Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko was brought to his knees this week, but not by a powerful punch. Instead, the 6-foot-6, 245-pound baddest man on the planet was done in by something far smaller than a strawweight: a kidney stone.
Klitschko had one surgery and thought he would be well enough to go through with his scheduled 11th title defense against former cruiserweight titlist Jean-Marc Mormeck on Saturday at Esprit Arena in Dusseldorf, Germany, where a crowd of more than 40,000 was expected.
However, the surgery did not work. The stone was still stuck, and Klitschko needed a second operation on Saturday. At that point, fighting seven days later was simply out of the question, and the fight was postponed.
"The pain? It was 10 times worse than giving birth. That's what the doctor said it is like, and my mom said it, too, and she had both," Klitschko said on Wednesday in a telephone interview from Hamburg, Germany, where he was recovering.
He said it was the first day that he felt good since the stone attack. He was joking around and in good spirits but said that the pain from the kidney stone was like nothing he had ever felt -- and this coming from a guy who gets punched in the face for a living by men weighing more than 200 pounds.
"This was the first time I experienced this, and you get used to the pain after awhile, but it was bad," Klitschko said. "After this incident, I realize I am a regular, normal human being, not Superman, which was disappointing to me. I thought I could handle any pain."
Klitschko (56-3, 49 KOs) said he had hoped to keep the fight together after his first operation.
"Everything in training was perfect, and it should be minor surgery, so I'd recover in one or two days, no big deal," he said. "I had a game plan and I'm in great shape, but then there were complications and I needed a second surgery. Now I am doing well, but I am sad the fight is not happening. I am recovering, and today is the first day without pain, and I am happy to live without that.
"But I am so disappointed about the fight, because everything was set up so good. I feel bad for Mormeck. I know what it is like when you prepare for the fight and your opponent pulls out. On the other hand, I was trying to save it, but there was no chance. I have too much medicine in my body, two surgeries and a lot of painkillers."
Klitschko was to make his first ring appearance since his one-sided decision win against David Haye in their July unification bout. He said the fight with France's Mormeck -- a massive underdog -- will be rescheduled for the same arena on March 3, as long as he gets permission from the IBF to delay a mandatory defense against Tony Thompson, whom Klitschko has already knocked out in a previous mandatory.
Klitschko's brother, fellow champion Vitali Klitschko, is negotiating a March 3 fight with Haye, but Wladimir said his brother would move his fight to another date to accommodate the Mormeck bout being rescheduled.
"We are working on it now," Wladimir said. "I was thankful to my brother for giving me his date to save the fight and the site of the fight, where so many people already have tickets."
Mormeck and Thompson are Klitschko's likely next two opponents. Sooner rather than later -- perhaps for the Thompson fight -- Klitschko said he wants to return to the United States for a fight.
He said he would like to defend his title in New York and is interested in putting on a fight at the Barclays Center, the new arena where the NBA's Nets will play that is under construction in Brooklyn and due to open next fall.
"Right now, I am looking forward to getting back home to Florida [where Klitschko has his legal residence] for the holidays, and I will visit the arena in New York while I am in the United States and see what is happening," Klitschko said. "I haven't [fought] in the States in a long time [since 2008], and even though me and my brother are not Americans, we have a lot of fans there. So I think we can pack [the new arena]. I would like to fight there. It's always a pleasure to fight in the States. But right now, I have Mormeck and then I am stuck with an opponent [Thompson].
"I'm not in the era of Muhammad Ali or Joe Frazier or George Foreman. I'm in my era, and [trainer] Emanuel [Steward] told me, 'Just keep yourself busy.' While I do that, there is a new generation of fighters coming up who I am waiting for to be ready for me. There is the American fighter, Seth Mitchell. There are some other names, like Tyson Fury, [Robert] Helenius, Dereck Chisora, [Alexander] Povetkin."
Klitschko called off a fight with Chisora twice because of an abdominal injury, but the others haven't wanted to fight him. He said that's frustrating.
"We've been going through a lot of names before I got Mormeck," Klitschko said. "Fury was not ready, Helenius is not ready. Povetkin wasn't ready. I don't think he will ever be ready. He's had his chance. They all say next year or 2013, but I want to stay active.
"Mormeck, you can say whatever you want about him, but if you are over 200 pounds and have on 10-ounce gloves and great motivation, anything can happen in the ring. Mormeck is very motivated, and he really believes he can beat me."
Welterweight title shot for Malignaggi
Former junior welterweight titlist Paulie Malignaggi (30-4, 6 KOs), now 3-0 as a welterweight since moving up in weight last year, is headed for a shot at titlist Vyacheslav Senchenko of Ukraine.
Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer said Malignaggi, whom he represents, has been appointed Senchenko's mandatory challenger, after previous mandatory Brad Solomon rejected the fight and was dropped from his position. Schaefer said that during the WBA's recent convention that Golden Boy matchmaker Robert Diaz met with Senchenko's promoter to begin discussing the fight.
"We're having conversations to see if we can get this fight done," Schaefer said. "We would love for Paulie to have a shot. If the money is right, Paulie would go to Ukraine, and if it's not right, we would do it here. We'd have a purse bid. Hopefully, in the next two or three weeks we should know."
Schaefer said if the fight is held in the United States, he would want to put it on in New York, Malignaggi's hometown. Malignaggi is also excited for another title opportunity.
"I hope we can get it done and get him to come over here," Malignaggi said.
Senchenko (32-0, 21 KOs), who has made three defenses, has fought all but three of his bouts -- two in Russia and one in Monaco -- in Ukraine against modest opposition.
Rios might not be done at lightweight
Although Brandon Rios (29-0-1, 22 KOs) lost his lightweight belt on the scales last week because he couldn't make the 135-pound limit for a defense against John Murray on the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito II HBO PPV undercard on Saturday at New York's Madison Square Garden, manager Cameron Dunkin said Rios' days at lightweight aren't necessarily over.
Rios got down to 136.6 pounds and stopped Murray in the 11th round, but the title remained vacant because he couldn't get all the way down to the division limit.
Dunkin said Rios went about losing weight the wrong way, apparently having starved himself for five days before the fight while drinking virtually no water for two days before the fight.
"We'll get him in camp and get him with a real nutritionist and find out if can make 135 or has to go to 140," Dunkin said. "He didn't do anything right to make weight. I want to see what happens when he drinks water and eats the right foods and takes vitamins."
Dunkin said he would seek out Victor Conte, the disgraced head of BALCO who was at the center of a major steroid scandal, to work with Rios. In recent years, Conte says he is doing things legally and has worked with multiple fighters, including Nonito Donaire, one of Dunkin's clients.
"I want to put Brandon with Conte because I've seen what he's done with Donaire. Let's give them a chance together and see what happens," Dunkin said. "But to just say he's moving up without finding out is just short-sighted. If Conte says there's no way Brandon can do this, he's too big and training hard and nothing's coming off, then you make your move."
Pavlik headed West
The plan hatched in late October to get former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik's career back on track is about to come to fruition, Dunkin told ESPN.com.
Pavlik will head to California to begin training with Robert Garcia at his Oxnard gym in the next few weeks, Dunkin said.
That means Pavlik leaving his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, and his career-long trainer Jack Loew, which Dunkin said Pavlik is willing to do.
"I talked with his father [co-manager Mike Pavlik, on Wednesday] and we'll try to get him out there as soon as possible, even before Christmas," Dunkin said of the fighter. "We want to get started. We want to at least give him a week of work with Robert, and then he can go home for the holidays and then go back out to California after the holidays to train. Kelly says he's ready to go and that he's happy. The idea is to get him out there and let him start becoming accustomed to the gym and the different guys at the gym."
Pavlik (37-2, 32 KOs) is trying to relaunch his fading career after a difficult year in which he spent time in alcohol rehab, pulled out of an August fight and turned down a $1.35 million offer to challenge super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute on Nov. 5.
In late October, Kelly Pavlik, Mike Pavlik, Dunkin and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum and members of his staff met in New York to discuss the plan.
• Top Rank and HBO are working on a Feb. 4 doubleheader at the Alamodome in San Antonio that would feature middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and pound-for-pound star Nonito Donaire in separate fights. Chavez (44-0-1, 31 KOs) would make his second defense in the main event, with opponent discussions centered on junior middleweight contender Vanes Martirosyan (31-0, 19 KOs) and former middleweight title challenger Marco Antonio Rubio (52-5-1, 45 KOs).
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN.com that Donaire (27-1, 18 KOs), the bantamweight champion who is moving up in weight, will face former junior featherweight titlist Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (21-1-1, 18 KOs) for a vacant belt -- the one Vazquez lost to Jorge Arce via 12th-round knockout in May. Arce vacated and moved down to bantamweight last month and won one of the bantamweight belts Donaire vacated.
"Vazquez is a real tough, solid guy," said Cameron Dunkin, Donaire's manager. "He makes good fights. It's a tough fight, but I believe in my guy and he likes the fight."
• The rematch between former welterweight titleholders Andre Berto (28-1, 22 KOs) and Victor Ortiz (29-3-2, 22 KOs), which was agreed to two weeks ago, now has a date and a home: Feb. 11 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, Ortiz's promoter, told ESPN.com. The fight will be televised by Showtime, which outbid HBO -- the network that had been heavily involved in the careers of Berto and Ortiz for years -- for the rights to the fight. Ortiz outpointed Berto in April in a fight of the year candidate to win the welterweight belt he lost in his next fight, to Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Sept. 17. Berto returned from the loss to Ortiz to stop Jan Zaveck on Sept. 3, winning another version of the 147-pound title, but he vacated it when no network would buy his mandatory fight against Randall Bailey -- and also because he wanted to face Ortiz again to try to avenge the defeat. Schaefer said the promotional push for the rematch would begin next week in Atlantic City, N.J. He said both fighters would attend Showtime's Super Six World Boxing Classic final between super middleweight titleholders Andre Ward and Carl Froch on Dec. 17 to meet the media and appear on the broadcast.
• When flyweight titlist Brian Viloria (29-3, 16 KOs) makes his mandatory defense against Mexico's Giovani Segura (28-1-1, 24 KOs), the former junior flyweight champion who is moving up in weight, the fight will be available live on Integrated Sports PPV in the United States on Saturday night (8 ET). The fight, which will take place in Manila, is on Sunday afternoon Philippines time, making an American prime-time Saturday night telecast possible. The American pay-per-view ($29.95), however, is only available on Dish Network or via U-Stream Internet PPV.
"I've sparred with Segura in the past, and we beat the hell out of each other," Viloria said. "It was the kind of sparring where we could have charged the audience for an entrance fee, and they wouldn't have complained. Segura is a very dangerous opponent for me." Also on PPV, junior lightweights Martin Honorio (31-16-1, 16 KOs) of Mexico and Fahsai Sakkreerin (36-2, 20 KOs) of Thailand will meet in a title eliminator. In another televised bout, lightweights Al Sabaupan (17-0-1, 12 KOs) and Roy Mukhlis (23-3-2, 18 KOs) will meet.
• Although heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko's defense against Jean-Marc Mormeck on Saturday in Dusseldorf, Germany, was called off because of Klitschko's bout with kidney stones, promoter K2 will go on with most of the undercard fights. But they will now take place on Friday night at the Intercontinental Hotel (instead of the 53,000-seat Esprit Arena) in Dusseldorf. Middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin's defense against Philadelphia's Lajuan Simon (23-3-2, 12 KOs) will headline the scaled-down show.
"I had a great training camp, and I am happy that the fight is going to take place. I am also excited to be working together with K2 Promotions," said Golovkin (21-0, 18 KOs), who recently signed with the promotional company owned by Klitschko and his brother, fellow heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko. "I am looking forward to following in the footsteps of the Klitschko brothers and want to be as successful as they are."
Said Wladimir: "It is good that Golovkin's fight will take place. He is a very talented fighter, and I am sure that he will beat [middleweight titlist] Felix Sturm next year if he dares fight Golovkin."
Golovkin, a native of Kazakhstan living in Germany and a 2004 Olympic silver medalist, will make his third defense.
• Promoter Frank Warren said he will press for a rematch between his fighter, England's Dereck Chisora (15-2, 9 KOs), and Robert Helenius (17-0, 11 KOs), who was awarded a highly controversial split decision on his home turf of Finland last Saturday to claim the vacant European heavyweight title.
"I know that sometimes I have a moan about decisions, but what happened on Saturday night in Helsinki was one of the worst decisions I've seen in the sport in a very long time," Warren said. "I don't know how Helenius can hold his head up high and claim that he won the fight when he knows he lost. Helenius was supposed to be the next big thing and the man to challenge the Klitschkos, but Dereck totally exposed him, and I'm being generous to give Helenius four winning rounds in the fight.
"I'll be speaking to the EBU [European Boxing Union] as well as the other organizations about an immediate rematch, which is the only course of redress for this injustice to Dereck. Dereck fought his heart out and showed just what he can do when he gets himself in good shape, is lighter and is really up for a fight. One thing's for sure: Dereck really proved that he is one of the top heavyweights in the world, and he'll have Helenius' number when they meet again."
• Former middleweight titlist Arthur Abraham (32-3, 26 KOs), a bust in Showtime's Super Six World Boxing Classic, is scheduled to return Jan. 14 in Offenburg, Germany, promoter Sauerland Event announced. Abraham is due to face Argentina's Pablo Oscar Natalio Farias (19-1, 11 KOs) in a super middleweight bout. Against the best of the super middleweight division, Abraham didn't measure up. After knocking out Jermain Taylor in the opening stage of the Super Six, Abraham lost his next three tournament bouts: an 11th-round disqualification to Andre Dirrell in a fight in which he trailed badly, and lopsided decisions to Carl Froch and Andre Ward. In all, Abraham has lost three of his past four bouts, but he's ready to give it another go.
"I want to put on a good fight for my fans," Abraham said. "Of course, I have learned from my defeats. But now is the time to look ahead and get ready to fight again. I want to win back the hearts of my fans, and in order to do so, I need a convincing victory. Jan. 14 will be the start of something new for me. I want to begin the new year with an exciting victory and then set my sights on a world title again." The fight will take place on the same card as super middleweight titlist Robert Stieglitz (40-2, 23 KOs) defending against Henry Weber (15-0-1, 3 KOs) -- an interim bout before Stieglitz is slated to face former titlist Mikkel Kessler (44-2, 33 KOs) in a spring fight, which was supposed to take place Nov. 5 but was rescheduled because of Kessler's hand injury.
• When Ricky Hatton was a star fighter, he left longtime promoter Frank Warren -- and not in a friendly way -- to sign with Artie Pelullo. Now that Hatton is retired, his Hatton Promotions is a direct competitor of Warren's in the United Kingdom as they battle for fighters and television dates. Hatton, however, hopes they can work together to make a United Kingdom showdown between two of the country's leading lightweights, interim world titleholder Ricky Burns (33-2, 9 KOs) of Scotland, who is with Warren, and British champion Anthony Crolla (23-2, 9 KOs) of England, who is with Hatton.
"The main forces in the domestic lightweight scene are Ricky Burns and Anthony. Promoters should try and work together in order to give the British boxing fans the fights I'm sure they would love to see," Hatton said. "Although I and Frank have had our differences in the past, the respect I have for him has never been in question. I would sit down with Frank in order for British fans to see the best fights." Burns sat ringside to watch Crolla retain his British belt via decision against Willie Limond on Nov. 25.
• Promoter Frank Warren has postponed Friday's card in Liverpool, England, until Jan. 27, although no reason was given. European super middleweight champion James DeGale (11-1, 8 KOs), the 2008 British Olympic gold medalist, was due to headline against Spain's Jose Maria Guerrero (29-2-1, 11 KOs), although not in a European title defense. Earlier, British super middleweight champion George Groves (14-0, 11 KOs), who beat DeGale in May, withdrew from the card because of a hand injury. Warren had been moving them toward a rematch.
"It was like beating up a child. I was expecting a very tough fight, but it was so easy."
-- Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, on watching his brother, fellow heavyweight titleholder Vitali Klitschko, dominate Tomasz Adamek en route to a 10th-round TKO in a September title defense
"I know you think you have a lot of experience, and you do have a lot of experience, but I haven't been in the ring with anybody of your caliber. But trust and believe me, you haven't been in the ring with anybody of my caliber, as well. So I'm looking forward to a war."
-- Heavyweight Seth Mitchell, on a recent teleconference with boxing reporters, speaking to Timur Ibragimov, his opponent on Saturday night (HBO, 9:45 ET)
"You know what? I love to go to somebody's home and beat the person in his own home. I love this. I go to Germany and beat Timo Hoffmann. I go to Miami and beat Oliver McCall."
-- Ibragimov, embracing that he will face Mitchell in Washington, D.C., making it home turf for the Brandywine, Md., fighter
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at danrafaelespn.