his left, wasn’t hurt and soundly outboxed Pianeta for most of the rest of the frame.
The dominance continued in the fourth, Pianeta sneaking in some haymakers but unable to solve the long stick of Klitschko. In the final minute of the round, Pianeta relaxed his defense and Klitschko fired a right through the gap, putting the challenger on the seat of his trunks. Pianeta rose quickly and finished the round.
He finished the fifth as well despite another trip to the floor. It was a gutsy outing but the class difference was dramatic and Klitschko’s calm imposing. In the middle of round six, Klitschko buckled Pianeta’s knees with a left and Pianeta again brazenly waved the champion forward.
Klitschko obliged before the round was complete and Pianeta wouldn’t see the corner again.
With the seconds ticking down late in the round, Klitschko unleashed a right hand and left hook to send Pianeta to the floor in a heap. Pianeta again beat the count but Sharif wisely saved him further punishment at 2:52 of round six.
Pianeta argued against the stoppage and bawled in the corner after the fight, a sign of how hard he’d tried. He’d given everything he could to win and merited respect for that. He was in the ring with the best in the world and the gap between Klitschko and everyone else remains too wide to cross.
“It’s not as easy as people think to fight against an undefeated fighter,” Klitschko stated in post-fight comments, acknowledging the effort Pianeta put forth. “He tried like no one else, even if he didn’t have experience,” Klitschko continued before adding a classy note of respect for Pianeta surviving a battle with cancer.
Asked how he’d respond to those who are skeptical about the level of challengers he’s facing, Klitschko said, “It doesn’t matter who I fight. I get criticized anyway.” With undefeated mandatory Alexander Povetkin (25-0, 17 KO) likely later in the year and young guns Kubrat Pulev (17-0, 9 KO) and Tyson Fury (21-0, 15 KO) growing into their possible roles as challengers, the challenges will be getting tougher sooner than later.
Klitschko needs 12 more wins in a row to surpass Joe Louis’s mark of 25 consecutive defenses of a Heavyweight title; 19 wins in a row to pass Louis’s mark in terms of the lineal crown. Despite his age, Klitschko remains good enough to make both numbers seem within reach. Will any of the rising challengers stop his push towards history?
They’ll have their work cut out for them.
The card was televised in the U.S. on Epix, promoted by K2 Promotions.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]