The final look before they went their separate ways was a death stare from Wladimir Klitschko to David Haye at the chaotic and memorable weigh-in yesterday for tonight's heavyweight fight in front of 60,000 people at the Imtech Arena, in a city that is in the clammy grip of boxing fever.
Klitschko appeared to stand on his toes when he stepped on the scales and for just a second even Haye looked impressed before getting close and whispering a few words. "I can't ever repeat what I said, it was deeply personal," he claimed. Klitschko appeared to say something over his vast left shoulder which his big brother Vitali heard just before he seemed to step forward with intent.
The British fans – some were spotted at 7am either getting in the queue early or getting in the queue at the end of another long Hamburg night – maintained a glorious chorus of comic, predictable, surreal and malicious abuse from the moment members of both boxers' swollen retinues took to their stage in their matching tracksuits.
"You're just a shit Ivan Drago, shit Ivan Drago..." they sang, referring to Dolph Lundgren's robotic character in Rocky IV. The noise was relentless and deserved a 5,000-seat theatre; why the event took place on the third floor of a vast sports shop in the centre of the city is a mystery. Hundreds, possibly thousands, failed to gain entry and on every floor the British fans, who were not lucky enough to be on the main floor, watched television screens and sang with the faithful a floor or two above. It was a clear sign that the Klitschko brothers, whose business empire is based in this city, had not considered the noisy and loyal presence of Haye's travelling fans.
"He thinks that the British fans hate me," said Haye. "He has convinced himself that nobody in Britain likes me or will be here to support me. He might be clever in a classroom, but he is not too smart."
No one heard or saw one Klitschko fan yesterday. The pair finally came face-to-face with their tops off and there was no contest in size and bulk; Klitschko was 30lb heavier and scaled 17st 5lb compared to Haye's 15st 3lb. There is very little to be read into the weights; Haye looks like he has worked on his upper body in an effort to help him escape Klitschko's clutches, but at the same time he has not surrendered any of his speed by coming in heavy.
"David is where I want him to be and he's where he needs to be," said Adam Booth, the man who has shaped and sculpted Haye from a cruiserweight three years ago into a real heavyweight.
Klitschko appeared calm enough throughout the weigh-in and the public selection of fight gloves, a ritual that always takes place in secret, but when he eventually left he was guided from the building down the escalators by his security to a renewed assault of songs. "Someone's looking nervous!" was bellowed out by the lingering Haye fans.
Wladimir is the cool brother and it is the more protective Vitali who appeared to get more agitated yesterday. "He knows what a 'wanker' is," commented one of the German journalists after a verse or two.
The first bell tonight for the biggest heavyweight fight since Lennox Lewis beat what was left of Mike Tyson in Memphis nine years ago will ring at about 10:30pm local time and then three years of goading, insults and negotiating will be over as the pair get to actually stop talking and start fighting. They also get to start making the massive purse, perhaps as much as £15m each, that they will leave town with.
Haye remains convinced that his speed, his fighting heart and his natural ability will be enough. However, in the stifling heat of yesterday's weigh-in the difference in size became as apparent as the difference in experience. Klitschko has been sharing the ring with heavier men than Haye since the European Junior Championships in 1993 and is equally certain that he will have an easy night dominating the British fighter before ending the fight in the last round. Haye will counter Klitschko's strengths with some dirty tactics when they are in the dreaded clinches.
It will likely be a fight decided by a split-second mistake, a lapse in intensity by one of the fighters, and then a single punch; Haye does acknowledge that if he is caught he will probably go over. Klitschko, however, refuses to even contemplate being knocked down, even in a fight that he wins. In Paris in 2007 Haye won the unified cruiserweight title when he stopped local idol Jean Marc Mormeck, but he was dropped and actually practised rolling on the floor to make sure that he never ended up flat on his back.
Tonight will be about preparation and the hours spent perfecting a winning tactic, a game plan that ruins the other guy's fight; Haye has a couple, but it is clear that Klitschko only has the one.
There is a chance that the mismatch in every single way – fights, weight, height – could have an alternative end.
Tale Of The Tape
David Haye / Wladimir Klitschko
30 / Age / 35
Bermondsey / Birthplace / Semipalatinsk
British / Nationality / Ukrainian
London / Residence / Kiev
2002 / Turned Pro / 1996
WBA / Titles / IBF, IBO, WBO
6ft 3in / Height / 6ft 6in
15st 3lbs / Weight / 17st 5lbs
78ins / Reach / 81ins
Orthodox / Stance / Orthodox
25 (23) / Wins (KOs) / 55 (49)
1 (1) / Losses (KOs) / 3 (3)Reuse content