Surgery For Klitschko

WBC champ suffered torn meniscus during workout

he'll have 90 days to reschedule fight with Rahman



Vitali Klitschko will undergo arthroscopic surgery this week to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, then will have 90 days to reschedule his World Boxing Council heavyweight title fight against Hasim Rahman.

Klitschko said he suffered the knee injury while sparring Thursday in Los Angeles, then called off Saturday's scheduled bout in Las Vegas with Rahman - the fourth time the Ukrainian has pulled out of a match against Rahman, a Baltimore native.

Klitschko's previous injuries - to his fists, thigh and back - forced the postponements of scheduled bouts against Rahman on April 30, June 18 and July 23.

Klitschko (35-2, 34 knockouts) has not fought since a December win over Danny Williams, after which WBC president Jose Sulaiman gave him six months to face Rahman.

Sulaiman extended that time frame due to Klitschko's injuries before the WBC Board of Governors voted July 15 to order him to face the winner of an Aug. 13 interim title fight between Rahman and Monte Barrett, or else be stripped.

Klitschko, 34, successfully pleaded his case to Sulaiman yesterday, however, and will be given another 90 days to face Rahman, pending the result of his surgery - a situation that enraged Rahman's manager, Steve Nelson.

"When you think about it, in sports like baseball, you get three strikes and you're out," Nelson said. "Now, Vitali takes strike four - an opporunity he never should have been given in the first place."

Rahman, 33, was unavailable for comment.

Promoter Bob Arum said Klitschko-Rahman can still take place on HBO pay per view in February, March or April, and that the Thomas & Mack Center, on the Nevada-Las Vegas campus, has available dates in March and May.

Klitschko's manager, Bernd Boente, said the fighter's knee gave out when he attempted "to sidestep and throw a right hand" against Raphael Butler during a sparring session Thursday. "There was no stability in the knee. It was like he was walking on ice," Boente said.

The torn meniscus was discovered in a magnetic resonance imaging test performed early Friday, Boente said. Still, Klitschko attempted, unsuccessfully, to spar Friday night.

Arum then "told us he has connections with someone with great knee braces," Boente said. And on Saturday, Klitschko was seen by Dr. Tony Daly of the Los Angeles Sports Medicine Clinic. Daly told The Sun on Saturday he found "no tears, no swelling" and that Klitschko was "absolutely" fit to fight after an hour-long examination during which he was fitted with a brace.

But the knee gave out again while sparring Saturday evening, said Arum, adding that Klitschko "felt unstable going from side-to-side, even with the brace on, and that he can't fight."

Nelson said Klitschko "is scared of Rock," and said "what's happening is proof positive that he lacks the courage - something we always knew to be the case."

Rahman (41-5-1, 33 KOs) told that he had knowledge that Klitschko's training had gone poorly, that his sparring partners "were knocking him out in the gym."

Boente denied Rahman's assertion. But at least four sources claiming intimate knowledge of Klitschko's training said the champ was floored once each in sessions Wednesday and Thursday and "getting banged up" by sparring partners Travis Walker and Raphael Butler.

"When you get knocked down, things get twisted. But you're never 100 percent going into a fight because you always tend to get banged up in camp," said one of the sources. "I believe in his mind, Klitschko thinks his knee is hurt. The only person who knows whether he's really hurt is Vitali Klitschko."

Klitschko earned the nickname, "Quit-schko" after an April 2000 loss to Chris Byrd. Blaming a rotator cuff injury against Byrd, Klitschko did not come out for the 11th round in that fight.

Although stung by the criticism of losing to Byrd, Klitschko told The Sun in September he thought he had redeemed himself in a June 2003 loss to Lennox Lewis. Klitschko was ahead in that fight, also, but it was stopped in the sixth round as the result of a deep gash over his left eye.

"After the Chris Byrd fight, this big boxing guru - I won't tell his name - told me I would never be a world champion. That bothered me, because nobody believed I tore my ligament in my shoulder," Klitschko said. "The criticism was more painful than the injury. It was big motivator. But I showed the guru with the Lennox Lewis fight. After that, he came to me and said he was sorry. He apologized."

Based on the Lewis fight, HBO's Kery Davis considers Klitschko "the heavyweight champion of the world. The WBC is the linear championship," Davis said. "Although Lennox wasn't in the best of shape, Vitali took it to him."

Klitschko "might be the best heavyweight today," said boxing historian Thomas Hauser, "but I am very suspicious of a fighter's credentials being based on a loss."

Fellow champions Byrd and John Ruiz question Klitschko's inactivity, his quality of opposition and his heart.

"I've beaten Hasim Rahman, I've beaten Evander Holyfield. I beat Andrew Golota and I beat Kirk Johnson when he was the No. 1 contender - before Klitschko beat him," said Ruiz, the World Boxing Association king. "Instead of fighting to unify the titles, Klitschko had to be forced to fight Rahman, who I've already beaten."

Klitschko won the WBC crown vacated by the retired Lewis by defeating Corrie Sanders, who "looked like an out-of-shape plumber," said Byrd, the International Boxing Federation champ.

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