Boxing: Haye has the mouth but does Klitschko have the stomach?
Heavyweight mega-fight is finally on the cards while an early Haye victim tries to stage a comeback
Few are big, brave or foolhardy enough to call Wladimir Klitschko a liar. Certainly not from this corner. Yet there is little doubt that the recurrence of the "abdominal strain" which last week brought about the cancellation of the WBO, IBF and IBO heavyweight champion's already once-postponed defence against Dereck Chisora is not only inconveniently gut-wrenching for the unbeaten British champion but happily convenient for Chisora's fellow Londoner David Haye.
While Chisora has spent the week haggling over compensation for the £200,000 purse he would have earned, Haye, the WBA champion, has been concluding negotiations – via some typically trademark insults – for a much-awaited match-up worth at least 100 times that figure after gate and TV receipts are totted up.
Medics will tell you that stomach and back injuries are the hardest to diagnose and dispute, so we have to take Klitschko's word for it, in all four of his languages. Oddly, it was supposedly a back problem that caused Haye to pull out of an original date with Klitschko back in 2009. Wladimir cast aspersions on that excuse, just as Chisora does now.
What I can say is that when I sat down with the Ukrainian in Abu Dhabi last month at the Laureus Awards, chatting for half an hour, he was the picture of health. He spoke of his intense distrust of Haye, who he believed was ducking him, and talked up his meeting with Chisora. No mention of any lingering injury. Indeed he certainly seemed to have the stomach for that fight.
For some weeks the gym gossip has been that Haye was insisting on Klitschko calling off the Chisora pot-boiler, scheduled for Mann-heim in 30 April, as a pre-requisite for any prospective fight between the pair.
If this mega-fight happens – and let's not be too hasty in assuming there will be no further twists in the saga – doubtless we will be subjected to more tone-lowering verbosity from the Hayemaker. It is to be hoped that the Board of Control will warn him to curb some of the more distasteful bad-mouthing, although Haye – appealingly charismatic as he may be – now seemsto see himself as the Fergie of the fightgame, oblivious to laws applicable to ordinary mortals.
There are many in boxing envious of Haye's good fortune. None has more reason to be so than Enzo Maccarinelli, the Welshman who lost out big time three years ago this month when he was flayed by Haye in two rounds in a world cruiserweight title unification bout. This proved the launching pad for Haye's lucrative excursion into the heavyweight division, while a telling illustration of the vicissitudes of the sport is Maccarinelli's subsequent nosedive towards oblivion.
Both are now aged 30, but whereas Haye talks of retiring to head for Hollywood in October, Maccarinelli's next engagement will be down the bill in an eight-rounder at light-heavyweight. Despite three critical stoppage losses in his seven fights since the Haye defeat, he refuses to contemplate quitting, even though his promoter, Frank Warren, has twice urged him to do so, offering him a job in his organisation.
But Maccarinelli, who is described by Haye as "one of boxing's gentlemen", has declined to heed the advice, pointing out that between defeats he did become the European champion. "Retirement has never entered my head," he said. "Look, if I had been beaten up, it might have been different. But I have never taken a real hiding."
He added: "There's all this talk about me being chinny, but if you look at the punches that have floored me they've come from my own mistakes, a sudden rush of blood to the head. No one has ever beaten me up.
"In my last fight [blasted out in the seventh round by the German Alexander Frenkel] I was hit with a punch that would have KO'd most heavyweights, but I got up."
Although he has a family of five to support, he said: "I don't need the money – I've got a few bob. But boxing is in my blood. It's what I do. I love the sport, you see."
So he is returning to work with boxing's other Enzo, the trainer Calzaghe, father of Joe, and says moving down to light-heavyweight will suit him, just as moving up to heavyweight brought out the best in Haye. "I had my chance in the fight with Haye, but I didn't take it. Insteadhe took his. That's boxing. I certainlydon't envy him. I wish him luck."
Many believe Haye will need it in a bout scheduled for 25 June or 2 July, almost certainly in Germany. Mechanical he may be but Klitschko, as classy out of the ring as he is inside it, is by far the worthiest heavyweight Haye will have faced.
Haye talks of taking on bigger brother Vitali instead, should Wladimir's tummy trouble recur. But Vitali must first get past the toughest opponent – on paper – he has met since Lennox Lewis beat him on cuts eight years ago. He fights the Miami-based Cuban Odlanier Solis, undefeated in 17 fights, in Cologne on Saturday, a hazardous assignment for the 6ft 8in WBC champion, who is now nudging 40.
Solis, the No 1 contender, is big and strong, and has a jab almost as solidly effective as Klitschko's own nose-splattering paw. One who can testify to that is the man Solis, the 1994 Olympic champion, stoppedin three rounds in 2001 when winning the first of his three world amateur championship titles. Name of David Haye.
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