By Jake Donovan

One week after Lennox Lewis, the last true lineal heavyweight champion, was enshrined into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, a new king was crowned as Wladimir Klitschko put on a boxing clinic in forcing Ruslan Chagaev to retire on his stool after nine rounds.

The bout took place in front of a sold-out crowd of 60,000 at Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen, Germany and aired live in the United States on ESPN Classic.

Chants of “Klitsch-Ko” echoed through the soccer stadium immediately from the opening bell, but it was Chagaev who initiated the early action. Klitschko spent much of the first round fighting almost exclusively behind the jab, while Chagaev offered his best efforts to make it an inside fight. There was little action to speak of, save for a Klitschko straight right that snapped back Chagaev’s head toward rounds end.

Chagaev offered side-to-side movement in trying to set up counter shots in round two, but Klitschko timed him perfectly with his jab to disrupt any pending attack. The monotony was broken up at about the 2:00 mark of the round, when a textbook one-two caught Chagaev by surprise, visiting the canvas for the first time in his career.

The knockdown inspired Klitschko to throw more power shots, beginning the third with a jab and right hand. Even the jab was thrown with much greater purpose, often snapping back the head of Chagaev, who was already running out of ways to offset the massive disparity in size and strength. Rinse and repeat in the fourth round, as Chagaev was beginning to fight less like a heavyweight titlist and more like a man fighting to hear the final bell.

Momentum never threatened to change at any point in the bout, though Chagaev made a more honest effort of things in the fifth. He left himself open for more jabs as a result, though it didn’t prevent the Uzbekistan southpaw from moving forward in the sixth. Klitschko fared well fighting in reverse, although Chagaev did a better job of slipping right hands in the round.

The second half of the fight began the same way as the preceding six rounds; Klitschko jabbing, Chagaev struggling to mount an offense. That changed for a brief spell at the end of the seventh, when Chagaev landed a rare overhand left.

Any chance of his newfound success spilling over into the eighth was immediately thwarted by Klitschko’s jab and sudden lateral movement whenever Chagaev attempted to respond with a jab of his own. A one-two from Klitschko late in the round caused a cut over the right eye of Chagaev, who now had flowing plasma to contend with in addition to all of the other issues he was unable to overcome in the fight.

Chagaev’s corner did a terrific job of not allowing the cut to become an issue, though part of it also had to do with Klitschko never changing gears. The Ukrainian had a chance to make a huge statement towards the end of the ninth, cornering Klitschko and landing multiple right hands while keeping his opponent pinned on the ropes.

The dramatic knockout never came, as Chagaev made it out of the round, but wouldn’t have the chance to throw – or eat – another punch. The fight was stopped in between rounds, when it was decided by referee Eddie Cotton that Chagaev had no chance of turning things around. 

The official time was 3:00 of round nine.

Klitschko advances to 53-3 (47KO) with the win, his 11th straight dating back to 2004.

Chagaev loses for the first time as a professional, falling to 25-1-1 (17KO). 

An assortment of titles were at stake, but none more important than the lineal heavyweight championship, with this fight marking the 43rd time in boxing history that someone has claimed the sport’s most historic prize.

Klitschko’s performance in this and just about every other fight in the past five years will most likely cause fans to pause before mentioning his name in the same breath as past iconic kings.

Rather than attempt to compare him with the ghosts of Christmas past, boxing fans should instead be content with the longest gap between lineal heavyweight champions has now been closed. With Klitschko’s win, we are now in the presence of something that has been sorely lacking for more than five years – a true heavyweight leader.


Regardless of how he gets the job done, what can’t be disputed is the fact that he continues to dominate the heavyweight division. So much, that there are few reasonable answers to the question, “Who’s next?”

From a mandatory perspective, Klitschko will have little choice but to eventually face Alexander Povetkin, another undefeated former Olympian based out of the Eastern Bloc. To date, Klitschko has done everything in his power to keep his various alphabet titles, so there is little reason to believe he won’ t proceed with the fight.

The next question is whether or not American cable giant HBO will remain on board. The network was on board when Klitschko was scheduled to face Povetkin last December, before his challenger suffered an untimely injury in training camp and was forced to withdraw.

Povetkin was replaced with Hasim Rahman, who showed up grossly out of shape and for no other reason than to collect a paycheck. It was considered the last straw by HBO, demanding nothing but quality, entertaining opponents standing opposite Klitschko from here on out.

With that ultimatum in mind, the plan was for former lineal cruiserweight king David Haye to receive the next crack at the world’s top heavyweight. Such was the scheduled fight for the June 20 date, before a back injury forced the Brit out of the fight earlier this month.

No sooner than Haye pulled out of the fight did HBO also withdraw their interest, despite Klitschko’s handlers securing a quality replacement in Chagaev and under such short notice. It stands to reason that HBO will put up enough money to entice Klitschko to still proceed with a Haye fight, even if it means dumping a belt or two.

Jake Donovan is the managing editor of and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at