Early on, it looked like Tony “The Tiger” Thompson might fill the role of spoiler at the Color Line Arena in Hamburg, Germany on Saturday evening. But as Wladimir Klitschko warmed up, and he got into his rhythm, he pulled away, and tore down the American challenger. Klitschko finally finished off a fatigued Thompson in the 11th round,with a show-stopper right hand, in a fight shown on HBO in the US.

It took awhile, and it wasn’t that pretty, but it was a far more pleasing showing by Wlad than he gave us in his last outing, against Sultan Ibragimov.

Wlad’s WBO, IBO and IBF titles were up for up for grabs.

The 32-year-old Ukrainian-born Klitschko, who weighed 241pounds, brought a 50-3 (44 KOs) record with him. The DC-resident Thompson weighed 247, and had a 31-1 (19 KOs) record entering.

In the first round, the lefty Thompson ate a right and the crowd roared. Tiger threw a soft jab, and then a straight left that made Wlad’s eyes bug out. Wlad grabbed and held with 20 seconds to go. It was a round for Wlad, not by too much. In the second, Wlad jammed in a right, and put together a flurry. He had listened to all our critiques from the Ibragimov fight. He also showed a cut above the right eye, as did Tiger. That was from a clash of heads. Wlad grabbed and held several times. His jab was a non factor. Stitch Duran worked on Wlad’s cut, not a severe slice.

In the third, Tiger worked his jab early. His cut dripped blood, Wlad’s didn’t. I don’t know the name of Tiger’s cutman. Wlad didn’t look to be in the zone on this night. In the fourth, Wlad held a few times rather than keeping Tiger at bay with the jab. He looked up at the clock with a minute to go. Tiger went to the body, not with that much oomph, but the damage could accumulate. Tiger had edge in punches landed, 65-41 through four. “You’re in great shape,” Steward reminded Wlad after the round.

In the fifth, Thompson’s defense was sharp. He blocked may throws. Wlad wasn’t getting much more accurate. Tiger’s body work worked. His corner told him “this man is soft, you got to take it from him.” You could have the fight scored for either man to this point. In the sixth, Tiger pressed the issue, Wlad slipped it, and answered. Wlad landed a couple sharp rights, and it looked like he was in a zone more so. “I believe he’s tiring now,” Steward told Wlad after the round.

In round seven, Wlad was stalking and Tiger was backing up. He didn’t answer, and Wlad’s confidence flourished. He did look at the clock at the 1:11 mark. A strong right set the blood flowing on the Thompson cut at the end of the round. Tiger threw only 27 punches. In the eighth, Wlad’s energy looked good. His feet were more active, and his rhythm was on. Tiger’s corner implored him to turn up the heat after the round. Steward sounded confident. “You’re winning,” he told Wlad.

In round nine, Wlad’s jab looked as sharp as it had to this point. Manny told Wlad too counter sharply after a Thompson miss. In round 10, Wlad’s money punch, the straight right, worked again and again. The DC fighter did go back to the body, a tactic that had been absent for several rounds. The two men clinched and tumbled to the mat together, and Thompson favored his right leg after the mishmosh, which took place with 10 seconds to go. “You not trying,” Thompson’s corner told him. Ouch.

In the 11th round, the crowd sensed closure. They were right. Wlad dropped Tiger with a right, and couldn’t beat the count.

Wlad lauded Tiger after. He said he knew he needed to close the show, and give the fans something to cheer, by closing with a KO. “I'm very happy with this fight,” he said. No, he was never hurt, he stated.

Log in again soon, to read Ron Borges’  in-depth report.

SPEEDBAG Larry Merchant worked the show, with Lennox Lewis and Jim Lampley, for HBO. Merchant put the stakes of the main event in perspective. He mentioned the 36-yearold Thompson’s seven kids, and the fact that he took up boxing super late, at age 27.

—Great anecdote shared by Lampley. Thompson is popular in Germany, for having taken down Luan Krasniqi. Germans several times walked up to Lewis before the bout, and wished him well in his upcoming bout with Wladimir. I tend to think Thompson and Lennox don’t look too similar. Thompson has a shaved head and Lennox has a healthy head of hair, for one thing, but anyways…

—Thompson and his team chanted and danced before coming out. He looked so chill, you had to think the gravity of the scene wouldn’t overwhelm him.

—Wlad had a proper sweat going in to the ring. So often these days, trainers do not have their fighters properly warmed up. Steward does.

—The fireworks guy musta been on strike, or had the night off. It was a low-key stroll to the ring for Wlad, with no pomp, circumstance, or anvil hammering.

—FYI For those curious about these matters, there was no booing or misbehaving during the US anthem.