Haye, Klitschko match-up looms
A TERRIBLE shortage of decent and marketable heavyweight contenders means that David Haye's return to the ring next March in Germany against Vitali Klitschko is almost certain. If the Americans could produce a big man with potential, then Haye would be looking at David Beckham's house this morning, trust me.
Haye quit boxing last month for a career in Hollywood but, before the smoke from the candle on his retirement cake had vanished, a deal was being put together by a cabal of negotiators in five different countries. In boxing, whenever somebody involved with a fighter tells you that "there are no talks" it is the equivalent of a player kissing the badge, or a fat-faced chairman endorsing a manager.
Vitali is the eldest and far more volatile and lethal of the two fighting brothers; he has never hidden his desire to fight Haye and has been restrained in public several times. In 2008 the pair had a bit of a wrestling match one night at a restaurant and their open animosity towards each other is in stark contrast to the pantomime theatrics between Haye and Wladimir, the younger, smarter and more diplomatic brother.
The Esprit Arena in Düsseldorf, home of Fortuna Düsseldorf, is on alert, with 3 March the probable date, and a crowd in excess of 60,000 being suggested by the covert men holding talks. The capacity for football is just under 55,000 and with the pitch packed with seats, the 60,000 figure is realistic. Wladimir beat nice-guy Eddie Chambers at the venue in front of over 50,000 in March last year, and fights there again next month.
Both the Klitschko brothers are running out of fighters that they can do a deal with and even the patience of the understanding German fans is starting to wear a bit thin. The pair have enjoyed staggering success on TV and at the box office but they are now left to fight each other's victims in a cycle of predictable nights. Haye, while being a victim of Wladimir from this summer, remains the only serious attraction at the box office and since his retirement both brothers have issued challenges. As Haye has said: "What's that all about? I get beat by one and then they start calling me out? Madness." Well, it's not so mad when the money is safely banked.
One alternative for both brothers is the accomplished but low-key Russian Alexander Povetkin, an Olympic champion from 2004. He owns the WBA portion of the heavyweight carnival and has the mind-set to cause real problems.
However, Kalle Sauerland, who is part of German boxing's most powerful dynasty, promotes him, and the ferocity and intransigence at the negotiating table will probably stop a fight happening. "The Klitschko brothers do not want to fight Povetkin. It's that simple," lamented Kalle.
The real problem is that a 10-year famine of good, big fighting men from America has shifted the heavyweight landscape away from big nights in New York, Atlantic City and Las Vegas to even bigger nights at different football clubs in Germany. The hitless wonders from America have been an insult to watch in recent title fights against the Klitschko brothers; their failings have directly led to Haye getting back in the ring.
Haye fills a void with his promise, cheap talk and looks, and that is a simple fact, even if officially nobody from his team has spoken to anybody from the opposite team. I love the pantomime of boxing denials, but reports that Russell Grant is the camp insider are not true.