Prior to Wednesday, one could be forgiven for doubting that the most anticipated fight in the heavyweight division — champion Wladimir Klitschko vs. David Haye — was really going to happen. Sure, they’d signed some contracts, but they didn’t have a location or a television deal, and such details had killed the fight over the past several years. Maddeningly, these two men kept circling each other outside the ring rather than inside it.
Now, though, Klitschko-Haye has both a location and a TV deal: the bout will be in Hamburg Germany, where it will surely fill up the 55,000-seat soccer stadium that is hosting it, and air in the United States on HBO (with other countries getting their TV deals in line, too). And with that, all the obstacles have now fallen away to THE fight that can make the heavyweights — boxing’s most important division to the layman — relevant again for one night on July 2.
Haye has been explicitly calling out the Klitschko brothers since 2008, and had been yapping about them for a long time beforehand back when he was the top dog at cruiserweight. And while a large swath of boxing fandom expects that Wladimir-Haye will be an unmitigated slaughter ending in Klitschko retaining his lineal Ring Magazine championship belt, there is also a swath of boxing fandom that believes Haye is the most dangerous man who Klitschko will ever have faced. I count myself in the latter camp, even though I think Klitschko is the one most likely to emerge victorious.
Haye, a charismatic, braggadacious type with good enough looks to have done some work as a male model, is arguably the quickest top-notch heavyweight since Muhammad Ali, and all indicators in his four fights at heavyweight are that he’s carried up at least a pretty significant percentage of the unreal power he demonstrated at cruiserweight. Klitschko is the dominant heavyweight of the past six years, an emotionless, efficient, Ivan Drago-like Soviet machine with a Men’s Health cover-worthy physique and athletic qualities that usually aren’t found among modern behemoth heavies, and Haye’s trash talk has brought out the fire within him that he rarely exhibits when boxing.
And both of them are prone to crumbling the moment someone hits them flush in the mouth. Anything could happen.
There is always the chance this fight doesn’t go how we want it to, maybe even lots of chances. Maybe Haye pulls out with a questionable injury again like he did the first time, and if you are dubious about this fight happening even today, I still can’t blame you. Maybe people in the United States can’t get behind a Ukranian fighting a Brit. Maybe the gulf between Klitschko and the relatively-untested-at-heavyweight Haye is so wide that Klitschko crushes him with the first punch, and everyone talks about what a joke boxing is, even though it would be tremendously unfair given that nobody pissed on the sport after Mike Tyson crushed Michael Spinks in one round.
Maybe heavyweights taking the spotlight robs the lower weight classes that have been carrying the sport for so long of the cache they’ve built up. And maybe a Klitschko win robs the division of any drama or ambiguity, since there might be nobody on the horizon after Haye who could reasonably challenge him, as opposed to a Haye win, which opens up a whole universe of potential fights unless he quickly retires thereafter. (Wlad’s big brother, Vitali, would qualify as a reasonable challenge to a victorious Wlad, but they have refused to fight one another because they promised their mother. If Vitali is upset by Tomasz Adamek in the fall, maybe Adamek becomes a fearsome challenger to Wladimir, but just about everybody thinks Adamek matches up better with Vitali than Wlad.)
Never mind all that. You can’t worry about what might not happen. You can only make the best fights on paper and hope the best will come of it. That’s what is happening here: The world’s top heavyweight challenger and the world’s top heavyweight are, at long last, really, truly, honestly going to fight.