Fri, 31 Jan 2003

Klitschko promoters avow Lewis bout off

Reuters, Berlin, Germany

Vitali Klitschko's world heavyweight title bout against champion Lennox Lewis is definitely off, the Ukrainian's promoters said on Wednesday as they repeated their threat to take legal action.

"Lennox Lewis is no longer ready to fight Klitschko as had been agreed," said Peter Hanraths of Universum Box-Promotion, Ukrainian Klitschko's Germany-based management company.

Universum has asked its lawyers to urge the World Boxing Council (WBC) to make sure Klitschko can challenge Lewis before the beginning of June.

Lewis, 37, was due to fight Germany-based Klitschko in April. However, a spokeswoman for the Briton's promoters said on Monday he would return to the ring on June 21 depending on how Mike Tyson fared against Clifford Etienne next month.

"I must clearly say that I regard this as a breach of contract," Universum boss Klaus-Peter Kohl said on Tuesday.

The WBC declined to comment on the matter. "We haven't got any contracts registered for this fight and so we have no comment to make," a WBC spokesman said from its headquarters in Mexico City.

Universum lawyer Bjoern Ziegler said on Wednesday that Lewis's promoters had broken a legally valid contract.

"The parties had agreed by contract on Dec. 20, 2002, that the (Lewis v Klitschko) fight would take place either on April 12 (in Las Vegas) or on April 19 (in New York)," he said. "There is no possibility of going back from that."

Universum said they had agreed months ago with Lewis's business adviser Adrian Ogun that he would defend his title against Klitschko in April.

"Lewis has the obligation under the WBC rules to take on Vitali in his next fight and we will not wait any longer," Hanraths said on Tuesday. "Either Lewis does that or the WBC must strip him of his title."

Scrapping the Klitschko bout would allow Lewis to bring forward a potentially more lucrative bout against Tyson, whom the Briton comprehensively defeated in eight rounds last June.