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Original Issue

Special K Vitali Klitschko finally proved his mettle by seizing the WBC title

For the sake of truth in advertising, K2 Promotions, the company
recently formed by Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko to market their
fight cards, may have to regroup under an arithmetically-adjusted
banner. But at least following Vitali Klitschko's brutal pounding
of Corrie Sanders for the vacant WBC heavyweight title last
Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, there is still a K
to promote. And, considering the fun everybody seemed to have
watching the 6'8" Ukrainian rain blows on his undersized and
undertrained opponent, K1 could well be all the K we'll ever

Although the Klitschko brothers have long hoped that they would
one day reign together (there are, after all, four titles, of
varying credibility), most knowledgeable observers thought that
if one of these air-force-veteran, four-language-speaking Ph.D.'s
was going to succeed in this sport, it was probably going to be
the younger, somewhat more athletic, less robotic Wladimir.

Yet it's Vitali--not entirely ungainly, no matter what you've
heard--who now rules the rather sad roost that has become
heavyweight boxing. After a two-week span in which all four of
the division's entities held title bouts (including the WBO match
on April 10, when Wladimir was knocked out by Lamon Brewster),
Vitali is the sole bona fide heavyweight champion, someone big
and tall who likes to punch hard.

This distinction is as much by pedigree as performance, since his
title is the one vacated by the last true champion, Lennox Lewis.
And don't forget, it was Vitali who was giving Lewis all he
wanted last year before being stopped on cuts. Lewis chose
retirement--and, by the looks of him at ringside on Saturday, the
buffet table--over a rematch.

The elder Klitschko may be champion in a time of reduced
standards, but he does not provoke boredom, as the other
champions do. When faced with the same South African who
flattened his brother a year earlier (the sibs look out for each
other), Vitali did not choose caution. Rather, he stalked the
38-year-old Sanders mercilessly.

Sanders, a fellow given to big-game hunting on his 1,000-hectare
ranch, says he prefers golf to boxing and was considering
campaigning for a European tour card before his surprising
victory over Wladimir revitalized his stalled career. He said
training for this fight turned his scratch game into a two
handicap, but judging by his physique, he still must have spent
plenty of time at the 19th hole.

His strategy in this fight was to be entirely reactive, hoping to
lure the bigger Klitschko into a counterpunching duel, during
which--in one of Sanders's 30-second bursts of fighting each
round--he'd nail him with his big left. But Vitali, who is
nowhere near as fluid as his brother, is too smart (and too
sturdy) to be felled by such a ploy. After nearly eight rounds of
one-sided and fairly persuasive potshotting by Vitali, the
referee decreed that enough was enough.

"A big relief," said Vitali of his victory. He still hopes his
brother will one day join him on the champions' podium but is
nonetheless happy to have the attention solely on himself for a
change. "I feel a huge weight off of my shoulders. Now I am out
of the shadows."

He wants to lure Lewis out of retirement but, failing that, is
now confident enough to entertain all sorts of ideas for his next
fight--Mike Tyson is one possible opponent he mentioned after
Saturday's bout. "Since I was 15 years old, I've had a dream to
fight Iron Mike," he said, "and I always try to make my dreams
come true."

COLOR PHOTO: JOE CAVARETTA/AP Klitschko improved to 34-2 by tirelessly pummeling a puffy andwinded Sanders.