They’ve packed up the bunting, the American and Ukrainian flags, and they sent the high school marching band marching. Despite the clamoring of their fans, despite the motions of their high-priced attorneys, despite the shenanigans of their advisor Shelly Finkel, despite their love affair with HBO, the Klitschko boys, Vitali and Wladimir, and the groundbreaking for their wing at Canastota has been put on ice until further notice.

This impasse is the result of Vitali’s unwillingness to abide by the rules of the organization whose belt he holds and fight the fighters he’s supposed to fight, or, failing that, fight the best opponents out there. Granted, the best opponents out there may not be the best heavyweights of all time, but they’re primed and they’re ready and they deserve their shot at the man regarded, at least in some shrinking circles, as the best big man on the planet.

But the heavyweight champ won’t give it up and fight.

He has taken the year off and may reluctantly return to action sometime in September against a to-be-named light touch. The presumed heir apparent to the likes of Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, et al, won’t be fighting Hasim Rahman, Lamon Brewster, Chris Byrd, John Ruiz or James Toney, all legitimate claimants to his throne. Klitschko will fight either Oleg Maskaev he of the weak whiskers or Calvin Brock a fighter with potential, the potential to get kayoed.

Even at the risk of being stripped of his title, even with WBC’s Jose Sulaiman, a friend of Don King but no friend of boxing, pleading and begging with Klitschko to fight the winner of the August 13 Hasim Rahman-Monte Barrett [both DKP fighters] bout for the good of boxing, Vitali is going to do it his way.

For those whose memories are short, Klitschko was supposed to fight Hasim Rahman on April 30, but a thigh injury he suffered while doing roadwork sidelined that fight. A second date was lined up, June 18, but Klitschko’s leg still ached, so a third date was penciled in for Klitschko-Rahman. That July 23 fight also failed to materialize, because Vitali’s original injury climbed up that big body of his and became a back injury needing minor surgery. Klitschko’s booboos kept on keeping on, derailing big fights, deep-sixing big paydays, raising big questions.

Vitali Klitschko whose big wins have been over Kirk Johnson, Corrie Sanders and Danny Williams three sorry one-sided fights in two years has revealed his plans for the future and they’re a slap in the face to those who respect the game. Boxing is about reaching up but Klitschko is reaching down and it has nothing to do with his height. Under the circumstances, the mandarins at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota have no choice but to cancel the coronation. HBO should follow suit.