By David Finger
Judging from HBO’s recent treatment of the heavyweight division, you’d think boxing’s glamor division has been in a serious slump for several years, despite the fact that the reigning IBF/WBO/IBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (54-3, 48 KOs) is so clearly a class above almost every contender in the division. Since winning the IBF title back in 2006 from Chris Byrd, he has arguably not lost a single round against the eight fighters he’s defended his title against, and even his harshest critics admit that he could easily continue that streak of dominance for several more years.
But it’s not so much that fact that he’s so dominant that has some boxing fans writing off the division. It’s the manner in which he has been winning lately, with some critics considering him to be to “safety first” against clearly overmatched opponents. But if there is one thing that could give the division and the sport a much needed shot of adrenaline, it is a legitimate grudge match between Klitschko and the only fighter in the world who doesn’t share his last name and who is widely perceived as possibly his only serious threat: David Haye. And although a unification fight seems like a no-brainer, it is already emerging as quite possibly the most heated heavyweight rivalry since Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield.
“I want to wipe Haye out of the ring,” Klitschko said to Fightnews with noticeable anger and contempt, “I care about the punishment in the fight for David Haye. The best scenario is like the Chambers fight. I want to punish him for twelve rounds and then knock him out. But I don’t think I can wait, If I see the opportunity to knock him out at I’m going to do it.”
Klitschko admitted to Fightnews that not only has Haye gotten under his skin, but he has emerged as the most despised fighter he’s ever encountered.
“Whatever you call it, under my skin, it’s enough bullshitting from David Haye and his side, and I think now is the time to make it,” Klitschko stated, “I made it clear in the message I posted online, I want David Haye’s title, and I want to beat this ‘bitching out’ person in the ring.”
Many boxing fans have already seen the now infamous clip of Wladimir Klitschko challenging the WBA champion in harsh and at times profane words; it proved as shocking as it was effective, showing a different side of the Germany-based Ukrainian champion. The clip was featured on Fightnews and in the two days since it was posted on YouTube it had garnered nearly half a million views. The video itself has created more buzz in the division than any of the title fights this year, but there remains one unanswered question: will Haye accept the challenge?
“I made it as clear as possible, I used social media so it came direct from me and not the promoters,” Klitschko stated, “I just had enough of David Haye’s bullshit for a year and a half, and I laid back, but that’s enough now. Actions speak louder than words. Now we’ll see how scared David Haye is.”
Klitschko also made it clear that he believed that David Haye had ducked him in the past, and has not put it past the WBA champ to come up with an excuse to avoid fighting him.
“No doubt he avoided me, Sorry to call him a liar. But I was relying on his word. Then two weeks before (the scheduled Wladimir Klitschko-Haye fight) he bitched out and claimed he had a back injury, and then asked for two more weeks. And then four more weeks, and then six more weeks. Then he made an excuse for not fighting Vitali, saying the contract was bad. It was the same contract he signed with me! That’s why I just can’t trust this guy. He’s dishonest.”
For many boxing fans it is refreshing to see the heavyweight champion show a meaner, edgier side. But some insiders are wondering if he is falling into Haye’s trap. Most felt that Klitschko was too cautious and defensive in his last several fights, and many are wondering if the raw emotion that Klitschko is displaying could lead him into a fight that would benefit that smaller, but hard hitting, Haye.
“I have my strength, forty-eight fighters out of fifty-three that I faced ended up either sitting on the stool or being knocked out. David Haye is going to be one of those guys. I will knock him out. I will knock this mo-fo out!”
A tasteless T-shirt that Haye was recently spotted wearing created an uproar with many boxing fans (it featured Haye with the severed heads of both Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko), but it appears that it had the desired effect.
“It’s just not acceptable to represent himself with two (severed) heads and then not to take the fight, but just to promote himself. I think he’s obnoxious and I don’t like how he walks and how he talks.”
Klitschko also considered his plan-B if the Haye fight fails to materialize, a fight with long-time #1 contender Alex Povetkin. Although Povetkin is not widely recognized by American fight fans, he is widely regarded as the best undefeated heavyweight in the world and long overdue for a title fight. A Haye fight will require another postponement for the #1 contender. When asked why that fight hasn’t occurred yet, Klitschko pointed the finger squarely in Povetkin’s camp.
“If David Haye keeps bitching, then I have to fight Povetkin,” Klitschko stated, “But we have another problem in which is that Povetkin is not ready. His coach is saying he’s not ready. Two years ago we had an opportunity and they say he’s not ready. Now he is still not ready? How much time does he need?”
Although Klitschko has been getting a fair share of criticism in the last few years, there is little question that he has been dominant. And Klitschko feels that much of the criticism is somewhat unwarranted.
“Eddie Chambers and Sultan Ibragimov are similar fighters,” Klitschko pointed out, “after four rounds they gave up with their strategy and were just playing safe. If you try to knock out a fighter who is just playing it safe it is very difficult. If a fighter is just playing safe, then any fight is going to be boring. That’s why I got into the conversation with Emanuel Steward in the last round. Emanuel was in the corner and told me I have to knock him out, I said, ‘Emanuel, Relax, I’m trying!’”
But for American boxing fans, it has been increasingly difficult to gauge his performances since his less than stellar decision over Sultan Ibragimov in February 2008 was his last US appearance and his most recent title fight against Eddie Chambers has not broadcast on any major cable network. HBO executive Ross Greenburg even made a comment that American boxing fans were having trouble telling the two Klitschko brothers apart, leading to a drop in ratings and interest from fans.
“It’s just about boxing and not about who looks alike or not,” Klitschko fired back, “and Vitali’s fight against Arreola had the highest rating on HBO of the year! It is difficult to comment on such things.”
Almost all boxing fans admit, however, that there is one heavyweight fight that could happen that would prove to be one of the most talked about and possibly exciting title fights in the division’s history. But for boxing fans it is no closer to happening.
“There is nothing that can make us fight,” Wladimir said about a possible Klitschko versus Klitschko matchup, “if the world goes down and only our fight can save the world then maybe we will fight each other, otherwise not.”