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Klitschko retains WBC crown

VITALY Klitschko retained his WBC heavyweight crown by defeating Cuban Juan Carlos Gomez on a technical knockout in the ninth round on Saturday.

Klitschko, who retired in 2005 after a series of injuries before reclaiming the WBC title in October by beating Samuel Peter, had to work hard to beat the bloodied Gomez.

"I knew Gomez very well and knew this was not going to be easy," said Klitschko in a post-match public address. "After the sixth I became bit impatient but I knew he did not have much fuel after that."

The 37-year-old Ukrainian, 10 centimeters taller than his opponent, who is 35, began cautiously in the first few rounds but gradually went on the attack to the delight of some 12,500 spectators in Stuttgart's soldout Schleyer Hall.

Klitschko (36-2) chipped away at Gomez's defenses with several punishing blows to the body and head that left the Cuban with a cut above his right eye in the fourth round.

As his eye closed, Gomez began having problems blocking Klitschko's powerful right, and a left-right combination in the sixth further rattled the Cuban.

Gomez (44-1) went down on his knees in the seventh after Klitschko, who went into the fight with a record of 35 knockouts, landed a big right. The Cuban then took a barrage of punches but somehow managed to stay on his feet. He lasted two more rounds before Klitschko sent him to the ropes with a series of left jabs and the referee stopped the fight with 1:49 remaining in the round.

"Now I want the one title that evades the Klitschko family," said Vitaly, referring to the WBA heavyweight title held by Russian Nikolai Valuev.

Vitaly's younger brother Wladimir holds the WBO and IBF crowns.

However, the WBC has ordered Vitaly to make another mandatory title defense within four months, a decision Klitschko has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

On the undercard, two veteran American southpaws who sparred with Klitschko to prepare him for Gomez won against German opponents.

Tony Thompson (32-2, 20 KOs) stopped Adnan Serin in the sixth round, and Chris Byrd - who defeated Vitali to win the WBO belt in 2000 and lost it to Wladimir six months later - stopped Mathias Sandow in the fourth round.

The 38-year-old Byrd (41-5-1) now fights in the cruiserweight division.


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