Injured Klitschko pulls out 4th time

Saturday fight with Rahman postponed after WBC titlist sprains knee in sparring



A sprained right knee, suffered during a sparring session Thursday night, has forced World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko to pull out of yet a fourth scheduled defense against former champion and Baltimore native Hasim Rahman, promoter Bob Arum said yesterday.

Klitschko (35-2, 34 knockouts), who has not fought since December of last year, twisted the knee during the sparring session in Los Angeles, but he was deemed fit to fight yesterday after a one-hour examination by orthopedic surgeon Tony Daly of the Los Angeles Sports Medicine Clinic.

Daly told The Sun early yesterday that Klitschko had no tears in the knee and was "absolutely" capable of fighting.

However, after being fitted with a brace, Klitschko's knee "later buckled again," less than a minute into a sparring round with journeyman Ed Mahone for Saturday's fight, said promoter Bob Arum.

"Vitali put the brace on, moved around in the ring, punched the heavy bag, did pushups and nothing was a problem," said Arum, who witnessed the workout. "But then, when he got in with Mahone, started moving around, he backed up and the right leg buckled. It happened in the first minute."

Arum said the fight will be postponed, but that a new date will be announced this week.

Rahman (41-5-1, 33 KOs), who was to earn $4.2 million to Klitschko's $7.8 million, said last night via cellular phone from his training camp in Bend, Ore.: "Ain't nothing that I didn't expect. Tomorrow, I'll get into all of that about what I'm going to do.

"I know that I trained to be heavyweight champion of the world. I was strong, looking forward to winning the title. It was one of my best training camps ever. How can you justify this? Four times? I'll let the people judge. Four times? That's got to be unprecedented."

For Rahman, who knocked out Lennox Lewis to win the crown, only to lose it seven months later in November 2001, this is probably the last chance to regain the title. He will turn 33 tomorrow.

"We're fully aware that the WBC's rules say that if Klitschko is not ready to fight in December, that the title will go to the interim champion, which is Hasim Rahman," Nelson said of a title Rahman won with his decision over Monte Barrett on Aug. 13.

On July 15, the WBC's board of governers rejected Klitschko's request for an optional defense against unbeaten contender Calvin Brock, instead voting to force the champion to face the winner of the Rahman-Barrett interim title bout.

Klitschko's request came after previous injuries had forced the postponement of fights with Rahman scheduled for April 30, June 18 and, finally, July 23.

Klitschko, 34, who called the ruling in favor of an interim title a "fair solution," has been out of action since a Dec. 5 knockout of England's Danny Williams, after which he had six months in which to defend against Rahman.

WBC president Jose Sulaiman extended that time frame due to Klitschko's thigh and back injuries.

Reached on his cellular phone last night, Sulaiman, having landed at a Mexico City airport, expressed anger and disbelief on hearing the latest news from a reporter.

"Because he put on a brace and it didn't work? That is a very irresponsible position. I don't accept any statement coming from anybody but a doctor, even the fighter," Sulaiman said.

"We can't say he's not fighting until I hear that officially from a doctor. This is a big responsibility to television, the boxing public and to the people of the world. I have to make sure that a statement like that has [factual] basis."

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