Boxing: Klitschko challenges 'coward' Haye to agree heavyweight date

Vladimir Klitschko issued a "fight me" ultimatum to heavyweight rival David Haye yesterday, saying the Briton, who has twice pulled out of bouts against the Ukrainian and his brother, Vitali, should stop running from him.

"Don't be a coward. David, twice you cancelled against the Klitschko brothers [last year]. But now the time has come," said the IBF, IBO and WBO champion, whose brother Vitali holds the WBC crown, in a video message posted on his website.

"In the name of all boxing fans I officially challenge you to fight me," the Ukrainian said. "You cannot keep running away from me. I am ready so what are you waiting for?"

Haye retained his WBA title on 3 April after stopping American John Ruiz in the ninth round.

A Klitschko v Haye fight is the one many fans would like to see given that the two brothers will not fight each other. Haye pulled out of a scheduled fight with Vladimir last year, citing an injury, although it was more a case of the two sides and their promoters failing to reach a deal.

A Haye-Vitali Klitschko match also failed to materialise although the Briton, with a record of 24-1-0, said after the Ruiz fight that he would like to take on either of the Klitschkos.

Vladimir retained his belts with a knockout victory over Eddie Chambers last month while Vitali takes on European champion Albert Sosnowski of Poland for the WBC crown at the end of next month.