Round One was tight, although it probably went to the man from Ukraine. But then Wladimir Klitschko did have an advantage over David Haye because he was on his adopted home soil of Germany.
During their opening, pre-fight news conference exchange in Hamburg on Monday, Klitschko (55-3, 49 knockouts) appeared in his element, with his rather gentlemanly, sarcastic goading of a motionless, somewhat agitated Haye.
Moody, and at times bordering on downright rude, the British WBA titleholder played right into those big, grateful hands of the grinning RING champion and IBF and WBO beltholder. While Haye (25-1, 23 Kos) declined to get embroiled in any of the face-to-face banter, the joke rather ended up on him.
“David, can you take your mobile phone and Tweet this for me?” inquired Klitschko of Haye, who is a big user of Twitter. To which there was no response. Just as there had been seconds earlier, when Haye was offered and refused a courteous handshake from his host.
“How many followers do you have?” continued the 34-year-old Klitschko. That also received nothing beyond a shrug. "None? David you should be Tweeting for your fans! I guess you are being shy, so when you’re Tweeting later, please, this is what you must say: 'David Haye is going to be Wladimir’s 50th knockout'!"
If the aim was to be irritating in the extreme and crawl under the skin of his rival, it probably worked. To a degree.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic, though. For even before the two arrived at the 57,000-capacity Imtech Stadium, where their summer spectacular will take place, Haye had launched a bitter tirade in regard to his opponent’s world-class boxing credentials – via an email release from Sky Sports.
“The Klitschko brothers have spoiled the reputation of heavyweight boxing for too long,” the Hayemaker, 30, declared. “It's time for somebody to show people what it used to be about: excitement, knockouts, personality and risk-taking. I'm the guy to bring all that back.
“There is no bigger boxing event this year. This is a fight I and all boxing fans have been hoping would happen for the best part of three years and, as a result, the sense of anticipation is ridiculous. I'm expecting tens of thousands of British fans to come out and support me in Hamburg.
“In years to come, people will be asking each other: 'Where were you when Haye knocked out Klitschko?’”
Haye continued with that theme in front of the world‘s media a few hours later, adding: “This has been a long time coming. For whatever reasons, the boxing gods decided July 2 is the date I become unified heavyweight champion.
“I know what he is about. I have always known what he is about. I believe he is a fraud. From down to the fact he wears big shoulder pads into the ring, to the fact he picks guys who suit his style perfectly. I am not fooled by it.
“I am definitely someone who is going to mess with Wladimir inside the ring, outside the ring and inside his head.”
An impressive burst. Yet if Klitschko was reeling under the flurry of verbal jabs, he did not show it. The last words of Day One went to him as he insisted Haye has not only disrespected him, but every one of his previous victims.
“As much as there are things to dislike about the character David Haye,” said the 35-year-old, “I want to show him the way, and give him a lesson in the ring which will be very important to him in his future life.
“I was trying to support him here and make him feel comfortable by translating the German he could not understand. For some reason he felt insulted. But he’s a guest, and I always take care of my guests.
“I also want to show a lot of respect to him. That might surprise you, but he has certain qualities. He has talked himself up so far that he now has this unification fight. He has heavy hands, he has great speed. He is very motivated. I don’t know why the steam is coming out of his ears. But that's why I think I am going to be challenged in the ring. But I know what to expect from Haye because of my experience and wisdom.
“But there is some very important information I want to give him. The 49 fighters I have knocked out in the last 15 years, he has disrespected them and said they were there for a check and were bums, that they were not good. Well, I will show him he is going to be just another one — like the 49 before. That he is going to be number 50 on my list. Number 50 on July 2. That’s the way it’s going to be.
“And I will do everything with pleasure and respect — and, of course, joy because it’s important to have that while you are working. And this is my work. Boxing is what I do best.”
Then the bell went. Round Two follows tomorrow, when the two will joust again the second news conference in central London.