17.03 - Wladimir "Steelhammer" Klitschko retained his World Boxing Organization (WBO) heavyweight title a third time by registering an eighth-round TKO over former International Boxing Federation (IBF) heavyweight titleholder Frans Botha Saturday in Stuttgart, Germany.

The one-sided fight was stopped 48 seconds into the eighth round by referee Genaro Rodriguez shortly after Klitschko recorded the bout's lone knockdown, flooring the game but ineffective Botha with a left hook. Klitschko, who was born in the Ukraine, but lives in his adopted homeland of Germany, won every round in his first start in nine months.

"It took me a while to shake off the ring rust, but once I got going, I felt great," said Klitschko, who improved to 38-1 with 35 knockouts. "By the fifth round I was able to establish and then dominate with my jab, and get into a good rhythm. At that point, I knew it was a matter of time. I was surprised Botha lasted as long as he did. I hit him with a lot of hard punches and he took a lot of punishment.

"I expected Botha to come out strong and try to land a lucky punch and that is what he did. He kept trying to land a big right-hand haymaker on me all night. That is why I knew it was important for me to keep my poise and be patient and not take any unnecessary at the beginning. Still, it was a tough fight for me. Coming off a long layoff and an injury (he hurt a shoulder before Thanksgiving) made it tough. But, overall, I am very happy with the result and my performance.''

The 6-foot-7, 25-year-old Klitschko is confident his next title defense will be in the United States, in May or June, perhaps against Ray Mercer.

"America is where my brother Vitali and I need to go to make our marks in boxing," said Wladimir, who sent the sellout crowd of 11,000 at Schleyer Arena home happy. "We are really looking forward to fighting next in the United States and show what we can do.''

As usual, Vitali worked his younger brother's corner Saturday. Vitali, a former WBO heavyweight champion, is also expected to fight next in the U.S. It is doubtful the brothers will box on the same card, however.

At the finish, Botha (44-4-1, 28 KOs), of Witibank, South Africa, had two swollen eyes and his face was puffy. "My trainer, Abel Sanchez, said I have never been in better shape or boxed this well, but Wladimir is a great fighter and I wish him all the best on his way to the top," Botha said. (Photos: Bild)


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