Confident WBO champ wants Lewis -- at chess and boxing

Monday, July 1, 2002

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Wladimir Klitschko wants Lennox Lewis. And he's hoping the first moves in their matchup will involve pawns instead of punches.

The brainy, brawny 6-foot-7 inch heavyweight, who overpowered 41-year-old Ray Mercer to retain his WBO title Saturday night, wants a showdown with IBF/WBC champion Lewis -- and a game of chess with him beforehand.

Klitschko even has a referee: His friend Garry Kasparov, the Russian chess champion, has agreed to do it.

"Never before have two champions played chess before the fight. I think it's a good idea," Klitschko said.

A former Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine, the 26-year-old Klitschko looked like a grand master on Saturday, dispatching Mercer midway through their scheduled 12-rounder to boost his record to 39-1.

It was clear early on that it was Klitschko, not Mercer, who deserved the nickname "Merciless." After knocking him down with two crushing lefts in the first round, Klitschko opened a nasty cut over Mercer's right eye in the fifth and stopped him in the sixth.

He backed Mercer into the ropes and delivered a hard right hand that snapped Mercer's head back, dazing him.

Mercer (30-5-1) moved to the other rope but when Klitschko unloaded another flurry of punches and the blood streamed down Mercer's face. Referee Randy Neumann stepped in, ending it at 1:08 of the round.

It was fair and square

"I got beat, fair and square," Mercer said. "He caught me with a big punch in the first round and I never regrouped."

Punch statistics reflected the degree of domination: Klitschko connected on 193 of 429 punches, to 54 of 124 for Mercer, according to CompuBox.

While he's over the hill, Mercer is no cupcake. Until Klitschko, he'd never been stopped in a fight and had been knocked down only once before, in a 1995 loss to Evander Holyfield. He said he has no plans to retire from fighting.

Klitschko has been in the ring with Lewis once, but it was purely show.

They appeared as themselves in last year's "Ocean's 11," a Hollywood movie in which casino thieves turned out the lights in the arena as part of their scam.

Flanked by HBO Sports senior vice president of programming Kerry Davis at Saturday's post-fight news conference, Klitschko made his desires heard.

"I hope the next fight will be against Lennox Lewis," he said. "Kerry?"

"I heard you," Davis replied. "I hope Lennox Lewis heard you."

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