ARD, RTL fight over heavyweight bout

Pubcasters get in the ring over boxing rights

The battle for the world’s heavyweight boxing championship may turn out to be nothing compared to the slugfest between pubcaster ARD and rival RTL over the rights to a fight between two world-champion boxers.

ARD, which has helped turn boxing into a popular TV sport in Germany with regular coverage, wants to air a fight between German-based Russian boxer Nikolay Valuev, who is the World Boxing Assn. champion, and German-based Ukrainian boxer Wladimir Klitschko, who holds the rival Intl. Boxing Federation and Intl. Boxing Union heavyweight belts.

But RTL signed an exclusive e10 million ($12.8 million) deal in August for Klitschko’s next four fights.

“The contract with Wladimir is not anything to sneeze at,” said Manfred Loppe, RTL’s sports boss. “Boxing is an important sport in our program. We’re not going to give up.”

But boxing promoter Wilfried Sauerland said Valuev, known as the “Beast From the East” because he is 7 feet tall and weighs 330 pounds, would fight only on ARD.

“We’ve been working toward a (title) unification fight for the last year,” Sauerland said. “Yes, we want this fight. But only on ARD.”

Nearly 1 million viewers (a 51% market share) watched RTL at 4 a.m. on Sunday when Klitschko knocked out American Calvin Brock in New York in a title defense.

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