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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Klitschko Makes Case for Lewis Fight

NEW YORK -- Vitali Klitschko left only one question unanswered Saturday night as heavyweight boxing returned to Madison Square Garden for the first time in three years: Will Lennox Lewis come back to fight him again?

Klitschko, who gave Lewis a terrific fight June 21 before being stopped by cuts while ahead after six rounds, made short work of Kirk Johnson Saturday in the main event at the Garden before a blizzard-braving crowd of 10,823.

The older, and bigger, of the Ukrainian brothers, Klitschko stopped Johnson with two knockdowns. Referee Arthur Mercante Jr. waved it over 2:54 into the second round of a scheduled 12-round World Boxing Council title eliminator.

If Lewis does not retire, he will have to fight Klitschko again in what would be a risky but rewarding rematch or be stripped of the title.

Kerri Davis, a HBO vice president, said the fight was great for the sport. "It establishes a megafight in the heavyweight division if Lennox comes back," Davis said. "And I think he was waiting to see if Klitschko made it a super fight."

The 6-foot-7, 250-pound Klitschko, who is not to be confused with his 6-5 brother Wladimir, never allowed Johnson into the fight. He kept Johnson, a Canadian, at arm's length. Right hand after right hand got closer and closer to Johnson until he was struck, and hurt, by one midway through the opening round.

"He was the better man," said Johnson (34-2-1 with 25 knockouts), whose only previous loss was to John Ruiz. "I had a sluggish night against a man you can't afford to have a sluggish night against."

Besides Lewis, Klitschko (33-2 with 32 knockouts) lost to Chris Byrd when he quit while ahead because of a shoulder injury. Klitschko quickly had Johnson in his corner in the second round.

A couple of body shots to Johnson's soft body, followed by some pounding right hands to the head, had the HBO broadcaster Larry Merchant saying, "He harpooned the whale."

Johnson went down, almost prudently, but Klitschko never let him escape from the ropes. When he went down a second time, the referee wisely stopped it.On the undercard, Joe Mesi slipped somewhat, taking another baby step up the heavyweight ladder.

Mesi got his expected victory, but it was unexpectedly close, a majority 10-round decision over Monte Barrett of Queens, in which he was knocked down in the seventh round and had his left eye completely closed.

Mesi (28-0 with 25 knockouts) was not impressive after dropping Barrett with a counter right hand in the fifth round. Barrett (29-3 with 16 knockouts) had little trouble punching Mesi and taking him past nine rounds for the first time in his very cautious career.

In the third round, for example, the 215-pound Barrett landed three successive left hooks and had to gasp for air. He was hurt in the opening round with a right hand.

Every punch Mesi landed seemed to affect Barrett. He was cut over the right eye in the third. But by the sixth round, it was Mesi who was having trouble breathing.

Early in the seventh, Mesi charged into a Barrett left hook and went down for the first time in his career.

"I hate to say it, but I needed to be knocked down," Mesi said.

Judge Tom Schreck scored the bout, 94-94. But Joe Dwyer had it 94-93, and Arthur Mercante Sr. saw it 95-93 for the third-ranked WBC contender.

Barrett said, "He's not a punk. He's a decent puncher," but he'd be glad to go to Buffalo for a rematch.

On the undercard, Joe Mesi slipped somewhat, taking another baby step up the heavyweight ladder.

Mesi got his expected victory, but it was unexpectedly close, a majority 10-round decision over Monte Barrett of Queens, in which he was knocked down in the seventh round and had his left eye completely closed.

Mesi (28-0 with 25 knockouts) was not impressive after dropping Barrett with a counter right hand in the fifth round. Barrett (29-3 with 16 knockouts) had little trouble punching Mesi and taking him past nine rounds for the first time in his very cautious career.

In the third round, for example, the 215-pound Barrett landed three successive left hooks and had to gasp for air. He was hurt in the opening round with a right hand.

Every punch Mesi landed seemed to affect Barrett. He was cut over the right eye in the third. But by the sixth round, it was Mesi who was having trouble breathing.

Early in the seventh, Mesi charged into a Barrett left hook and went down for the first time in his career.

"I hate to say it, but I needed to be knocked down," Mesi said.

Judge Tom Schreck scored the bout, 94-94. But Joe Dwyer had it 94-93, and Arthur Mercante Sr. saw it 95-93 for the third-ranked WBC contender.

Barrett said, "He's not a punk. He's a decent puncher," but he'd be glad to go to Buffalo for a rematch.