Klitschko suffers pulled muscle in upper thigh

Just when Hasim Rahman had finally agreed to terms for a heavyweight title fight against champion Vitali Klitschko, the highly anticipated fight has been called off.

Updated: March 13, 2005, 2:50 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Just when Hasim Rahman had finally agreed to terms for a heavyweight title fight against champion Vitali Klitschko, the highly anticipated fight has been postponed.

This time it's not because of Rahman's money squabbles with promoter Don King, which had hung the fight up for weeks. Instead, the April 30 fight at Madison Square Garden was postponed Sunday because Klitschko suffered a pulled muscle in his upper thigh while jogging on Friday night in his native Kiev.

Klitschko adviser Shelly Finkel told ESPN.com that Klitschko visited a doctor on Saturday and was told to stay off his leg for two-to-three weeks.

"He's very disappointed," Finkel said. "But it's nothing serious."

"I don't get the sense he would want to pull out for no reason," Rahman said from his Las Vegas home. "Stuff happens. I believe the man has a legitimate injury."

Finkel said he hoped the fight could be rescheduled for June, but a new date will depend on HBO's schedule and the availability of Madison Square Garden.

Rahman took the postponement in stride.

"I know that I'm the mandatory, so I'll be next," the former champ said. "As long as he can't fight anyone but me next it just gives me more time to be ready for him. He knows he has to come with his 'A' game with me. If he doesn't bring his 'A' game he might as well give me the title at the press conference. So what I'm going to do is continue to run and strength train and condition myself and whenever they set the date I'll already be in shape."

The irony of the postponement is that it comes just days after Rahman finally agreed to a deal with King after threatening to ask for a purse bid on the mandatory fight. A purse bid would have pushed the fight back to at least June.

"Rock knows that he will be Klitschko's next opponent so this is a delay, but it won't stop the fight from happening," said Steve Nelson, Rahman's co-manager. "Obviously, there will be some phone calls to HBO about when is the next open date. This could have happened two weeks before the fight, too. Every fighter has a fight postponed because of injuries. We look forward to both guys stepping into the ring to see who is the best heavyweight in the world today."

Klitschko (35-2, 34 KOs) made his first defense on Dec. 11, an eighth-round knockout of Danny Williams. Rahman (40-5-1, 33 KOs), the most active of the top heavyweights last year, fought five times, including a fourth-round KO of Kali Meehan on Nov. 13 at Madison Square Garden, to set earn a title shot.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.

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