Boxing: Klitschko has Haye in his sights

WBC champion throws down gauntlet to Briton after easy defence of title
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The Independent Online

It was predictable business as usual for World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko in Switzerland on Saturday night when his latest American challenger arrived in the ring without a plan, any heart and just the tiniest bit of desire.

Klitschko and his younger brother Wladimir own four versions of the world heavyweight title, and during the last five years they have met a seemingly endless list of American heavyweights, who came and failed miserably and will certainly not be missed.

Kevin Johnson added his name to the roll call of shame in Berne when he lost every single second of every round, and fought such a dismal fight from the opening bell that in another era his money would have been at risk. Two of the three judges made Klitschko win every round, but one of the judges actually scored a round in Johnson's favour, which is a total disgrace.

"It is simply not good enough to prepare for a fight and then to get in the ring and act like you are surprised that Klitschko is hard to hit," said David Haye's trainer Adam Booth. "David never even bothered to watch the fight live – we know both Klitschko brothers better than they know themselves."

Johnson took one step forward on the first bell and then spent the next 36 minutes on the ropes, calling in Klitschko, smiling, smirking and talking as the methodical veteran banged away with his customary arm punches. Johnson arrived in the ring after a week of boasts but flicked out his punches like an old man pushing away a nasty smell, and with just nine quick wins in 23 fights there was no chance that he would hurt Klitschko. It has to be said that Klitschko looks bad whenever opponents remain upright, and Johnson became only the second man in 39 victories to hear the final bell. Johnson finished without a mark on his face and with plenty in the tank, and at the fight's conclusion he even had the cheek to push Klitschko and his handlers away in a pathetic display of bad sportsmanship.

"Johnson was tough and took a lot of good punches," said Klitschko, which is nearly true. "Now, I have to look at Haye and his people – we will find out if he wants to have a real fight; we will find out if there is more than just words."

However, before Haye, who holds the World Boxing Association version, can share a ring with either of the Klitschko brothers there are some very real obstacles in the shape of Eddie Chambers – perhaps the last and only American heavyweight worthy of his inheritance – Russian Alexander Povetkin and Cuban Odlandier Solis. Wladimir defends his three titles against Chambers in March and then has to fight Povetkin, and Vitali could be forced into fighting Solis, who beat Haye in the final of the world amateur championships in 2001.

"David has the [John] Ruiz fight to look forward to in the first half of 2010," continued Booth. "We are both looking at openings for future fights. There is more to the heavyweight division than the Klitschko brothers and we are not going to be held to ransom by their excessive demands."

It is unlikely that Johnson will be the last American challenger to cry his way through the national anthem and then fight like a pacifist in a world heavyweight title fight. His timid display only reinforces the belief by many in the boxing business that Haye has the opportunity to restore both respect and excitement to a division that has become a one-trick two-punch pony off the back of too many champions from eastern Europe.