Ukraine’s Wladimir Klitschko retained his WBO, IBF and IBO world heavyweight titles on Saturday with a technical knockout of Hasim Rahman in round seven, Reuters reported.

The referee stopped the fight after Klitschko, 32, landed a series of punches to Rahman’s head and the American retreated to the ropes, barely able to stand. The Ukrainian had already knocked him down in round six.

“I thought I could land some punches earlier but it wasn’t worth it because Hasim Rahman knew he was up against the best and he was really focused, you could see that,” said Klitschko, who has been dubbed ‘Dr. Steelhammer’.

“He really hung in there and it wasn’t easy,” he added after improving his record to 52 wins and three defeats.

Rahman was unable to get past Klitschko’s left jab to land the kind of big punch that saw him beat world champion Lennox Lewis in 2001, when he knocked out the Briton with a right hook to record one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.

Rahman, 36, had never really regained that form. He replaced Alexander Povetkin as Klitschko’s opponent in October after the Russian pulled out of the bout with a foot injury.

In the first two rounds, Klitschko, brother of WBC champion Vitali, used his left jab to good effect, producing fast combinations and landing punches to the head.

Rahman looked uncertain and, frustrated at his inability to get past Klitschko’s jab, he went to the ropes for much of the third round. The crowd sensed the Hamburg-based Ukrainian was close to victory and began chanting “Klitschko, Klitschko”.

The American tried to take the fight to Klitschko in round five but he was running short of energy and soon started looking wobbly on his feet. The champion was searching for a knockout punch before the referee stepped in.

Rahman slips to 45 wins, seven defeats and two draws.

Earlier, former heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe made a successful comeback at the same venue after 3-1/2 years out of the ring. Despite looking overweight, 41-year-old Bowe beat German Gene Pukall on points on the undercard. Klitschko says he now has rival champ Nikolai Valuev in his sights.  “It will be good if the combination fight for the WBA title happens against Valuev,” said Klitschko.

“But if not, then so be it.

“There are many interesting names in this division, guys like David Haye and Alexander Povetkin.”

Haye, England’s former cruiserweight world champion, made an impressive heavyweight debut against Monte Barrett last month and appeared live on German television after the Klitschko-Rahman fight saying he will face either brother.

Vitali Klitshcko, 37, ended his four-year retirement in October to win the WBC heavyweight belt from Nigeria’s Samuel Peter and Haye has said he is prepared to face either Klitschko in the next six months.

“I want to fight the best in this division and it doesn’t bother me which of you it is,” the 28-year-old known as the ‘Hayemaker’ told Vitali.

Vladimir Klitschko had been due to face Povetkin in Mannheim on Saturday, but a training injury forced him out and Rahman was a late substitute.

And the Ukrainian said it was important to dispatch Rahman quickly and efficiently to send a message to any potential challengers.

“For me, it was important to win clearly,” said the 32-year-old.

“I did just that. Rahman lost against the best man in the heavyweight division.

“He was much slower than I expected.”

The Klitschko brothers have made no secret of their desire to  hold all the major belts in the heavyweight division and the winner of next weekend’s Holyfield-Valuev fight will be a likely future target.

Reuters via Gulf Times