- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Unified heavyweight titleholder Wladimir Klitschko is in the market for a new opponent after mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin suffered a foot injury, forcing his withdrawal from their upcoming fight, Klitschko adviser Shelly Finkel told ESPN.com Saturday.
Klitschko (51-3, 45 KOs) was scheduled to defend his belts against Povetkin on Dec. 13 at the SAP Arena in Mannheim, Germany, on HBO. But Finkel said he was notified by Sauerland Event promoter Chris Meyer on Saturday morning that Povetkin's injury, suffered Thursday or Friday, would prevent him from fighting.
While doing roadwork in his native Russia, Povetkin tripped over a tree root and tore a ligament in his left foot, according to Scott Shaffer, a Sauerland attorney.
"The doctor told him he can't train until the end of November, which makes it impossible for him to be in a fight on Dec. 13," Shaffer said. "We're optimistic he will be ready to fight early next year and we're hopeful we can work something out where he fights Wladimir Klitschko early next year."
Povetkin (16-0, 12 KOs), the 29-year-old 2004 Russian Olympic gold medalist, won two fights in the IBF's tournament to earn his mandatory status, stopping former titlist Chris Byrd in 11 rounds last October and then outpointing Eddie Chambers in the final in January. He took one tune-up fight against Taurus Sykes and knocked him out in the fourth round in July before the fight with Klitschko was signed.
Now, Povetkin will have to wait. Finkel said Klitschko intends to keep the Dec. 13 date and defend his title against somebody else.
"Wladimir is going to fight," Finkel said. "We'll go down the rankings and try to find a suitable replacement. We'll explore all of our options."
The leading IBF contenders after Povetkin include Alexander Dimitrenko and Cristobal Arreola, both of whom have bouts scheduled, so it is unclear if either would withdraw to fight Klitschko. Beyond them are former champions Oleg Maskaev and Hasim Rahman, neither of whom are scheduled to fight and could be candidates.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
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