Another fine mess. Another bad day for boxing. David Haye and Wladimir Klitschko will, after all, not face each other in the first third of 2011 in a superfight which would, and could have generated 30 million pounds. Talks to stage the biggest heavyweight unification contest for almost a decade collapsing just as they were getting started. Broadcasters and dates we are told.
At the moment, it resembles two bald men fighting over a comb. Do they really want to fight each other ? Who’s calling who ? Let’s hope we are not getting Lennox Lewis-Riddick Bowe all over again. Those two never met, but they should have.
The two parties in question today have been unable to fix a date and a venue, we are told. Disgraceful. And based on greed. So instead, they will fight elsewhere, Klitschko, the WBA and IBF champion, against London heavyweight Dereck Chisora in Mannheim on April 30, and Haye – well – he now faces the prospect of a mandatory challenge from Ruslan Chagaev. But we’ll see about that. It is far from clear.
Rightly, Adam Booth, Haye’s manager and trainer, was incensed. Klitschko has chosen to fight the novice Chisora, who has 14 fights undefeated. He wants it, he’s game, but there is a huge gulf in class. Huge.
But there is history here between Haye/Booth and Boente/Klitschko. They are two stubborn teams. They both want the upper hand.
Haye has messed Klitschko about, in his rivals’ eyes, by pulling out of their proposed fight in 2009. The situation is different now, of course, as Haye did not hold one of the four main belts at that time. Klitschko had taken the fat from the fight. Haye had some lean. As I understand it, his purse was indeed lean. Broadcasters Setanta folding didn’t help.
There are mind games, as well as money games, going on here, though. The British boxing media will remember it well. We were sitting with Klitschko in his training hideout in Austria when he found out Haye was pulling out in that summer of 2009. We’d had two days with him; he was in a good place; he’s a good man – good company. He was also relishing putting the man who had swaggered around in a t-shirt depicting himself holding the severed heads of the Klitschko brothers, in his place.
A picture in Men’s Health Magazine showed that depiction. In a restaurant meeting with the Klitschko brothers in London, Haye is supposed to have tossed the magazine at Vitali to look at. There wasn’t a fight. But Vitali wanted one.
Back to Austria and that training camp. I was four feet from Klitschko at the moment when he found out - Boente breaking up an intimate interview with eight journalists to relay the news. We all - including Wladimir - thought Boente was kidding. He wasn’t. Wlasimir sat in silence. His face was ashen. Later that summer, Haye pulled out on his brother Vitali.
The Klitschko brothers manager Bernd Boente believes the Haye/Klitschko fight will still go ahead. Klitschko told boxing man Mike Marley in the US that they will meet and that a fight is planned for July 2. Booth doesn’t agree, though, and he vented his spleen yesterday. “There were lots of people that know Wladimir really didn’t want this fight yet. It’s a shame. It’s embarrassing for boxing that the unification fight isn’t going to happen now because David’s bent over backwards. We’ve conceded to every single ridiculous demand they made,” Booth told Sky Sports News. “From the start they said 50-50. David said fine, even though potentially we’re putting in the pot three or four times more than they’re putting into the pot because of pay-per-view Sky box office. David still said ‘let’s get the fight done 50-50’.
“They said the fight had to be on their German broadcaster even though our German broadcaster was prepared to pay more. We said fine. They said ‘we’re not coming to England for the fight’. David said ‘fine, I’ll go to Germany’. They said Wladimir has to be in the red corner, Wladimir has to come in second, Wladimir’s name has to be first on the poster and all these other ridiculous, egotistical things, and David said ‘fine, have it, just get him in the ring with me’.”
“The last thing was, here is the date we now have, we said yes, Sky have approved that date and they turn round and say ‘we’re now doing Chisora’. Wladimir should feel ashamed of himself.”
Maybe, but perhaps with a promoter Haye might have fared better. The problem is that he is beholden to Sky Box Office, who, I understand, have a Box Office date of April 30 for Amir Khan’s next contest. The policy behind Box Office events is to stagger them for the paying public. But it beggars the question as to why Sky can’t put Haye-Klitschko on the same event…There should be enough money to go around. It would be a tremendous event. Haye-Harrison certainly wasn’t. And that was a Box Office event.
It is unclear, tonight, against whom Haye, the WBA champion, will fight next, in spite of Chagaev, an Uzbeki, being the mandatory challenger. It is rumoured that he is unable to get a licence to fight in the UK because of a blood condition. I asked Chagaev’’s management team about that in Las Vegas in December – Chagaev’s promoters also have a deal with Marcos Maidana who was fighting Amir Khan out there – and they say that is not the case. They say Chagaev is not a carrier of Hepatitis.
There are other options. Valuev again, but who would want that ? Could Haye fight Vitali Klitschko first ? It’s possible, but there were no vital signs for that from these talks, nor was it suggested yesterday by either party.
The speed of the re-negotiated Klitschko-Chisora contest suggests there were too many complications going into the final push, and contingency plans had already been made. Groundhog day.
According to Boente, the rival teams had agreed on that 50-50 split of the revenue, but due to the conflicting schedules of RTL, the German terrestrial station which screens Klitschko’s contests, and Sky Box Office pay-per-view, the fight could not be finalised.
Boente, of course, believes the Klitschko-Haye showdown will eventually be made. But we have heard this before, and heavyweight boxing has again shot itself in the foot, unable to match two champions for a contest that should be made for the good of the sport.
In November Haye fought Audley Harrison in a contest full of bluff and hype, signifying little. The fight itself was much ado about nothing. Haye says he will be out of the sport come November. This sets those plans awry.
It begs many questions. Has Klitschko done this deliberately to scupper such a plan ? And who actually needs the unification fight the most ? Haye, or Klitschko ? By taking the Chisora fight, Klitschko is tacitly admitting he is in the sport for money, because Haye is his only real ruval out there. It could be as one-sided as Haye-Audley Harrison.
The longer this rumbles on, the less chance there will be of the fight taking place. The Klitschko Show went to America, and failed to capture the public’s imagination.
Perhaps it is time for a radical re-think. For Haye to forget 1-2-3 and out plan, and instead, to embed himself Stateside, and capture hearts and minds there ? HBO are known to like his style. Golden Boy, his US partners, are a formidable force.
Haye has many admirers within the boxing fraternity in the US. He has credible opponents there in the likes of Odlanier Solis and Tomas Adamek. If he were successful there, he has the looks and charisma to become a superstar. Go to the US, David Haye, and make your name...
Looks like Wlad stringed him along just to say no.