EDITED PRESS RELEASE: With WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko pulling out of a mandatory defense of his title this Saturday against WBC interim titlist Hasim Rahman, promoter Don King is trying to have Rahman named the full WBC champion. If the WBC agrees, King will control all four heavyweight title claimants and the promoter announced he would then stage a unification tournament to determine a single, undisputed world heavyweight champion.
“Anyone could tell that Vitali did not want to fight Rock,” King said.
“This is why I lobbied for Rock’s last fight to be for the WBC interim heavyweight title. The moment Vitali cancelled his scheduled mandatory defense scheduled for November 12, he vacated his title and Rahman immediately assumed his crown according to the rules and regulations of the WBC.” The WBC has not yet announced its position on Klitschko' latest injury.
King added: “I would have preferred for Rahman and Klitschko to have settled there differences in the ring this coming weekend, but nobody seems to be able to make Vitali fight his mandatory defense against Rahman. He seems to prefer to give up his title rather than face Rock.”
Rahman believes the WBC will announce that he is that organization's heavyweight champion. “I told WBC President Jose Sulaiman when I became their interim heavyweight champion in August by defeating Monte Barrett that I didn’t think Vitali would fight me. Mr. Sulaiman said that if he pulled out of the fight, he
would declare me the WBC champion. Thank you, Mr. Sulaiman, for upholding the rules, regulations, honor, dignity and integrity of the WBC, the best sanctioning organization in boxing.”
Rahman added that he was disappointed, but it came as no surprise to him that Klitschko claimed a knee injury suffered in training caused him to pull out of their Nov. 12 match.
“Vitali said we couldn’t fight because he had a leg injury in April that spread to his back in July,” Rahman said. “Then he wasn’t well enough to fight me in August but he was well enough to want to fight Oleg Maskaev or Calvin Brock in September.
“Now he says he’s headed to Colorado to see a knee specialist this week so he can’t fight me on Saturday.”
The necessity for an interim title match occurred after Klitschko postponed three matches with Rahman: April 30 (postponed due to Vitali’s jogging “thigh injury”); June 18 (postponed as Vitali needed more time to recover from “jogging injury”); and July 23 (Vitali’s “thigh injury” spread to his back, necessitating “minor back surgery”) on April 19.
King responded in May by successfully petitioning the WBC to sanction an interim heavyweight championship owing to Klitschko’s repeated inability to face his mandatory challenger, Rahman, who earned that position on Nov. 13, 2004, and has been waiting to fight Vitali since that time.
Klitschko inexplicably petitioned the WBC in June asking for an exception to face another fighter on Sept. 24—in effect saying he was healthy enough to fight, just not against Rahman.
The WBC Board of Governors rejected the petition on July 15 and ordered Klitschko to face the WBC interim champion, which was determined on Aug. 13 when Rahman won a unanimous decision
over Monte “Two Gunz” Barrett.
If the WBC follows though and strips Klitschko, King would represent all four world heavyweight champions: WBA champion John “The Quietman” Ruiz; IBF champion Chris Byrd; WBO champion “Relentless” Lamon Brewster; and Rahman. Byrd is suing King, however, so there are issues to be resolved for Byrd to be in the tournament.
Ruiz will meet his mandatory challenger Nicolai Valuev in a previously scheduled match on Dec. 17 in Berlin, Germany and Rahman may next have to fight an opponent designated by the WBC.
After these matches, King plans to announce a tournament where all world heavyweight champions will fight each other to determine an undisputed champion. He expects the format to be similar to the 1986 box-off that produced the youngest heavyweight champion in history, Mike Tyson, and the 2001 Middleweight World Championship Series, which resulted in the first undisputed middleweight world champion since Marvelous Marvin Hagler held that distinction in 1987.