RING IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko will face former sparring partner Francesco Pianeta, an unbeaten southpaw was born in Italy, on May 4 at The SAP-Arena in Mannheim, Germany, The Associated Press is reporting.
The fight will be televised on EPIX in the U.S.
Klitschko (59-3, 50 knockouts) is coming off November’s unanimous decision victory over challenger Mariusz Wach (27-1, 15 KOs), who later admitted to having used an unidentified performing enhancing drug in advance of their fight.
Klitschko, who turns 37 on March 25, has twice faced Tony “The Tiger” Thompson, a southpaw fighter of similar stature to the 6-foot-5 Pianeta. Klitschko weighed a career-high 249 pounds when he stopped Thompson in the sixth round in July of last year.
That fight was a rematch of their first clash in July of 2008, when a 241-pound Klitschko scored an 11th-round knockout of a 247 1/2 pound Thompson.
“I have great respect for Francesco Pianeta, he is young  and is an uncomfortable southpaw to face,” said Hamburg-based Klitschko, according to a report in The Bangkok Post.
“Plus he has a strong fighting spirit. Pianeta will do everything to achieve his goals. I have been warned and will be preparing very hard with my team.”
Klitschko will be fighting for the second time since the death of former trainer Manny Steward on October of 25 at the age of 68. Chief sparring partner Johnathon Banks, at Steward’s urging before he passed, served as trainer for the fight against Wach.
Born in Italy, but having lived in Germany since the age of 6, Pianeta battled to a draw with former contender Albert Sosnowski in April of 2009, and earned 10-round unanimous decisions over former titleholder Oliver McCall and former contender Frans Botha in May and September of last year, respectively.
Pianeta is coming off first-round knockout of Nelson Dario Dominguez in November.
“I was in Wladimir’s camp as a sparring partner last year,” said Pianeta, who weighed 243 for his last fight. “I saw his weaknesses and will use them. I know many experts see me as the underdog but I like this role and will shock the boxing world when I knock out Klitschko.”
A cancer survivor, Pianeta underwent surgery in early 2010 following a unanimous-decision triumph over Evgeny Orlov in December of 2009.
Pianeta returned to the ring with a first-round stoppage of Mike Middleton in December of 2010, and will be in his eighth fight since overcoming the disease.
Photo by KMG Management
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]