by Johnny Walker
When it comes to dealings between heavyweight kingpins the Klitschko brothers and newly relevant UK star David Haye, things are never easy.
Predictably then, after Haye knocked out a game but overpowered Dereck “Del Boy” Chisora last weekend in London, the game of hide and seek that the two camps are so fond of playing resumed with alacrity.
There’s plenty of hypocrisy on both sides in the Vitali – Haye saga, no shortage of posturing by both camps. Vitali kickstarted the story again–after Haye rudely pulled out of a fight with him at the very last minute in 2009 to face WBA champ Nikolai Valuev–following his brother’s unanimous decision win over Haye last year.
In numerous interviews, the WBC heavyweight champion and the more macho of the Klitschko brothers made it clear that he wasn’t satisfied with younger brother Wlad’s points win over Haye–a loss that Haye, in a rare misstep, blamed on an injured little toe–and that he wanted to send the Hayemaker, then still Klitschko Enemy Number One, “to the floor” and “into the dust” for his caustic remarks and insults to the Klitschko family.
Haye was now supposedly “retired,” but he liked the career high payday he got against world heavyweight champion Wladimir–a payday that saw him top the list of Britain’s richest athletes for 2011–and left the door open for a return against one or both of the brothers.
Haye was already tiring of being out of the limelight when Vitali met up with Dereck Chisora in February. And to make matters worse for Haye, Chisora then proceeded to threaten his coveted position as the Klitschkos’ number one bogeyman, having slapped Vitali hard at the weigh-in and spit a stream of water in Wladimir’s face before the fight. Suddenly Haye’s nasty rhetoric and Klitschko-baiting T-shirts didn’t seem so bad. Chisora’s stock was rising as camp Klitschko turned its sights on him.
Haye, always quick on the uptake, immediately sized up the situation and headed straight for the Vitali-Chisora post-fight press conference. And the rest is history: at the presser, Haye tried to verbally bait Vitali into fighting him, blaming K2 manager Bernd Boente for the impasse between the two camps. The physical altercation that ensued between Haye and Chisora as a result was really a struggle for that lucrative Klitschko Enemy Number One spot. Chisora had seen the riches Haye reaped from making the brothers hate him, and wanted some of that loot for himself.
Nothing was settled during the ensuing brawl, but earlier in the presser, after being baited by Haye, Boente made a remark that he is even now backing away from:
“David you are out, you can’t talk your way into the fight, you have no belt,” spat the manager. “Fight against this person (points to Chisora), he showed heart, contrary to you, you showed your toe.”
Boente would go on to promise a shot at Vitali to the winner of a “box-off” between Haye and Chisora — “sounds like a perfect plan,” he said when Chisora’s promoter Frank Warren floated the idea.
Perhaps Boente didn’t think the Haye-Chisora match would happen, but against the odds, and with plenty of feathers ruffled along the way, that fight became a reality last Saturday night in London. And lo and behold, David Haye delivered, knocking Chisora out of the fight, and out of his position as the Klitschkos’ latest arch-nemesis.
Once again, the Klitschkos would have to deal with Haye and his often “difficult” manager/trainer, Adam Booth.
It was Booth who insulted Boente most directly at the Munich brawl, calling the suave manager a “liar and a bitch.” And Boente is the target of the Haye camp’s ire for good reason. Klitschko watchers have surely noticed that Boente has become more and more visible over the last couple of years, more confident as the public spokesman for the champion brothers. And behind the scenes, Boente has become more responsible for lining up the brothers’ opponents, as other Klitschko insiders like Shelly Finkel have now taken a back seat to the German impressario.
With Boente’s rise has come a certain conservative approach to matchmaking. Boente lined up Wlad with a soft touch in Frenchman Jean Marc Mormeck, a pitiful challenger who barely threw a punch before being defeated, and has now enlisted the unknown heavyweight Manuel Charr–who made a comical appearance at the post-fight presser for Haye-Chisora–for what is being billed as possibly Vitali’s farewell fight.
It seems that in the wake of his amemic effort against Wladimir that Boente thought the Hayemaker could be dismissed, counted “out” of the picture as he put it, and maybe even finished off by Chisora. But Haye has turned the tables by knocking out the man who pushed Vitali for twelve rounds in under half of that (though Vitali claimed to be hampered by a left shoulder injury against Del Boy), and can now stand defiant once again and accuse Boente of setting the brothers up against “chumps” no one has heard of (Haye, ever the wit, even suggested that Charr hasn’t heard of himself).
Looking at it now, Haye’s “comeback” out of retirement to fight Chisora was a brilliant move, executed to perfection. Having lost to four “name” heavyweights,” Haye’s countryman Chisora has for the time being been removed from the picture, with the Hayemaker installed back at the position of best heavyweight in the world not named Klitschko, a position that brings with it some of boxing’s highest rewards in both fame and finances. And the stain on Haye’s reputation from “Toe-gate” is now mostly gone (even snarky boxing scribe Dan Rafael has declared a moratorium on toe-jokes).
On the other side, the usually confident Bernd Boente, jarred by Haye’s destruction of Chisora, is now on the defensive, coming up with hollow-sounding reasons why Vitali should be fighting Manuel Charr and not Haye.
“I was more disappointed by Chisora’s poor display,” Boente said of the Haye-Chisora tilt.
“He was out of shape and looked in better shape against Vitali … Chisora fought a stupid fight and was completely open. Vitali would also have knocked out Chisora had he not suffered that injury in the third round.”
These sound more like weak excuses than anything else — Boente has quickly gone from praising Chisora’s heart to calling him out of shape and unskilled. What happened to the “box-off” winner fighting Vitali? Boente included no caveats about both fighters having to perform to his satisfaction for the winner to get the Klitschko shot.
This time, Boente has had his bluff called by David Haye.
Rumor has it that rather than retire, Vitali is already looking to book another fight in December. If the Ukrainian giant really longs as he says to finally put David Haye “into the dust,” perhaps we will still see what could be one of the most thrilling heavyweight battles since Lennox Lewis took on none other than … Vitali Klitschko.