Vitali Klitschko hopes to take on McCline in September comeback

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Former heavyweight titlist Vitali Klitschko, who announced in January that he would end his retirement, is making plans to fight former title challenger Jameel McCline in his September comeback fight.

"He's the leading available guy we're thinking of. We're working on it," Klitschko adviser Shelly Finkel told ESPN.com on Saturday night.

Jameel McCline


Vitali Klitschko


Klitschko, Finkel, McCline and McCline's attorney, Mike Borao, all were in attendance at Boardwalk Hall for the Sultan Ibragimov-Shannon Briggs heavyweight title bout and discussed the match.

During the undercard, Finkel told Borao that he would send him a bout agreement this week.

Klitschko's comeback fight will take place in Germany on a date to be determined in September.

Considering Klitschko (35-2, 34 KOs), who turns 36 in July, has not fought since making his only title defense against Danny Williams in December 2004, McCline is strong selection of opponent, not the kind of soft touch many thought Klitschko would go after in his ring return.

Klitschko, who worked as an analyst for German television network RTL, which aired Ibragimov-Briggs, embraced McCline and posed for photos with him for ringside photographers.

"I think the fight is going to happen," a beaming McCline said at ringside. "I am very excited about getting the opportunity, especially the way things went in my last fight. I will be ready for the fight. My knee feels great."

In his last fight, McCline (38-7-3, 23 KOs) was stopped in the third round by then-beltholder Nikolai Valuev. They met Jan. 20 in Switzerland and were fighting on even terms until McCline suffered a freak knee injury and collapsed without being hit at the end the third round. He was unable to continue and Valuev was credited with a TKO victory.

After the fight, McCline returned to the United States and underwent surgery on his left knee. McCline has given the Klitschko camp his medical report, which both sides said indicate that his knee has fully healed.

Although McCline, 37, is the Klitschko camp's choice of opponent, Klitschko downplayed it.

"Its possible, but right now step by step," Klitschko said. "I am anxious to fight again. It's very important for me to be active and to be in good shape. Let's see what happens."

After being stopped on cuts by Lennox Lewis in a June 2003 title fight, Klitschko would go on to win the vacant title (vacant because Lewis retired) by stopping Corrie Sanders in the eighth round in April 2004.

Klitschko stopped Williams in the eighth round in his only defense and then suffered a spate of back and knee injuries that forced him to postpone a mandatory defense against Hasim Rahman several times. Finally, after suffering another setback with his knee during training camp, Klitschko announced his retirement days before their November 2005 fight and vacated the WBC title.

McCline has had three title shots in all. Besides the loss to Valuev, he was stopped in the 10th round in December 2002 by Wladimir Klitschko, Vitali's younger brother, and dropped a split-decision to his good friend Chris Byrd, whom he knocked down, in November 2004.

Other names that were discussed as opponents for Klitschko were DaVarryl Williamson and Roman Greenburg.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.