It's not ideal, but Chagaev-Klitschko could be intriguing
What a muddled mess the heavyweight division has become. Four recognized titles. Five, if you count
Promoters battling other promoters. Managers battling networks. It is getting to the point where fans need a scorecard just to keep up with the wars that are being waged outside the ring. The latest example of heavyweight nonsense involves
And that's where the fun begins.
I'll be covering more of this in a future issue of
Haye is overrated. Period. He's a 6-foot-3, 215-pound bloated cruiserweight with a glass jaw who scored a multi-million dollar payday because he is a superb self-promoter.
Think about it: Haye has four wins against heavyweights (his most notable being a fifth-round KO of the immortal
Chagaev is legit. In 2007, he won the WBA title when he halted
Allow me to clarify. Chagaev has Hepatitis B. Or, more specifically, the antigens present in Hepatitis B. It's why the Finnish Boxing Federation pulled the plug on the Valuev fight at the last minute. Now, Klitschko doesn't seem worried about the possibility of infection. His manager,
But Boente and the German doctors seem to be the only ones unconcerned with Chagaev's condition. The simple fact is that there are very few places in the world that Chagaev could get licensed to fight. Not in Finland. Not in Great Britain. And certainly not in the United States, whose boxing commissions are as cautious with Hepatitis as they are with HIV.
"Absolutely not," said Dr.
Based on my reporting, I think Klitschko is taking a significant and unnecessary risk. But if he is going to take it then ...
It's interesting that we are discussing this because HBO has been "The Klitschko Network" when it comes to boxing, having televised 16 of his fights. I understand the network's reasons for passing. It had its heart set on Haye. It liked his charisma and thought he could be marketed to the American public.
HBO doesn't feel that way about Chagaev. Not with less than two weeks to promote him. They don't think Joe The Plumber and his buddies are going to tune in on a Saturday afternoon to watch Klitschko fight a Russian no one has ever heard of. Not under optimal circumstances and certainly not with the looming possibility of
Money is also a factor. HBO has allocated millions for their fall boxing lineup. It's looking into putting on shows featuring
But I think HBO is making a mistake. If the WBA -- which makes more questionable decisions than
Besides, there are no guarantees that Haye will get another shot. After fighting Chagaev, Klitschko is contractually obligated to fight a mandatory challenger for one of his titles, probably IBF No. 1 contender
Not for nothing, but the European fans don't seem to be bothered by Chagaev. According to Boente, of the roughly 60,000 tickets that were sold for the fight, only eight were returned after Chagaev was announced as a replacement. Not 800. Not 80.
I think American boxing fans feel the same. Does Haye's mouth, and the likelihood that Klitschko would dramatically and emphatically shut it, have the possibility of exciting the average fan more than Chagaev's technical skills? Absolutely. But by promoting the fight as a battle of champions and emphasizing what is at stake, HBO would still have drawn a healthy audience. Or at least as many as they did when Klitschko demolished
Fortunately, it's looking like ESPN will be picking up the fight and broadcasting it -- either on the flagship network or ESPN Classic. The Klitschkos are all about exposure and they have no desire to make a quick buck by putting the fight on an obscure Pay-Per-View. But it's unfortunate that HBO, which does a terrific job with its broadcasts, won't be a part of it.