Boxing: Klitschko 'to fight brother' as Haye goes to back of queue
Family tear-up now on the cards but Londoner's big title chance has gone
Sunday 07 June 2009
Going is a breathtakingly picturesque village nestling in the Austrian Alps straight out of the Sound of Music. But the sound that emanated from the lips of Wladimir Klitschko in his five-star Tyrolean training camp one sunny evening last week would have had Julie Andrews covering her ears. The giant Ukrainian is eloquent in four languages but when he heard David Haye had pulled out of their scheduled world heavyweight title fight in Gelsenkirchen on 20 June, his one-word reaction was common to all of them. "Fuck!" he snapped.
The timing was as dramatic as the Alpine backdrop, for as Klitschko's German promoter, Bernd Boente, broke the news after taking a telephone call from Haye's training base in Cyprus, the 6ft 7in Klitschko was making the mind-boggling revelation that there is now a possibility he could fight his even bigger brother Vitaly to finally unite the heavyweight division. In the past the Klitschkos have always maintained they would never meet in the ring – "because our mother would go crazy".
But Wladimir now tells us: "We are going to talk to our mother again because we know how much interest such a fight would create and it would mean that one of us would be the supreme heavyweight champion. Of course she would not be happy and if we did fight I would be very worried about the health of my brother because it would be very bloody and very bad. We are very competitive and it would be for real. There would be no fix."
Who would win? Wladimir thought long and hard. "I am the better technical boxer but he is the stronger of the two. It would be interesting." Indeed. In the past, the brothers used to spar regularly but they no longer do so because the sessions became too fierce. Outside the ring, they are immensely loyal, exuding brotherly love and mutual support, each working in the other's corner when they fight. Intellectually and physically, if not fistically, (Wladimir has the bigger punch but the weaker chin) they are alike.
The sons of a former Soviet air force colonel, they have rarely been separated in their adult lives, both turning professional in 1996 after Wladimir had won an Olympic gold medal in Atlanta. Both are multi-lingual and hold doctorates in sports science and philosophy from the University of Kiev. As Wladimir, 33, admits, the 37-year-old Vitaly, who is a couple of inches taller, is the stronger and more accomplished, holding the more authentic WBC version of the heavyweight championship, while Wladimir has the lesser-regarded WBO, IBF and IBO belts he was due to defend against Haye. He is an engagingly witty man with a ready smile but his genial features darkened thunderously when he was told the Londoner had cried off – he looked for a moment as if he had already been stunned by the promised Hayemaker. Whether or not this would have happened before a 60,000 crowd at the FC Schalke stadium, we might never know, because there is now little doubt that Haye, who had asked for a three-week postponement while he has "aggressive physiotherapy" on a back injury, is now on the back-burner as far as Klitschko is concerned.
The Ukrainian has scant regard for the cocky cruiserweight champion, in the ring or out, and it seems he is more likely to go ahead on 20 June against the Uzbek Ruslan Chagaev the WBA champion who, by one of those odd quirks of boxing fate, is suddenly available after his own fight with another gargantuan heavyweight, Nikolay Valuev, the Russian seven-footer, was called off 24 hours beforehand in Helsinki last weekend when his blood test showed a mild form of hepatitis. Apparently he has been passed fit by the German Boxing Federation. Then Klitschko must make a mandatory defence against another Russian, Alexander Povetkin, in September, so Haye has to return to the back of a long queue of contenders.
To add insult to Haye's injury he has had his knuckles rapped by the British Boxing Board of Control for the tasteless episode in the build-up to the fight when he wore a T-shirt displaying the decapitated heads of the Klitschko brothers and labelled Wladimir "Bitchko". The Board – who acted quickly to heavily fine and impose a four-month suspension on another British heavyweight, Derek Chisora, after an ear-biting incident in his last fight – warned Haye he faces disciplinary action if such incidents are repeated.
Soon after the bombshell hit the mountainside retreat, the hills were alive with the sound of rumour – that Haye's withdrawal may have something do with the financial troubles of Setanta, who were due to screen the fight exclusively and were underwriting his £950,000 purse. All vehemently denied of course. And a couple of hours in Wladimir's company convinces you Haye may have been stepping out of his league and in backing out, so to speak, has done himself a favour. There's been a lot going on in Going, but as for the Hayemaker it seems his big chance has gone.
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