Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko's long overdue mandatory defense against Alexander Povetkin, scheduled for Sept. 11 in Germany, is off and Klitschko instead is making plans to face former titleholder Samuel Peter in a rematch on the same day, Klitschko manager Bernd Boente said Thursday.
The fight with Povetkin, who has been training in New Jersey, unraveled when he failed to attend Monday's announcement in Germany. Instead, Klitschko went through with the news conference and mocked Povetkin's absence by using a life-size cardboard cutout of him in his place and saying he was unsure if Povetkin would go through with a fight to which they'd already agreed.
Povetkin's camp claimed the fighter had a sinus problem and would be unable to fly for 10 days. However, it is common knowledge in boxing circles that there has been a difference of opinion within the Povetkin camp about the fight; his promoters at Sauerland Event have pushed for the bout but Povetkin's management and trainer Teddy Atlas wanted to delay it, believing the fighter wasn't ready to face the No. 1 heavyweight in the world. Atlas is also the ringside analyst for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."
K2 Promotions, Klitschko's company, complained to the IBF about Povetkin missing the news conference because it had won the promotional rights to the fight with a purse bid of $8.313 million. With so much money on the line, K2 needed him there to promote the fight, which was to take place at the 55,000-seat Commerzbank Arena in Frankfurt.
The IBF sided with Klitschko (54-3, 48 KOs) and ordered him to begin negotiating with the next available contender, Peter. The former titleholder knocked Klitschko down three times but lost a decision in their 2005 title elimination fight in Atlantic City, N.J.
"The IBF ruled that Povetkin had violated its rules by failing to come to the press conference this past Monday," John Hornewer, Klitschko's attorney, told ESPN.com. "The IBF had told him he needed to attend based on his duty to provide reasonable promotional support to fight and he didn't get on the plane. Then the next day, he went to the doctor to get a doctor's excuse. The IBF has instructed us to begin negotiating with the next available contender."
Despite the doctor's note, the Klitschko camp noted that Povetkin (19-0, 14 KOs) was out and about last weekend, attending boxing cards in Newark, N.J., and Atlantic City.
"They were told beforehand that they had to be at the press conference to help promote the event," Boente said. "That was their obligation after the purse bid."
Klitschko was upset, saying at the news conference: "I am very disappointed that Povetkin did not show up. For two weeks, we have tried to force him to come. He could have shown that he is ready to fight me. It's the first time in my entire career that my opponent did not come to the press conference."
Sauerland Event did not respond to emails for comment. Atlas told ESPN.com he didn't think Povetkin was ready for the fight and had recommended against taking it.
"I think he deseves the chance to develop," Atlas said. "I'm in the middle of training this kid, which is obviously an important time in his life for the future of his career. I'm doing my job. I am not moved by the title fight and what the biggest fight is out there. My job is to do the best job I can for the fighter and to make sure he is the best he can be when he's in a situtation to fight, whether to fight Klitschko, Samuel Peter, [Tomasz] Adamek or Joe Shmoe.
"I am not controlled or dictated by anything other than that. I told him from the beginning I wanted more time. I was never really for the fight right now. Let me have more time with him. Does the mandatory dictate when he fights or do the circumstances of him having the best chance to win the fight?"
Atlas said he understands Povetkin is passing on a career-high payday of $2,078,250 -- his 25 percent cut of the purse bid. However, "I'm giving up money, too," Atlas said.
"I get 10 percent of that, but I decided the most important thing was to do what was the best for the fighter," Atlas said. "My judgment was is the fighter ready for this moment? My opinion was more time would be good."
K2 Promotions and ESPN are in talks for Klitschko's fight to air live in the United States on ESPN3.com, with a replay to be seen on one of the television networks within a couple of days after the fight, according to Boente and the network.
For more than two years Povetkin, the 2004 Russian Olympic gold medalist, has been the mandatory challenger for Klitschko. However, the fight already had fallen through twice, first because of a foot injury to Povetkin, and about a year later because of a shoulder injury to Klitschko.
Now, it's off for the third time and Klitschko's camp is negotiating with Top Rank, Peter's promoter.
Top Rank president Todd duBoef told ESPN.com that talks were under way and that he expected they would make a deal "pretty quickly."
"Wladimir felt honestly that Povetkin would not show up because Teddy Atlas kept telling people he didn't think he was ready for the fight, so Wladimir was concerned," Boente said. "He wants to fight Sept. 11 and we appreciate the IBF making a decision quickly so we can save the date, because if Wladimir wins in September, he wants to come back and fight for a third time this year in December."
The rematch with Peter (34-3, 27 KOs) is an intriguing one because of their first fight. Klitschko was only in his third fight since being knocked out by Lamon Brewster in a title bout a year earlier and there were many questions about his toughness and how he would react when opposing a fearsome puncher such as Peter.
Peter floored Klitschko three times, but Klitschko kept himself together and won every round in which he didn't go down to take the decision and earn the IBF mandatory title shot. Seven months later, Klitschko knocked out Chris Byrd to win the belt and has held it since.
"Wladimir and myself think the Peter fight is a great matchup," Boente said. "It's a rematch of a good fight. There are a lot of people more interested in that fight than the Povetkin fight."
Peter is already training in Big Bear, Calif., and manager Ivaylo Gotzev said they are eager for another opportunity against Klitschko, especially after Peter had such a poor performance when he lost his version of the title in an eighth-round TKO loss to Vitali Klitschko, Wladimir's brother, in Germany in 2008.
"The IBF has done the right thing and we are negotiating a deal. I expect it to go a lot smoother and a lot quicker than the previous negotiation Klitschko had with Povetkin because we actually want the fight," Gotzev said. "This is a very big fight for the German population and we're going to make it a very big fight for the heavyweight fans around the world.
"You have an exciting matchup that has already proven to be a competitive one. I still get people asking me how Samuel lost when he knocked the guy down three times. We are going to finish what we started in September 2005. This year, it will be a September to remember."
After losing a decision to Eddie Chambers following his loss to Vitali Klitschko, Peter has won four fights in a row, all by knockout, including a second-round knockout of Nagy Aguilera in an elimination bout in March.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.