By Cliff Rold
In what might have been the finest performance of his career, at any age, 40-year old WBC Heavyweight beltholder Vitali Klitschko (43-2, 40 KO) of Kiev, Ukraine, laid a steady beating on 34-year old former two-division champion Tomasz Adamek (44-2, 28 KO) en route to a tenth round mercy stoppage at Stadion Miejski in Wroclaw, Poland.
Klitschko entered the contest weighing in at 243 lbs., his lowest weight since 1998. Adamek was a rock hard 216. The referee was Massimo Barrovecchio.
Fans hoping to see a more aesthetically pleasing encounter than July’s Wladimir Klitschko-David Haye contest got their wish, but it was also a less competitive encounter. Adamek, a heavy underdog coming in, battled gamely but was never remotely in the contest.
Klitschko had everything to do with it.
The titlist appeared to score his first knockdown of the night in the second round, but Barrovecchio deemed otherwise when a big right hand sent Adamek toppling towards the ropes. The strands kept him up but he managed to gut through the round clearly hurt. Adamek, giving up approximately six inches in height at 6’1 ½, was struggling to jab his way inside on Klitschko early.
It wouldn’t get any easier.
The rounds developed sameness, the wrinkles coming from Klitschko in the form of occasional, sneaky lead right uppercuts Adamek never saw coming, and snappy short lead hooks. The steady drumbeat of a jab with a rhythm all its own and Klitschko’s masterful control of distance kept a fight from ever truly breaking out.
In the sixth, Adamek looked like he might be headed for the showers when a right hand again drove him to the ropes, this time receiving no benefit of the doubt from Barrovecchio and receiving the mandatory eight. Again, Adamek made it out of the round.
And the punishment continued.
Over the remaining rounds, Klitschko worsened a bloodied Adamek nose, wearing his foe down to only the most token of offensive outbursts. By the final frame, Klitschko had built a head of offensive steam, a massive right hand beginning a prolonged assault as Adamek did everything he could to keep his feet and stay out of range of a finishing bomb.
He did so, but at cost. Absorbing blows, and looking for anywhere to hide but face first in the canvas, Adamek played to survive while Barrovecchio followed the action, looking for the moment when he would have to say “enough.”
The moment would come at 2:20 of the tenth, Adamek still on his feet, a beaten man.
The loss is the first by stoppage in the career of Adamek and the first since his final contest in the Light Heavyweight division, a decision loss for the WBC 175 lb. belt at the hands of Chad Dawson. Since losing that belt, which he defended twice in an almost two-year reign, Adamek had won 13 in a row, first at Cruiserweight and then at Heavyweight. In the former, Adamek would win the IBF and Ring Magazine belts, garnering recognition as the lineal Cruiserweight king and defending twice.
Klitschko, who held the WBO belt from 1999-2000 and the WBC belt from 2004 until an injury induced retirement in 2005, won his eighth straight since embarking on a 2008 comeback and adding his seventh defense of the WBC belt against Adamek. Over that stretch, Klitschko may well have not lost a single round. Before Saturday, his comeback victory for the WBC belt, a stoppage of Samuel Peter, was probably the best victory of his career.
Adamek, arguably the most accomplished foe Klitschko has ever defeated as a professional, may well have surpassed it.
At 40 years of age, Klitschko shows no signs of slowing down. Reigning alongside the recognized lineal, WBA, IBF, WBO, and Ring Magazine champion of the class, his younger brother Wladimir, why would he want to?
The bout was televised in the U.S. on premium cable network HBO as part of its “World Championship” series, promoted by K2 Promotions.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]