V. Klitschko to meet Gomez in March

Updated: January 8, 2009, 11:48 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Vitali Klitschko will defend his slice of the heavyweight title against mandatory challenger Juan Carlos Gomez after the sides came an agreement Thursday and avoided Friday's scheduled purse bid.

Shelly Finkel, Klitschko's adviser, and Gomez promoter Ahmet Íner of Arena-Box Promotions had been discussing a deal for months but, as often happens in boxing, they waited until just before the purse bid -- an auction where any WBC-registered promoter could have gained control of the fight with the highest bid.

"We're glad we were able to get it together," Finkel said. "Ahmet negotiated as a gentleman and we were able to get it done."

Under the terms of the agreement, the bout will be held on a date to be determined in March, most likely in Germany, where Klitschko, of Ukraine, and Gomez, of Cuba, are both based.

Gomez (44-1, 35 KOs), 35, a former cruiserweight titleholder before vacating after 10 defenses to move up in weight in 2002, won two elimination fights to earn the mandatory shot at the title. He beat former champion Oliver McCall via unanimous decision in October 2007 and followed with a unanimous decision against Vladimir Virchis on Sept. 27.

It won't be the first time Klitschko and Gomez will meet in the ring. When they were both promoted by Peter Kohl's Universum, they sparred together at the Universum gym. Supposedly, Klitschko knocked out Gomez, then a cruiserweight, in one of the sessions.

"I remember those times quite well because I have been a fighter myself at Universum at that time," Íner said. "I don't think Vitali ever knocked down Juan. But I can recall some sessions where Vitali went out with a bloody nose after getting a good spanking from Gomez. You should not forget that Juan was already world champion when the Klitschkos just kicked off their careers."

Gomez was not Klitschko's first choice of opponent. He had hoped to face former cruiserweight champ David Haye of England, who moved up to heavyweight and has been calling Klitschko out.

In mid-December, Haye said he had made a deal to fight Klitschko after a meeting in Germany, where they both had attended Wladimir Klitschko's title defense against Hasim Rahman.

However, had Vitali Klitschko finalized a deal with Haye, he would have been stripped by the WBC for failing to make his mandatory defense.

Haye may instead wind up instead facing Wladimir, Vitali's younger brother, this summer while Vitali faces Gomez instead.

"We know that Vitali tried all he can to get a voluntary [defense against Haye] first," Íner said. "But he has to stick to the rules and defend his belt against the No. 1 contender. & I truly believe that this will be a good fight. Recently, we have seen some boring heavyweight championships because there seem to be very few worthy challengers for the Klitschkos.

"It will definitely be a close and exciting fight. It is hard for me to make any predictions. But right now I got the impression that Vitali might underestimate Juan. And this might be our big chance because Juan will definitely not underestimate Vitali and be very well prepared for a true war."

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com