Lineal heavyweight world champion Wladimir “Dr. Steelhammer” Klitschko once again proved why he is the high man on the totem pole of the division by stopping Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev in their Saturday meeting at the O2 World arena in Hamburg, Germany.
The end came by way of knockout at 2 minutes, 11 seconds into the fifth round, courtesy of a left hook from Klitschko, the same punch that had earlier dropped the undefeated Pulev, now 20-1, 11 KOs, twice in the first round and again in the third.
The bout began with a tense first round, both fighters coming out strong and looking to put the hurt on early in the fight. The game Pulev’s aggression was snubbed when Klitschko, now 63-3 with 53 KOs, dropped the “The Cobra” twice to earn himself a 10-7 opening round.
The fighters came out more composed for the second round, with the 38 year-old Klitschko trying to tie up The Cobra with clinches, and Pulev doing his best to muscle out of them while continuing to pressure the champ with jabs to the body.
Referee Tony Weeks was quick to break up the clinches and warned Pulev about his repeated rabbit-punches.
Pulev came out looking strong in the third round, seemingly recollected from the earlier knockdowns, as Klitschko started putting his straight right hand into play. Pulev was able to withstand a solid right to the head, but a following left hook, proceeded by a shove, sent the challenger to the mat for a third time in the fight.
Steelhammer smelled blood and went in for the kill, repeatedly detonating right hands on Pulev’s face. Pulev clinched his way through the remainder of the round, barely surviving the onslaught.
The clinching continued into the fourth round, with Pulev initiating most of the holding and ref Tony Weeks repeatedly having to intervene. Pulev had moments of success in the round, scoring with right hands and pawing with the left. But by then, his power was drained and he was unable to deter Steelhammer’s continuing attacks.
Klitschko kicked off the fifth round by rocking The Cobra with a big left hook to the head. The fighters continued with the excessive clinching, threatening to turn the high-action bout into a slow-paced snooze fest.
Luckily, fans did not have to endure another Klitschko stinker when the champ put the challenger down for good with a left hook, abruptly ending the match.
“Pulev put in a good performance and I give him respect,” Klitschko said during the post-fight interview televised on HBO. “He made it hard to land the left hook by staying out of range, but I managed to land a lot of punches and I`m glad it worked out in the end.”
“I`m happy with myself, but I think Klitschko had a bit of luck,” Pulev said after the fight. “Now I want revenge and it will be different result.”
By defeating Kubrat Pulev, Wladimir Klitschko keeps his WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, IBO & The Ring Heavyweight titles and continues his eight-year reign as a titleholder, second only to Joe Louis’s record of 11 years.
The victory also sets up a possible future showdown for Klitschko against the winner of the Deontay Wilder vs. Bermane Stiverne fight in December, and the chance to add the WBC heavyweight belt to his collection. But first look for Steelhammer to take on Shannon Briggs, who has been desperately campaigning for a shot at the champ.
Pulev was expected to make $1,450,026 for Saturday’s fight, compared to Klitschko’s $5,800,105.