Klitschko stands tall, defends WBC title

By Graham Dunbar
Associated Press / December 13, 2009

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BERN, Switzerland - Kevin Johnson promised that Vitali Klitschko wouldn’t knock him out when they fought for the WBC heavyweight title last night.

Maybe he should have promised a win instead.

Johnson survived 12 rounds against the hard-punching Ukrainian champion, but he couldn’t earn enough points from the judges. Fabian Guggenheim and Omar Mintum scored it 120-108, while Guido Cavalleri had it 119-109.

“I would have preferred a knockout but I’m happy because I won all 12 rounds,’’ Klitschko told 17,000 fans at PostFinance Arena. “He’s not easy to hit.’’

Johnson, 30, proved a durable opponent and did his best work with counterattacking straight left jabs, though he never managed to damage a fighter who has never taken a standing count.

“When I first met Vitali I told him, ‘You won’t knock me out.’ It wasn’t a hard fight,’’ Johnson said. “There are things we need to work on and we’re going to go home to the gym and polish them up.’’

Klitschko (39-2) was making his third defense of the belt he reclaimed in October 2008, after a four-year break to recover from injuries. The 38-year-old took the fight just 11 weeks after beating Cris Arreola, another unbeaten American who did not come out for the 11th round of their bout.

Johnson (22-1-1) was the WBC’s sixth-ranked contender, but few gave him much of a chance against the larger champion. At 6 feet 7 inches and 247 pounds, Klitschko had a height advantage of more than 3 inches and a slight weight advantage.

It forced Johnson to spend most of the night on defense, inviting Klitschko to come at him beginning in the second round. Klitschko aimed mostly head shots at Johnson, but a succession of overhand rights found the challenger turning away.

Klitschko’s right cheek was marked in the fourth round, and Johnson connected with a left hook in the sixth. But he failed to mount many combinations and Klitschko kept winning rounds with steady jabs, more big rights, and an occasional straight left.

The fight heated up in the 11th when Klitschko responded to Johnson’s taunting, hands-spread gesture with a flurry of blows. In the final round, Johnson pointed at his chin as if to goad Klitschko into another attack, and the bout ended with them trading punches.

The two squared up after the bell and Johnson was ushered back to his corner by Klitschko’s younger brother Wladimir, the IBF and WBO champion.

Klitschko said the brothers want to own all four major titles in 2010 by taking the WBA belt held by David Haye.