Former heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko will not face titleholder Anthony Joshua or anyone else on Dec. 10. Instead he will sit out until March or April, manager Bernd Boente told ESPN on Monday.
Klitschko has already been out of the ring for 11 months because his rematch with Tyson Fury, who outpointed him to take the title belts in a massive upset last November, was postponed from July 9 to Oct. 29 and then canceled altogether because of Fury's litany of personal problems, including drug and alcohol abuse and depression.
Klitschko was planning to either challenge Joshua for his IBF belt on Dec. 10 in the division's most anticipated fight, at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, or fight on the same day at the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany, probably against Lucas Browne for the WBA belt, one of the titles Fury vacated because he was unavailable to box while dealing with his issues.
However, Ukraine's Klitschko will instead sit idle until the spring for a variety of reasons, Boente said.
One is the timing. With only five weeks before the fight date, Klitschko's opponent remains unsettled, not to mention there is very little time remaining to mount a promotion and sell tickets, and pay-per-view in the case of a Joshua bout.
Another reason is because the WBA still has not announced whether it will sanction Joshua-Klitschko for its vacant title, which is a deal-breaker for Klitschko. WBA president Gilberto Mendoza told ESPN that the committee responsible for deciding the matter voted last week, but the announcement of the decision has been repeatedly delayed and is due any day.
Adding to those issues is the fact that Klitschko suffered a mild calf muscle injury training last week.
"Wladimir pulled a muscle in the calf last week," Boente said. "It's nothing that bad that we couldn't go through with a fight if we had something set up, but we discussed things over the weekend. Regardless of the injury, we decided that if we get good news from the WBA that Wladimir can fight for that title against Joshua, we would do it in the spring because we need more time to market and promote such a big fight. We only have five weeks until [Dec. 10]. We still hope the WBA will sanction the fight.
"From the beginning, it was Wladimir's wish and Joshua's that we could do the fight. Both sides want it. There is no fight at this moment that is bigger than this fight without any doubt. So why rush it?"
England's Joshua (17-0, 17 KOs), 27, still plans to fight somebody else on Dec. 10 in Manchester and then hopes to face Klitschko in the first bout of a two-fight deal with him. Joshua could face countryman and one-time top prospect David Price (21-3, 18 KOs), 33, who has won two low-level bouts in a row but has been knocked out in his three losses since 2013 and is not considered a serious threat.
Boente said Klitschko's German television partner, RTL, is squeezed for time to put on any Klitschko fight on Dec. 10 since it would have to sell pricey commercial time while Joshua's television partner, Sky Sports in the United Kingdom, would ideally have more time to mount a major pay-per-view marketing push.
Boente said he and Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing are on the same page, believing that if the WBA sanctions the bout and they do it in the spring it will allow them to hold the fight at an outdoor arena in the United Kingdom with a much larger capacity than Manchester Arena.
"Let's say we have someone else Wladimir was going to fight in Germany on Dec. 10, we still have not even announced the fight," Boente said. "We have a lot to do. We have to fill an arena. There is just not enough time. And if he was fighting Joshua, we need to do more than just a press conference. We need to do a tour, go to Germany also. We decided with Eddie a fight this big needs more time to market than five weeks."
The 40-year-old Klitschko (64-4, 54 KOs), who had his 9½-year title reign ended by Fury, is already in the midst of the longest layoff of his career because the cancellation of the rematch. But Klitschko told ESPN is he looking forward to fighting next year, whomever it is against.
"I'm healthy and will be ready to fight Joshua or whoever else, hopefully for multiple titles, sometime soon," Klitschko said.