Haye jumps the gun but not the queue in Klitschko race

David Haye23.12.08 - By Ben Carey - David Haye’s announcement that he is set to challenge Vitali Klitschko for the WBC heavyweight title next June may have been premature.

“I was out in Germany to watch Wladimir Klitschko bore everybody to sleep with his jab (in witnessing Wladimir’s seventh round stoppage win over Hasim Rahman). We agreed terms for myself and Vitali at a London venue to be decided. The fight is going to happen in June. It's all done and dusted, just need to dot the i's and cross the t's,” claimed Haye at the beginning of last week.

Dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s could be more problematic than Team Haye envisaged. The WBC’s mandatory contender, Juan Carlos Gomez, subsequently issued a statement warning Haye to “keep your hands off Vitali: he’s mine” instructing Haye instead to target reigning WBO and IBF champion Wladimir Klitschko before eventually meeting Gomez in a unification clash down the road (assuming both Gomez and Haye are successful in defeating the Klitschkos).

To complicate matters further, reports are circulating that WBC president Jose Sulaiman has since confirmed that former WBC champion Oleg Maskaev will be first in line to meet the Klitschko-Gomez winner within 120 days (or 180 in extenuating circumstances) of the fight taking place. Vitali has been ordered to defend against Gomez by April 30 2009, with a potential extension allowed to no later than June 30.

Should the WBC honour its rules (by no means a certainty in Boxing’s murky waters), it seems unlikely that Klitschko would relinquish his WBC title to fight Haye, despite his growing dislike of the Engishman provoked by a picture appearing in a magazine showing a photograph of Haye with the (superimposed) decapitated head of Vitali’s brother Wladimir.

Vitali owes the WBC a debt of gratitude after it designated him as “WBC Champion Emeritus” following his initial retirement due to a serious knee injury in December 2005. This bizarre ruling saw Klitschko instated as the WBC’s mandatory challenger upon his return to the ring which saw him regain his title by stopping Samuel Peter in his first fight back following a near four year absence in October.

Therefore, Haye may have to wait at least 12 months for a crack at the WBC title unless he can persuade both Gomez and Maskaev to step aside so Klitschko can accommodate him first. If not, Team Haye could return their focus towards Wladimir Klitschko, as originally planned. Wladimir has to fit in a mandatory IBF title defence against Alexander Povetkin, previously scheduled for December 13 before Povetkin’s injury withdrawal, but may be granted until next Autumn to fulfill this obligation which would create an opening in his diary for a possible clash with Haye.

Former cruiserweight king Haye has made no secret of the fact that he wants his next fight to be a title shot against either one of the Klitschko brothers. Even in today’s mediocre heavyweight division, anyone who earns a title shot on the back of defeating faded veteran Monte Barrett can be considered fortunate.

Evander Holyfield, who failed in his quest to become a five-time world heavyweight champion against Nikolai Valuev at the weekend, had six fights at heavyweight before challenging Buster Douglas for the world title in 1990 after truly unifying the cruiserweight division. Holyfield’s opposition in this two-and-a-half year period included former WBC champion Pinklon Thomas (coming off his loss to Mike Tyson), former WBA champion Mike Dokes (once beaten and on an 11-fight winning streak) and the then undefeated contender Alex Stewart.

Haye’s desire to breathe new life into a dead division is both refreshing and commendable. However, he must hope that the size of his cheque book rather than the strength of his credentials tips the odds in his favour in the coming days.


Article posted on 23.12.2008

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