Boxing - Klitschko to welcome Pianeta to big time boxing

This Saturday night in Mannheim, world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko will lay all his belts on the line when he takes on former sparring partner Francesco Pianeta. Few will lay money on an upset, except maybe the challengers' close family and most loyal of friends. As the great Muhammed Ali used to say, he has two chances of beating him - slim and none.

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Boxing - Klitschko to welcome Pianeta to big time boxing
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Klitschko to welcome Pianeta to big time boxing

Italian-born southpaw Pianeta grew up in Gelsenkirchen after his family moved there when he was six years old. He is unbeaten in 29 professional fights with the only smudge on his record being a draw with Albert Sosnowski back in 2009.

It's fair to say that 28-year-old Pianeta hasn't ever shared the ring with another top heavyweight, at least not one still within his sell-by-date. He did sneak past former world champion 48-year-old Oliver McCall on points last year and then laboured to another points win over Francois Botha in his next outing. The average age of his last three opponents is 42.

Regardless of all the negativity, this fight is receiving, Pianeta does have one distinct advantage over some of Klitschko's other recent victims. Mariusz Wach, Jean-Marc Mormeck and David Haye had never sparred with Klitschko and so would never have felt a neck-wrenching jab from "Dr Steelhammer" until they were in the ring and under the bright lights of the arena.

By then it's too late. "He knows what he's getting himself into and that's why he's confident that he can win this fight. That's what's going to make this fight a good one," says Klitschko's trainer and fellow heavyweight boxer, Johnathon Banks.

Klitschko manager Bernd Boente also believes his champion will be suitably tested on Saturday night. "Pianeta is a very good and tough opponent. He is undefeated and almost the same height as Wladimir and we know that he's a tough cookie. That's the reason why Wladimir has so many very good sparring partners."

Klitschko is the 'Super Champion' at the World Boxing Association (WBA) whilst Russian powerhouse Alexander Povetkin is their 'Regular Champion'. It's very confusing for the casual boxing fan but it basically means there are two champions at the same sanctioning body and to find out who is the best, they have to fight each other.

 The WBA ordered this intruiging clash to happen before August 31st this year. Last week the purse bid was won with a massive $23 million offer from Hryunov Promotions, Povetkin's management team, after K2 (Klitschko's promoter) and Sauerland (Povetkin's promoter) failed to reach an agreement.

Klitschko elected to keep active by taking on Pianeta in a voluntary defence of his titles. "I decided to fight in May because I'm a busy fighter and I want to stay busy and I cannot wait until the negotiations with Sauerland [are agreed]," said Klitschko who also spoke of his unhappiness at the timing of the purse bid.

"It looks like I'm looking past him [Pianeta] already before the fight which is not OK but it's not my decision. It's not my call I'm just following the rules and I'm not going to be distracted. I have a great team of managers who are going to take care of it."

The fight with unbeaten 33-year old Povetkin, who is the 2004 Olympic gold medalist, will most likely be held in Russia with Klitschko receiving a whopping 75 per cent of the purse, and will be the first major test for Klitschko since winning the WBA belt by beating David Haye on points in 2011.

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