By Don Wright
Unable to secure an immediate title heavyweight title shot, former WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko has taken his quest to regain a piece of the heavyweight title to a New Jersey courtroom. Earlier this week, Klitschko (44-3, 40 KOs) filed a lawsuit in federal court against the IBF, asking the court to declare him the mandatory contender and then enforce a match up against IBF heavyweight champion Chris Byrd.
Boxingtalk acquired a copy of the lawsuit, which cites an IBF rule requiring the heavyweight champion to “defend his championship within intervals of no more than nine months against the leading available contender.” According to the complaint, Byrd last made a mandatory defense on November 13, 2004 with a split decision victory over Jameel McCline and therefore must fulfill his mandatory obligation prior to August 13, 2005.
The IBF’s latest rankings, posted on their website, list Wladimir Klitschko as the #3 heavyweight contender, behind #1 Monte Barrett and #2 Hasim Rahman. Klitschko is ranked #12 by Boxingtalk.com, a listing that includes the division’s four regining titlists.
Earlier this month, promoter Don King announced that Barrett and Rahman would fight each other on July 23, 2005. The WBC later announced that the Barrett-Rahman bout would be for the interim WBC title, with the winner becoming the WBC heavyweight champion unless Wladimir’s brother Vitali Klitschko defends against the new interim champion.
“Under IBF Criteria No. 12, because Barrett and Rahman have contracted to compete for another world title, they are deemed to be unavailable to fight Byrd and are to be lowered or removed from the rankings,” according to the allegations of Klitschko’s complaint. Klitschko alleged that “[o]n or about May 6, 2005, the Chairman of the IBF Championship Committee and the Chairman of the IBF Ratings Committee represented and promised Klitschko, through Klitschko’s representative, that an elimination bout would be scheduled involving Klitschko.”
However, the lawsuit seeks to bypass the elimination process, and have Klitschko immediately installed as Byrd’s mandatory challenger. Despite having been knocked out in two of his past six bouts and looking lackluster in a technical decision win against DaVarryl Williamson, Klitschko is asking the court to force a mandatory fight with Byrd. Klitschko decided to file his action directly with the United Stated District Court for New Jersey, rather than “to pay an unconscionable $10,000 fee” for the right to file an appeal with the IBF’s ratings or championship committees.
A call to Klitschko’s attorney Ronald DiNicola, seeking comment, was not immediately returned.
Klitschko’s lawsuit is the latest move in his attempt to secure a rematch with Byrd, whom he previously defeated in 2000, with a near shutout unanimous decision in Koln, Germany. Byrd has hinted that he believes foul play may have caused him to suffer blurred vision in that fight, and he has been reluctant to fight Klitschko in Germany.
Byrd recently declined an offer to face Klitschko in Germany on HBO, leaving Klitschko to instead face and knock out Eliseo Castillo last month. Boxingtalk’s Greg Leon authored a scathing article criticizing HBO’s decision to air the Klitschko vs. Castillo match, rather than give the date to the more deserving heavyweight champion Byrd. In that article, Leon pointed out that HBO had promised the date to Wladimir in an effort to appease big brother Vitali.
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