England's David Haye, the former cruiserweight champion who taunted his way into a June 20 shot at unified heavyweight titleholder Wladimir Klitschko, pulled out of the fight on Wednesday, citing a hand injury in training.
The fighters were scheduled to meet in the 60,000-seat Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, where a sellout crowd was expected.
However, on Wednesday, Klitschko's manager Bernd Boente announced that he had been notified by Haye's trainer, Adam Booth, that the fighter had been injured and wouldn't be able to make the bout.
Boente made the surprise announcement during a news conference with British media visiting Klitschko's training camp in the Austrian Alps.
Klitschko would still like to fight on June 20 against a replacement opponent if an adequate one can be signed in time.
"We were told that he was injured, so Bernd has reached out to find out what the diagnosis is, to see how long Haye will be out and to see if we can reschedule," Shelly Finkel, Klitschko's adviser, told ESPN.com. "We are looking to see if there is something that can replace it or when we can reschedule the fight. Wladimir is upset because he would love to fight June 20."
At Wednesday's press event, Klitschko said he would consider an alternative opponent for that date.
"I've been waiting for David Haye for six months and I'm still determined to fight on June 20. We will now consider opponents," Klitschko was quoted as saying in England's Guardian newspaper. "I'm not one to throw garbage at a man who's down, although if it was the other way around I'm sure he would do this."
At recent news conferences promoting the fight, Haye wore T-shirts that portrayed him standing in the ring with the dismembered heads of Klitschko and his brother, fellow titleholder Vitali.
One possibility the Klitschko camp may explore is a match against fellow titleholder Nikolai Valuev, whose defense against Ruslan Chagaev scheduled for last Saturday in Finland was called off the night before because Chagaev tested positive for hepatitis B before the fight.
"He had a fight canceled and he had trained for it. The same thing with Wladimir," Finkel said. "Our first thing is to see when [the Haye fight] can be rescheduled, but we will look at Valuev and all other options."
Haye (22-1, 21 KOs) knocked out Enzo Maccarinelli in March 2008 to unify cruiserweight belts and then moved up to heavyweight. He knocked out Monte Barrett in the fifth round in November and then turned his attention to taunting the Klitschko brothers, saying he wanted to fight either of them. Wladimir Klitschko (52-3, 46 KOs), who has won 10 in a row and made six title defense, finally gave him the opportunity after weeks of difficult negotiations.
HBO was scheduled to televise the fight in the United States and hasn't decided what it will do now, Finkel said.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.