By Johnny Walker
WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko, who is set to fight the UK’s Dereck Chisora on February 18 in Germany, has again been making it crystal clear that his real target in 2012 is Chisora’s British compatriot, currently retired former WBA heavyweight champ David Haye.
Time and time again in interviews following younger brother Wladimir’s unanimous points victory over the same David Haye in July of this year, Vitali has offered qualified praise of Wlad’s performance that can also be read as gentle criticism.
“Wladimir beat Haye in a big fight for the world title and I am very proud. Unfortunately, the right ending was missing and I would like to catch up to David Haye in the ring and put him in the dust.” “In the dust, ” “to the floor” … Vitali has offered up this quotation, in slightly different versions, repeatedly over the latter part of 2011.
While the Klitschko brothers will never fight each other in the ring, it is becoming clear that included within Vitali’s fervent desire to beat up David Haye is also the wish to fight his younger brother Wladimir by proxy. If Vitali can deliver the brutal beating to the elusive Haye that Wladimir failed to do, he will be seen as the unquestionable number one heavyweight in the world by almost anybody who cares about the issue.
While the Klitschko brothers are very close, they have also admitted that there is always a high degree of competition between them. But for Vitali, who at age 40 is presumably is far closer to the end of his boxing career than his 35-year-old brother, the urgency to prove his ultimate worth and cement his legacy is great.
Vitali already owns the highest knockout percentage (88.89%) in heavyweight history. He is one of the few boxing champions to have been out of the ring for over three years and then come back and reclaim his former title and defend it successfully. He has never been knocked down, much less knocked out, in the ring as a professional. Nor has he ever trailed on the official scorecards at the end of any fight, even his two “losses.”
Now Vitali hungers for a defining moment, a signature win by which to cement his place forever as one of the sport’s finest heavyweights — and to settle the question as to which Klitschko brother is superior. And given the choices available, it is David Haye who best fits the bill.
Yes, the Klitschko sibling rivalry is not only there, it is intense. So intense, that Vitali says he is willing to give in to many, if not most, of Haye’s demands, and even fight him in his back yard (the UK’s Wembley Stadium), to secure the fight.
And it’s not merely because Haye once wore a shirt mocking the brothers that Vitali wants this fight so badly, though that will be the reason Vitali offers to the public.
While Vitali would be foolish to overlook the tough Chisora, if he comes through that fight in his usual style, his next opponent will likely be David Haye – but make no mistake, it will really be his brother Wladimir with whom he is doing battle.