Thompson Loses by Knockout In Title Bid

D.C. Native Stopped By Klitschko in 11th

Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, July 13, 2008; Page D01

HAMBURG, July 12 -- Washington native Tony "The Tiger" Thompson failed in his upset bid to become the heavyweight champion of the world Saturday, collapsing to the mat in the 11th round of his match against reigning title holder Wladimir Klitschko of Ukraine.

Thompson keeled over in slow motion, falling forward after Klitschko caught him with a punch to the head. The referee declared a knockout at 1 minute 38 seconds of the penultimate round as the challenger rose to his feet but was clearly done for the night. It was the first time Thompson (31-2) had been knocked out in his career.

"I'm not used to losing," said Thompson, a married father of seven who lives in Fort Washington. "It hurt. I'm fighting for a lot of people. He did a great job of controlling distance and the pace of the fight. It was definitely the hardest fight I've been in."

Thompson, 36, was the decided underdog coming into the title match at Color Line Arena in Hamburg, a northern German river city that serves as Klitschko's adopted home. Although he had bragged in advance that he would "knock [Klitschko's] head off his shoulders," Thompson was outclassed by his 32-year-old rival, who was quicker, stronger and the better boxer throughout the fight.

Thompson only took up professional boxing nine years ago. While he had risen quickly against a roster of mostly mediocre opponents, he looked frustrated against Klitschko and was unable to inflict much damage, save for a deep cut to the Ukrainian's right temple in the second round.

A southpaw, Thompson was the aggressor in the early rounds, slowly pursuing Klitschko around the ring. But he had difficulty landing any punches to the head as Klitschko consistently fended him off with his long left hand and patiently waited for his moments to strike.

Klitschko (51-3) has been one of the world's leading heavyweight boxers since he won the gold in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He enjoys celebrity status in Germany, where boxing remains highly popular, even as its fan base in the United States has dwindled.

Statistically, the two fighters appeared an even match. Klitschko stands 6 feet 6 and dwarfs most of his opponents. Thompson, however, is just an inch shorter, and his reach is actually slightly longer than the champion's.

But Thompson looked decidedly less fit than the hard-bodied Klitschko, who barely seemed winded at the end. Afterward, Thompson said he wasn't ready to retire but acknowledged that he needed to improve his conditioning.

"I'd like to get these things under control and give it another shot," he said. "Nobody thought I could get to this point."

Afterward, Klitschko and his entourage paraded around the ring, holding aloft his three championship belts from the World Boxing Organization, the International Boxing Federation and the International Boxing Organization.

"I have the greatest respect for Tony Thompson," Klitschko said. "The man gave everything he had and is a terrific boxer."

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