Klitschko on knee: 'It is so painful'

Updated: November 7, 2005, 7:09 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko's mandatory title defense against former champ Hasim Rahman, scheduled for Nov. 12 in Las Vegas, was postponed Saturday night because of a right knee injury Klitschko suffered in training.


This is the fourth time this year that Klitschko has postponed the fight because of various injuries. It was originally scheduled for April 30 but then pushed into June and again into July before being scheduled again for next week.

Klitschko, speaking to ESPN.com from Los Angeles late Saturday, sounded devastated by the postponement.

"I feel terrible. I'm very disappointed about what's happened with my knee," Klitschko said. "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 for all the boxing audience, and I am sorry to Rahman and his camp. But it happened. I don't want to go inside the ring with horrible pain. It is so painful.

"I hope as soon as possible I will fight again. I hope the problem is not so huge. But I am sorry for this. I don't know what more I can say," he said.

Klitschko suffered the injury while sparring in the eighth round of a scheduled 10-round session on Thursday evening in Los Angeles.

According to Bernd Bonte, Klitschko's manager, Klitschko had an MRI on his knee Thursday night but the results were not read until Friday morning. Bonte said they showed that Klitschko had a torn meniscus.

"In the eighth round, he twisted his knee and really hurt it," Bonte said. "He was shaking his knee. He tried to go on. On his next step, the knee was completely instable. Then we spoke to [Top Rank promoter Bob] Arum and told him we have a big problem."

On Saturday, Klitschko was examined by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Tony Daly, fitted with a brace for the knee and tried sparring again with the brace to see if he was comfortable.

"Vitali said, 'Let's give it a try.' So he tried a brace but he couldn't do it," Bonte said. "After one round of sparring, it was over."

Said Arum: "I was at the gym, and he worked out with the new brace. When he went backward and made sudden movements, the knee buckled. It just didn't work. We certainly tried to keep the fight on."

Arum said he was hopeful he would be able to announce a new date for the fight next week.

"I don't think it can happen this year," he said. "He has to go see the doctor and we will evaluate things. I have no idea of the timetable."

Bonte said Klitschko would see a knee specialist in Colorado next week.

Rahman told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap that Klitschko has "wasted a year of my life" and that he had heard rumors that the champion's "sparring partners were knocking him out in the gym."

Rahman was leaving his Oregon training camp Saturday for a flight to Las Vegas.

"All year long he's been ducking me. This doesn't happen by happenstance," Rahman said. "I've been more of a champion [without] the championship than he's been with the championship. … I'm the one acting like a champion."

Arum said that Klitschko was initially "hopeful" that he would be able to fight but after the sparring session he realized he could not go through with it.

"He was crushed and disappointed," Arum said. "He was devastated. But he can't go into a fight where he can't go backwards or side to side."

Bonte said that Klitschko did not want to get into the ring only to have to quit after a few rounds.

"He could have gone in the ring for two rounds and then quit and taken the $8 million," Bonte said. "But Vitali wouldn't do that. He doesn't want to rip off the public. That is the most important thing. More important than the money."

Rahman manager Steve Nelson said there was "total disappointment" that the fight was called off.

"We haven't had time to take it all in but we are so disappointed," Nelson said. "We know Rock was prepared to regain the heavyweight championship. Right now, we have to sit down and explore our options."

Said Rahman: "There's gonna be hell to pay for this. [But] I'm like a cat, I'm always going to land on my feet."

Because of injuries, Klitschko (35-2, 34 KOs) hasn't fought since his first title defense on Dec. 11, 2004, an eighth-round knockout of Danny Williams.

Rahman (41-5-1, 33 KOs), tired of waiting for Klitschko, claimed the interim WBC title in August when he outpointed Monte Barrett.

When the Klitschko and Rahman camps could not agree to a new deal for the bout, it went to a purse bid. Arum, who does not promote either fighter, surprised the boxing industry with a winning bid of $12.001 million, beating Rahman promoter Don King's $11 million offer and two others.

Both fighters were in line for substantial paydays. Klitschko was due a career high of at least $7.8 million. Rahman, who recently declared bankruptcy, was due a much-needed $4.2 million purse.

"Four times he's pulled out. Unprecedented," Rahman said. "And you are the champ. Cut it out, cut it out, cut it out."