Report: Klitschko retires because of knee injury

Updated: November 9, 2005, 10:02 AM ET
Associated Press

FRANKFURT, Germany -- WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko has retired because of a knee injury, a statement on his former promoter's Web site said Wednesday.

Vitali Klitschko career highlights
July 19, 1971: Born in Kyrgyzstan. Brother Vladimir born five years later. Both go on to attain PhDs in sports science and hold versions of the world heavyweight title.
Nov. 16, 1996: Makes professional debut in Hamburg, knocking out Tony Bradham of the U.S. in the second round.
May 2, 1998: Wins WBO Intercontinental title with a fifth round TKO of Dick Ryan of the United States.
Oct. 24, 1998: Wins European heavyweight title with second-round knockout win against fellow German Mario Schiesser. Defends title twice.
June 26, 1999: Wins WBO world title in London with second-round knockout victory over England's Herbie Hide.
April 1, 2000: After two successful defenses, loses WBO world title with a 10th-round TKO by Chris Byrd of the United States.
Jan. 27, 2001: Wins WBA intercontinental title with TKO in first round against Orlin Norris of United States.
June 21, 2003: Loses WBC world title fight against Lennox Lewis of Britain, via a TKO in the sixth round, after sustaining a cut eye.
April 24, 2004: Wins WBC world heavyweight title with a TKO eighth-round win over Corrie Sanders of South Africa.
Dec. 11, 2004: Successfully defends WBC title with TKO eighth-round win over Britain's Danny Williams in Las Vegas.
2005: Forced to pull out of scheduled defense against Hasim Rahman because of knee injury sustained in training bout. Undergoes surgery and retires with a professional record of 35 wins in 37 fights.

-- Reuters

The 34-year-old Klitschko pulled out of Saturday's title defense against Hasim Rahman in Las Vegas because he tore ligaments in his right knee last week in training. The WBC said earlier this week that Rahman would be given Klitschko's title should the Ukrainian fail to defend within three months.

The knee injury would require six months to heal. Klitschko's statement said the knee was examined Tuesday, and that he underwent surgery in Inglewood, Calif.

"Unfortunately, I've been fighting injuries recently more than facing rivals in the ring," Klitschko said in a statement released by Universum Promotions. "The decision to end was hard to make, but I would like to end my career on top."

The 6-foot-8 fighter sometimes had an awkward, stiff style, but packed a powerful punch, especially in his right hand.

His retirement means the Klitschko brothers won't realize their ambition to share the heavyweight championship.

Wladimir Klitschko, Vitali's younger brother, got back into contention when he beat Samuel Peter in a unanimous decision in September in an IBF elimination bout. The victory made Wladimir the mandatory challenger to IBF champion Chris Byrd.

Vitali, who hadn't fought since stopping Danny Williams in the first defense of his title last December, was first supposed to have met Rahman in April.

But the fight was postponed when Klitschko pulled a thigh muscle, and initial attempts to reschedule it were stopped when he sustained a back injury.

WBC president Jose Sulaiman said earlier this week that the latest cancellation was the fourth time Klitschko (35-2, 34 knockouts) has backed out of a fight with Rahman (41-5-1 , 33 KOs), and hinted that he might be looking for excuses to stay out of the ring with the American.

Rahman, a former heavyweight champion, grew so tired of waiting to meet the Ukrainian that he fought Monte Barrett in August. He won on a decision to become the WBC interim champion.

Klitschko is the second WBC heavyweight champion in a row to retire while holding the title. Lennox Lewis quit in February 2004 after beating Klitschko in his last fight. Klitschko's other loss, when he also was forced to quit because of an injury, came in April 2000 to Byrd.

Lewis was the first reigning world heavyweight champion to quit since Rocky Marciano in 1956. The only other fighter to do so was Gene Tunney in 1928.

Klitschko stopped Corrie Sanders in the eighth round in April 2004 to win the WBC belt.

Klitschko was involved in a steroid controversy that prevented him from taking part in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Instead, Wladimir took his place and won the gold medal for Ukraine.

In his biography, released in Germany in 2004, Vitali said he used steroids after aggravating a leg injury sustained during a kick-box bout. He tested positive and was thrown off the Ukrainian team.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press