Haye aims to end Klitschko’s reign

By Karl Ritter
Associated Press / July 2, 2011

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HAMBURG - David Haye must rely on his blistering speed against the reach and power of Wladimir Klitschko in their much-anticipated heavyweight title fight.

The trash-talking Englishman has been looking for a fight with Klitschko or his older brother, Vitali, since he moved up from the cruiserweight division in 2008. It’s finally happening tonight in the unification bout at Imtech Arena.

Klitschko, the IBF and WBO champion, is the favorite (55-3, 49 KOs), and at 6 feet 6 inches, has a 3-inch height advantage.

Klitschko weighed in yesterday at 242 pounds, compared with 213 pounds for Haye, 30.

In the customary stare-down, Haye smirked at the stone-faced Klitschko, as throngs of British fans booed and heckled the Ukrainian.

“Me and Wladimir don’t like each other. You’ll see that in the fight,’’ Haye said.

Undefeated in seven years, Klitschko tends to wear down his opponents with his jab before hammering them with a right cross. Haye said the first couple of rounds would be crucial.

“I’ve got to make sure I land my bombs and he doesn’t land his, plain and simple,’’ he said. “I can’t afford to be getting pumped in the face by his big jab.’’

Haye, the WBA champion, has sought to rile his opponent in the lead up to the fight with taunts that go beyond the typical trash talk between boxers. Haye (25-1, 23 KOs) has promised to injure him, refused to shake his hand, and wore a T-shirt depicting the severed heads of the Klitschko brothers.

Many boxing fans say Haye has brought energy and excitement to a heavyweight division lacking strong profiles during the long reign of the Klitschkos. Haye calls the brothers “frauds,’’ saying they’ve kept their belts by taking on lackluster opponents.

While that’s a stretch, it’s clear that Klitschko faces a career-defining moment against Haye, considered his strongest challenger yet. The Hamburg crowd will favor Klitschko, a fluent German-speaker, though Haye can count on the support of British fans.

While both fighters are outstanding athletes, it remains to be seen who has the stronger chin. Haye has been knocked down by Lolenga Mock, Carl Thompson, Jean-Marc Mormeck, and Monte Barrett, but came back to win each time except against Thompson.

Klitschko was beaten by technical knockout in fights against Corrie Sanders in 2003 and Lamon Brewster in 2004. He was downed three times but came back to win on points against Samuel Peters.