Yet Another Heavyweight Disaster As Klitschko Pulls Out

06.11.05 - By Peter Cameron: The news this morning of Klitschko's withdrawal from next Saturday's fight could not have been less welcome. It leaves any hopes of clarity in the division in tatters and raises serious doubts about the future of one of the world's best heavyweights. The cancellation of the biggest heavyweight fight of the year represents a complete disaster for boxing and the implications of the postponement are huge.. I had originally thought that the worst possible outcome of the Klitschko v Rahman match-up would be a close fight with neither boxer clearly winning. The division desperately needs a clear figurehead, an established number one, and a disputed decision would merely complicate the situation further. However, any result next week would have been better than what we have now.

Klitschko was most people's favourite to win the fight, given his size advantage, arguably superior boxing skills and a better previous record than Rahman. If, as expected, he had won convincingly on the night, the division would be starting 2006 with a recognisable number one. The fear now is that, with this latest postponement, Klitschko may find himself even stripped of the belt, with the division thrown into yet more chaos.

This is the fourth time this year that Klitschko has had to postpone the fight because of injury. Originally set to take place on 30th April, there is now no real chance of it happening until the new year. After thigh and back injuries, Klitschko's latest ailment is torn cartilage in his knee. Questions will now arise about the future of the giant Ukrainian's career. At 34 years of age, Klitschko's enormous frame may no longer be able to compete at the highest level. The demands of world championship boxing may simply be too much for his seemingly injury-prone body. In fact Klitschko has been battling injuries for many years. In 2000 he tore the rotator cuff in his left shoulder during his fight with Chris Byrd and had to withdraw after the ninth round. Standing nearly 6 feet 8 and weighing around 250 pounds, it isn't unusual for a man of Klitschko's size and age to begin to experience difficulties coping with the rigours of a tough training regime. This is not a rule, as Lennox Lewis, similar in size to Klitschko, proved by remaining at the top until he retired aged 37. Yet certainly other athletes of such gargantuan size have found, in their thirties, that their careers become plagued with injuries.

Klitschko himself is devastated. He told ESPN "I feel terrible. I'm very disappointed about what's happened with my knee. It's amazing. So much trouble I have this year. I am sorry for my team who worked with me to get ready for the past 10 weeks. I am sorry to all the boxing audience, and I am sorry to Rahman and his camp." Apparently the injury occurred during a sparring session in training. Klitschko 's knee was later fitted with a brace in the hope that it would give him enough support to be able to fight, but it was eventually clear the problem was too serious for Saturday's fight to go ahead.

Rahman, understandably angry, claimed that he had heard rumours that Klitschko's sparring partners had been knocking him out. Rahman told ESPN, "All year long he's been ducking me. Four times he's pulled out. Unprecedented." Yet it is inaccurate to suggest that Klitschko is running scared of Rahman. In 2003 Klitschko agreed to fight Lennox Lewis at only ten days' notice. It would represent an implausible shift in character for him to be intimidated by and fearful of Rahman.

It is hard to see how the heavyweight division can progress without this fight taking place. Klitschko is regarded by many as the best fighter in the division, but needed this fight to reinforce that tag. Rahman has rebuilt his career with a string of six straight wins and holds the WBC Interim Heavyweight Title. Already there have been suggestions that another opponent could be found for Rahman on Saturday. Wladimir Klitschko's name has even been mentioned as a late replacement for brother Vitali. Whilst such a match-up would be highly intriguing, realistically at such short notice it is difficult to see how any top contender would be prepared to step in and take the fight. In any case, the division really needs to see Rahman fight Vitali Klitschko. Anything else could merely help to confuse matters even further.

Bob Arum hopes to announce a new date for the fight next week but is not sure how long a lay-off Klitschko will require. This morning's news will disappoint boxing fans across the globe and means that the heavyweight division will enter 2006 in as bad a state as it has witnessed for many years.

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*Note: The ESPN quotes came from the following link

Article posted on 06.11.2005

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