Glove dispute has IBF heavyweight title fight in jeopardy

Mar 9, 2007 - 10:22 PM MANNHEIM, Germany (Ticker) -- Saturday's IBF heavyweight title fight between champion Wladimir Klitschko and Ray Austin is in jeopardy because of a dispute over gloves.

At the rules meeting following Friday's weigh-in, Klitscko's team said it had chosen for the fight a different local commission that will not allow Austin to wear the gloves of his choice, according to a release from Don King Productions.

"They have selectively and conveniently employed dictatorship," said King, Austin's promoter. "I am now playing a shell game where I have no chance to win."

According to King, the commission is preventing Austin from wearing his preference of Reyes gloves that he chose after the contract - finalized in January - stipulated both camps would agree upon the equipment worn by the challenger.

Klitschko said he preferred Grant gloves, but the parties agreed that both teams would mutually agree upon the gloves used by Austin.

King said the commission originally chosen by Klitschko's camp is the same one that allowed him - as a challenger - to use the gloves of his choice against champion Chris Byrd on April 22, 2006. Klitschko scored a seventh-round technical knockout to win the title.

"This whole fight was conceived under the auspices there would be fair play and complete impartiality," King said. "What happened today shows I have not been dealt with in good faith."

King offered a coin toss to settle the dispute, but Klitschko's team rejected the offer.

"For some reason, the Klitschko camp is afraid of Austin using Reyes gloves, and I don't know why," King said. "What is Wladimir Klitschko so afraid of that he can't agree to a coin toss to get us past this?"

Klitschko (47-3-0, 42 KOs) weighed in at 246 1/2 pounds for the fight at SAP Arena. Austin (24-3-4, 16 KOs) tipped the scales at 247.

A native of Cleveland, Austin will be looking to bring back the heavyweight strap to America by beating the man who widely is considered the best fighter in a dying division.

Austin is coming off a draw in June against Sultan Ibragimov. He was elevated to mandatory status by the IBF despite extremely questionable credentials.

Despite not having any major wins on his resume, Austin is confident that he will dethrone Klitschko, a 6-6 Ukrainian.

"Klitschko has a soft heart and a weak chin, and I'm going to knock him out," Austin said. "I'm not one of these inexperienced, undersized heavyweight contenders. I'm not Calvin Brock. I'm not a 213-pound Chris Byrd, either. I'm a full-grown heavyweight."

Klitschko is making the second defense of the title that he won in April by knocking out Byrd in an electrifying performance. He defeated the previously unbeaten Brock in his first title defense in November.

"We have a great deal of respect for Ray Austin, more than Ray apparently has for Wlad judging by his comments at the first press conference," said Emanuel Steward, Klitschko's trainer. "I have the same respect for Ray that we had for Chris Byrd."

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