Klitschko facing 60-day deadline

Clock will be ticking after knee's examined



After he has his injured right knee examined and the medical report delivered to the World Boxing Council, Vitali Klitschko will have a maximum of 60 days to defend his heavyweight crown against Baltimore native Hasim Rahman or else be stripped of the title.

Klitschko, 34, cited the injury, suffered while training on Thursday, for pulling out of Saturday's bout against Rahman, 33.

WBC president Jose Sulaiman said yesterday that he asked Klitschko's promoter, Tom Loeffler, to have the fighter examined by a UCLA specialist, Dr. Gerald Finerman, by Saturday.

Klitschko is said by his handlers to be seeking additional medical opinions. His injuries have now forced the fourth postponement of a scheduled defense against Rahman, who became the WBC's interim champion by defeating Monte Barrett on Aug. 13.

Klitschko cited swollen fists, a pulled thigh muscle and a bone spur in his back for postponing the earlier bouts, scheduled for April 30, June 18 and July 23.

Klitschko, who has not defended his crown since Dec. 11, would have to face Rahman by mid-January, a situation that appears to violate WBC rule No. 1.28: "A champion or interim champion not defending his title within one year will lose his title, which will be declared vacant."

"Those that I contacted felt that after all of those injuries, if the fight was not held within 60 days, then the WBC should not continue waiting, but the final decision will come from the board of governors," said Sulaiman, adding that the contractual terms reached by Bob Arum, winner of the purse bid over Don King, remain in place.

Rahman (41-5-1, 33 knockouts) will earn $4.2 million to $7.8 million for the Klitschko bout. Sulaiman initially told Klitschko he had "90 days to reschedule," but decided the latest time frame to be fair after consulting with the nine-person supreme council of the 34-member board of governors.

"A champion of the world deserves the courtesy of the WBC in fairness, but the interim champion deserves the same courtesy," Sulaiman said. "We've given much courtesy to the injured boxer, but we have to consider the professional financial damage of the interim champion, as well."

On Oct. 4, Rahman filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, disclosing a debt of nearly $5 million to as many as 20 creditors. His Las Vegas-based attorney, Richard Holley, is in court today presenting to a judge a payment schedule he has negotiated.

Klitschko (35-2, 34 knockouts) said he twisted the knee during sparring in Los Angeles on Thursday, the second-to-last day of 10 weeks of training. Despite wearing a brace, he said the knee still was unstable during subsequent workouts.

Klitschko's manager, Bernd Boente, said a magnetic resonance imaging test on Friday by Santa Monica's Dr. Bert Mandelbaum revealed a torn meniscus, though an examination on Saturday by Dr. Tony Daly of Los Angeles found a sprain but no tears, no swelling. Daly said Klitschko was "absolutely" capable of fighting.

Ross Greenburg, president of the HBO network scheduled to televise Klitschko-Rahman, believes the public still wants the fight.

"Like boxing fans everywhere, HBO is eager to see one heavyweight rise up and claim the mantle as the world's best," said Kery Davis, HBO's senior vice president of programming. "Currently, no one fighter is in a position to claim the linear heavyweight title."


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