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Klitschko to Defends WBO Title

March 15, 2002

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BERLIN (AP) _ Some say Wladimir Klitschko is the coming heavyweight in the world, others say he will soon be exposed as just another overrated European fighter.

The big Ukrainian with the choirboy face (37-1, with 35 knockouts) had planned to sell himself to the American boxing public _ where he faces the biggest skepticism _ with a coming out fight in New York late last year.

Instead, after two bouts there were canceled, he will make the third defense of his WBO crown Saturday against South African veteran Frans Botha in Stuttgart, Germany.

The fight is unlikely to do much to sway the doubters in the United States, but the 6-foot-6) Klitschko and his camp still believe it’s just a matter of time until he conquers America.

``Wladimir is a technically first class fighter who hits hard,″ said his trainer, Fritz Smudek. ``He will be successful in America.″

The 25-year-old figures sooner or later he will get Lennox Lewis or Mike Tyson in the ring.

``They’re getting older all the time and they can’t run away forever _ unless they retire,″ Klitschko said.

The 10,100 tickets for the fight were sold out in hours, a tribute to Klitschko’s popularity in Germany rather than any expectations the South African will derail the Ukrainian’s plans to be the world champion.

The 33-year-old Botha, 44-3-1, with 28 knockouts, is a former IBF champion who has lost title fights to Michael Moorer and, Tyson and Lewis. He was knocked out in the fifth round by Tyson.

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