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Klitschko to Defend WBO Title

February 20, 2002

STUTTGART, Germany (AP) _ WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko will defend his title against Frans Botha on March 16.

Klitschko is 37-1 with 35 knockouts.

``Botha is a boxer with a lot of experience,″ Klitschko said. ``I respect him and won’t underestimate him. He looked good against Mike Tyson before he was knocked out.″

Botha, 44-3-1 with 28 knockouts, briefly held the IBF title and was leading Tyson in 1999 before he was stopped in the sixth round. Lennox Lewis also stopped him in two in a title fight while the South African lost another bid for a crown to Mike Moorer.

The 25-year-old Klitschko, who trains in Germany, had hoped to sell himself to the American public with a fight against a good opponent in New York.

But Ray Mercer dropped out of a fight in October with a cut, while Klitschko pulled out a bout with David Izon in December because of a shoulder injury.

Botha has won four straight fights since the Lewis loss.

In his last fight in Germany, in 1995, Botha won the vacant IBF title against local hero Axel Schultz, but had it stripped when he tested positive for steroids.

German fans pelted the ring with bottles after the South African was selected as the winner of a close fight.

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