Klitschko, known as Dr Steelhammer, was due to face Alexander Povetkin, but a training injury ruled the Russian out and former world champion Rahman from the United States has stepped in as a replacement.
But along with his brother and WBC champion Witali, the Klitschko brothers from Kiev aim to dominate the heavyweight division and Vladimir says he has big plans for next year. “I can promise that in 2009 there will be a spectacular combination fight,” said Vladimir who has his WBO and IBF titles on the line against Rahman.
Between them the brothers hold four world titles and the obvious target is the WBA belt. Russian giant Nikolai Valuev will defend the WBA heavyweight crown against Evander Holyfield in Zurich on December 20. The winner of the Holyfield-Valuev fight which must then face ex-world champion Ruslan Chagaev in the new year and whichever of the three ends up with the WBA title is sure to be offered a fight against one of the Klitschko brothers.
But any talk of world domination would be deemed irrelevant if Rahman creates another upset. The 36-year-old pulled off the boxing shock of the year in 2001 when he knocked out reigning WBC, IBF and IBO champion Lennox Lewis in the fourth round of their fight in South Africa. Lewis won the re-match and although Rahman later won the WBC crown he lost it to Oleg Maskaev.
“Rahman is probably stronger than Povetkin,” said Klitschko’s coach Emanuel Stewart. In the Klitschko camp, where the champion has won 51 of his 54 professional fights with 45 knock-outs, nobody doubts the quality of the substitute from Baltimore. And Rahman, who has won 45 fights with 36 knock-outs and lost six times, used just one word to predict when Saturday’s fight will end, “early”, meaning it would be Klitschko pole-axed on the canvas.
The champion, who holds the IBF, WBO and IBO titles, has spent six weeks in Majorca preparing for the fight and was also predicting an early finish. “I expect a tight fight, because it is probably Rahman’s last chance for the title. But I will win, as early and as unambiguously as I can.”