David Haye will fight Wladimir Klitschko next April or May for a purse in excess of £20m in a contest that is possibly the only salvation for boxing's heavyweight division after the latest disaster.
On Saturday night just under 20,000 people watched the very public humiliation of fallen idol Audley Harrison in Manchester as Haye's fists finally ended the tragic spectacle after 1:53 of the third and last round of Harrison's career.
It was not an unexpected outcome to the World Boxing Association championship bout but the sorry fight unfolded like a slow and inevitable execution with Harrison once again unable to overcome his fears and deliver on any of his words.
Harrison left the ring immediately the débâcle was over to chants from the crowd of: "You're shit and you know you are." It was, admittedly, a disgraceful effort by a challenger in a title fight but, at the same time, it was impossible not to feel a huge degree of sadness for 2000 Olympic champion as he walked away surrounded by his devoted family. As final ignominious exits go, it will take some beating.
Haye never wasted a single punch, and ignored the sell-out crowd's boos for two rounds before ending the fight with his first attack.
It needs to be pointed out that bigger mismatches involving greats like Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis and Joe Frazier have hurt the sport as much in the past but this fight was under an unusually heavy degree of scrutiny at a time when the heavyweight division so desperately needs a hero. However, when Ali, Lewis, Frazier and Louis met bums it was established that at some point very soon after their callous adventures they would have a real fight, and that is what separates modern boxing from its glorious history.
"I knew it would be the third round," said Haye. "I promised to get rid of Audley to help the public out and that is what I have done. Now it is Klitschko time and we are getting closer to doing a deal; it will be done."
A deal was done last year for Haye to fight Wladimir Klitschko, the younger of the two towering Ukrainians who hold versions of the world heavyweight title, but it collapsed and instead Haye won the WBA belt. Haye, by the way, was due to make about £1m last June and had agreed to surrender three options to get the chance, which is a fact or two that is conveniently neglected by people when they accuse Haye of running scared.
It is a time-dishonoured boxing tradition for fighters to avoid each other until they are forced to the table. It is not an invention of Haye and other modern champions. Now the London fighter and his trainer and business partner Adam Booth can sit down with the Klitschkos and their razor-sharp manager Bernd Boente and reach an agreement for a bout that will generate a small fortune, and should reward both boxers with millions more than last year's failed outing. Amazingly, Haye and Booth are often still criticised for not taking last year's contest.
"We will fight Haye at the venue which offers the most money – in Germany, at Wembley Stadium, in Abu Dhabi or Dubai," said Boente, who had previously stated that Germany was the only venue. "The deal is now 50-50 with no options but still Haye has not signed."
Haye is temporarily reluctant because his TV revenue from Sky's pay-per-view arm is far in excess of the figure that the Klitschko brothers can generate on German TV. "It is the problem," admitted Boente about the shortfall, which is more than countered by viewing figures in excess of 17m in Germany.
"Haye wants to keep 100 per cent of his British TV money and he wants us to keep 100 per cent of the German money. We want it all to be collected and then divided 50-50."
The pay-per-view revenue from Saturday's fight is thought to be about £11m. A Klitschko fight would be double that figure and that means the negotiations will continue until a compromise is reached.
"We are getting very, very close and I believe that it will happen," said Booth. "David has won the title, he's made a couple of defences, the interest in a Klitschko fight is higher than ever – it's everything that I told you it would be. Now, we can make the fight."
Boente believes that it can be made by Christmas and Booth is willing to start talking again. The sooner they sit down and the sooner a date and venue is found the better it will be for everybody who follows boxing.
The heavyweight division needs a Haye and Klitschko fight right now possibly more than it has ever needed any fight and, hopefully, a deal can be agreed soon to avoid any repeat of Saturday night.
Pacquiao shows class
Manny Pacquiao cemented his place among boxing's greats by recording a unanimous points victory over Antonio Margarito on Saturday to claim the vacant WBC super-welterweight title.
The 31-year-old landed an eighth world title in a unique eighth weight class. "It was a really hard fight, the hardest fight in my boxing career," he said after his 13th consecutive winning bout.