by Johnny Walker
To paraphrase proto-punk icon Iggy Pop of the Stooges, “Wlad has a T.V. Eye on Haye.”
Wlad of course being Wladimir Klitschko, The Ring-recognized heavyweight champion of the world, who is surrounded by three television sets playing WBA heavyweight kingpin David Haye’s fights on a constant loop as he trains for their July 2 unification bout at his camp in Austria.
The television sets are part of a sly, pre-fight psyche-job offensive that Klitschko has put into play, one that has taken Haye off guard, to say the least.
Haye has been noticeably uptight and something less than his usual motor-mouthed self at the press conferences leading up to the fight. Surprisingly for those who see Haye as a master of trash talk, it has been the relaxed and jovial Klitschko who has gained the psychological edge as the fight approaches, upsetting Haye with aggressively friendly gestures like repeatedly offering to shake his hand (Haye has refused) and by providing helpful translations of German reporter’s questions.
The result of this has seen the normally aggressive Haye backing way off, to the point of not wanting to share the same air as Klitschko under any circumstances.
“I hadn’t seen him for a long time and then we met in New York at the Tribeca Film Festival,” Wladimir tells mirror.co.uk. “I was expecting him to be cocky as he’s very creative with this sort of stuff, but he just backed off.
“Then when we met next in Hamburg to announce the fight, I translated for him when the German photographers were asking us to move here and there. But he wouldn’t move. He thought I was playing with his mind.
“I thought maybe in London he would be better, but he wasn’t and I thought, ‘What’s going on with this dude?’.”
The spooked WBA champ has recently gone so far as refusing to appear with Klitschko for scheduled appearances on Sky TV, the UK pay-per-view outlet for the fight.
“We were doing the Ringside show on Sky, but he wouldn’t even be in the same room as me,” says a bemused Wladimir. “He didn’t want to see me, shake the champion’s hand or be with me. He wanted to hide in the other room. If Bin Laden’s house is still available, he might go and hide in there.
“If we’re talking about confidence, that shows something is missing.”
Perhaps it has finally dawned on Haye that he has never even remotely fought anyone with Klitschko’s combination of experience, skill, size and punching power. The task he has ahead of him is enormous. This is not Audley Harrison or Monte Barrett that Haye is fighting. Or Nicolay Valuev, for that matter.
One person who feels that Haye has bitten off more than he can chew is cruiserweight Ola Afolabi, Klitschko’s sparring partner, who knocked out former Haye victim Enzo Maccarinelli two years ago.
“A couple of weeks back, Wlad hit me with a right hand and I had a headache for four days. I thought I was having a stroke,” Afolabi tells mirror.co.uk. “You think you can block the punches – no way. He hits you clean and your whole body shakes. That jab is something else. It’s going to destroy Haye.”