Everything you need to know aboutthis weekend's big fight.
Wladimir Klitschko(left) meets David Haye on Saturday at Hamburg's Imtech Arena.(ZUMAPRESS.com)
Wladimir Klitschko of the Ukraine is fightingDavid Haye of Great Britain in a much-anticipated heavyweight titleunification bout onSaturday atImtech Arena in Hamburg, Germany (4:45 p.m. ET/1:45 p.m. PT, HBO).
Klitschko is the reigning IBF, WBO and Ringheavyweight champion, while Haye holds the WBA title. (Wladimir'sbrother, Vitali, is the WBC champion.)
The fight is widely regarded as the most significant bout in theheavyweight division since Lennox Lewis stopped Vitali Klitschko in2003 -- and could go a long way toward unifying the long-fracturedheavyweight title.
It's been more than seven years since Klitschkolost a fight. Over that span, the 35-year-old has emerged as thedominant force in the heavyweight division, taking on and defeating allcomers. Yes, the division hasn't exactly been overflowing with talentduring Klitschko's reign, but he's routinely fought the best of what'savailable.
Haye is a former cruiserweight champion who movedup to heavyweight in 2008 and immediately began harrying the Klitschkobrothers for a title shot. Without question, Haye is the best challengeavailable for either Klitschko brother, given theirunderstandable refusal to fight one another.
They were originally set to fight in Germany onJune 20, 2009. Haye pulled out 17 days before the fight with a backinjury, asking for a postponement that wasn't granted. (Klitschkofought Ruslan Chagaev instead.) Later that year, the London nativeabruptly backed out of talks for a fight wtih Vitali, fuelingspeculation he was ducking the Ukranian-born champs. Haye andWladimir have dancedaround one another in the two years since, with Haye outpointing7-footer Nikolay Valuev for the WBA title in the interim. Not untilKlitschko issued a public challenge via YouTubedid the sides come toterms for Saturday's fight.
A gifted trash talker, Haye is just the sort ofheadline-grabbingfigure the languishing division needs. He's worn the severed heads ofthe Klitschko brothers on a T-shirt, told writers he'd beat upJean-Marc Mormeck "like Rodney King" before a cruiserweight unificationbout, and infamously billed his November fight with Harrison as a"public execution" to be "as one-sided as a gang rape by a pack ofsilverback gorillas." (And he was right.) Should he win Saturday,Americans will love Haye or they'll hate him, but they won't ignorehim.
Under the watchful eyeof Hall of Fame trainer Emmanuel Steward, Klitschko has reinventedhimself as one of the great super heavyweights.
After winning the WBAtitle from Nikolai Valuev, Haye made his first defenseagainst John Ruiz, stopping the rugged vet inside the distance.
Klitschko, 35, enjoys advantages insize, weight and reach against nearly every opponent he faces, butthat's doubly true againstthe former cruiserweight. A decorated amateur and Olympic goldmedalist, he is a highly cerebral, intelligent fighter whosebiggest strength is a comprehensive understanding of his weaknesses.Klitschko's patient, obsessive brand of risk management may not winmany style contests but it's difficult to argue with the results.
Haye, 30, is an explosive puncher (particularlywiththe right hand) whose speed and elusiveness have presented uniqueproblems for the mid-grade heavyweights he's faced. He's spent mostof the pre-fight buildup trying to anger Klitschko, hoping(it seems)to goad his opponent into abandoning his safety-first approachand fightingangry. Whether the ploy succeeds is one of the more intriguingquestions circling Saturday's showdown.
Further questions surround both fighters' chins.Klitschkohas been down 11 times in his career, including knockoutlosses to fringe contenders Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster that tookhim years to live down. Haye was starched by CarlThompson in the fifth round of their 2004 fight.
The key to the fight will be whether Haye can getinside the piston-like jab at the foundation of Klitschko's success, atask much easier said than done. If Wladimir is allowed to settle inand establish the rythym, it could bea long night for the Bermondsey banger.
Oddsmaker William Hill lists Haye as a 7-to-4underdog, while Klitschko is a 1-2 favorite.
Haye's best chance is to apply constant pressureearly, put Klitschko on his back foot and test that chin. But that runscounter to his tendency to wait for his opponents' mistakes beforeexploiting them. Against Valuev, Haye promised adust-up but spent most of the night making himself an elusive targetand trying to nick a point here or there. That's a recipe for disasteragainst Klitschko -- a far more athletic and technically sound opponentthan Valuev -- who will gladly cut off the ring and use his 82-inchreach to rack up points from long range. Look for Klitschko to settleinbehind that punishing jab, sapping Haye's energy and will, and finishhim off in the middle to later rounds. Klitschko byseventh-round TKO.
A boot that Adam Booth,trainer for David Haye, uses to imitate Wladimir Klitschko.(ZUMAPRESS.com)
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· HBO's Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant, Roy Jones Jr.and Harold Lederman will be ringside for the main event and undercard.
· The referee assigned to the main event is GenaroRodriguez, a Chicago native who has refereed four previous Klitschkofights (against Eddie Chambers, Corrie Sanders, Francois Botha andDerrick Jefferson).
· In addition to HBO's same-day replay Saturday at9:45 p.m. ET/PT, the fight will be replayed Sunday at 9:15 a.m. ET/PTand Monday at 11:50 p.m. ET/PT.
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