Stiff Klitschko stops Gomez in nine

7d1e24ca186e063802d7b6003af40256-getty-84459161ah048_vitali_klitsc_medium WBC heavyweight titleholder Vitali Klitschko improved to 37-2 with his 36th knockout, stopping Juan Carlos Gomez in the ninth round of their fight in Stuggart, Germany.

The fight, fed to U.S. audiences through ESPN Classic with Brian Kenny and Teddy Atlas doing commentary from a studio in Connecticut, was almost as ugly as they come at the top levels of today's still-deplorable heavyweight scene. 37-year old Klitschko was nearly immobile for the entire fight, leading me to think that his bad back might be coming back to haunt him. Gomez, at 35, wasn't much better. He did almost nothing right and was eventually hammered down by enough slow, awkward-looking rights that he could take no more.

Klitschko looked about 80% worse in this fight than he did in his return last October against Samuel Peter, when he destroyed the younger man and beat the will out of him. That night Klitschko was sharp, focused, and about as agile as you could expect an aging fighter with a bad back and a lot of rust to be. This time out, though, he was downright brutal to watch. He was sloppy, he was slow, and he looked uncomfortable.

Luckily, Gomez (44-2, 35 KO) came only to paw his lead right hand and try to stink out the joint. He got inside easily on the taller Klitschko, but once there did nothing. Gomez talked a big game in the build-up for this one about how he wouldn't just stand there and get hit. That's pretty much exactly what he did do once Vitali loosened up enough to hit him. It's not like it was the blinding speed of Klitschko that made the difference. It was pure, raw power, and not in the exciting and sudden prime Mike Tyson way. More in the "I'm really tall and really strong, so hitting you will hurt, even if it's this slow" sort of way.

As for "almost as ugly" -- well, it still beat his brother Wladimir's pathetic display against Sultan Ibragimov last February, or the excruciating Valuev-Holyfield fight from December. That's about the best I can really say.

Klitschko will either fight an optional opponent (his preference) or current mandatory Oleg Maskaev next. If there's any fight I'm itching to see after today, it's definitely 37-year old Vitali Klitschko and 40-year old Oleg Maskaev matching up. Boy howdy. What a barnburner that one promises to be. Thank you, WBC.

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