Wladimir Klitschko and Sultan Ibragimov intend to take the first step toward gluing boxing's heavyweight division together.
Klitschko, the IBF champion and widely considered the best of the four current titleholders, will face WBO champ Ibragimov on Feb. 23 in New York City's Madison Square Garden, the first unification fight in eight years in boxing's marquee division.
"At this point, in the heavyweight division, we are desperate," Klitschko said on Tuesday at a news conference announcing the fight. "We need only one champion and stop all these conversations when the next unification is going to be. With this press conference it is over."
Or at least finally starting.
Not since Lennox Lewis beat Evander Holyfield in their rematch in 1999 has there been a heavyweight unification fight, and the road to this one wasn't easy.
When Ibragimov won his title by easily out-pointing Shannon Briggs in June, the 2000 Olympic silver medalist quickly made a deal to fight WBA champ Ruslan Chagaev in Moscow later in the year. But Chagaev came down with an illness and had to back out, leaving Ibragimov to easily dispatch fill-in Holyfield.
Interim WBC champion Samuel Peter has a number of mandatory challengers waiting in line, which could occupy him for some time, leaving just one alternative for Ibragimov.
"The deal was made with Klitschko, who wanted a fight for a unification from Day 1," said Leon Margules of Seminole Warriors Boxing, one of the handlers for Ibragimov. "That is why this is the heavyweight championship for the true heavyweight champion, because all the other heavyweight champions don't want to play."
While other weight divisions have had notable bouts recently, the heavyweight division always draws attention.
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