Michael Rosenthal

Klitschko biding time until day of reckoning

Wladimir Klitschko and his team applaude after David Haye's little show at an open workout Wednesday in Hamburg, Germany. Below, are photos of Haye celebrating his make-believe victory over Klitschko and the boots trainer Adam Booth wore to grow to the height of the giant Ukrainian.

 

HAMBURG, Germany – David Haye and trainer Adam Booth staged a one-act show for about 200 gawking fans and dozens of journalists – as well as one Wladimir Klitschko, his opponent Saturday — who surrounded a ring set up at a Mercedes dealership Wednesday.

Booth wore goofy-looking boots that made him taller and held a stick with a glove on the end of it to replicate Klitschko’s jab as the two pretended to spar at the promotional workout.

Then Booth raised the mitt on his other hand to roughly the height of Klitschko’s head and BAM! Haye landed a big right that sent Booth flying, thus ending the make-believe Klitschko’s night in dramatic fashion. Haye raised his arms in mock triumph as the crowd clapped in appreciation of the two-minute satire, including Klitschko and his entourage sitting below the ring.

However, when it came time for Klitschko (55-3, 49 knockouts) to demonstrate his moves with trainer Emanuel Steward, Haye (25-1, 23 KOs) began to make his way toward the exit before he was stopped by a pack of television journalists?

“Hey, don’t leave,” Klitschko said from the ring. “David Haye. You’re going to be No. 50 [Klitschko’s 50th knockout victim]. Don’t leave.”

“I’m not leaving,” Haye bellowed back.

“Good, stay. I want you to watch my workout.”

Alas, Haye didn’t stay. Perhaps it was one more in a long, sordid line of pre-fight jabs at Klitschko apparently meant to knock the longtime heavyweight champion off his oh-so-effective game.

Klitschko is used to such behavior after two years of back-and-forth barbs. The giant Ukrainan, making the 10th defense of his two titles, has grown to intensely dislike his rival but takes great solace in the fact that the time of reckoning is coming soon.

The workouts took place only three days before the fighters are due to meet face to face at the 57,000-seat Imtech Arena soccer stadium in this town of almost 2 million in northern Germany.

“I think he sits around and thinks, ‘How can I piss off Wladimir Klitschko?” Klitschko told RingTV.com, a gleam in his eye. “Boxing is a serious sport. It’s no joke, full contact. A person can get hurt. Things happen.

“… Reality is coming, a tough reality. I’m going to enjoy this fight.”

Not taking bait?: Klitschko’s handlers are certain that Haye’s efforts to rattle their fighter will fail.

Klitschko doesn’t appear to be even remotely fragile these days, as he clearly was the 1990s and the first half of the 2000s. That’s when he suffered his three losses — all by knockout — the last to Lamon Brewster in 2004.

The Klitschko of today, those close to him say, is a different man.

“Wladimir has had so many professional fights,” said Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions. “He has 49 knockouts. He’s predicting that Haye will be No. 50. He’s a seasoned veteran, a calm fighter, the ultimate professional.

“He won’t let anything happening outside the ring get to him inside the ring.”

Shelly Finkel, Klitschko’s U.S.-based manager, said the most-dominating heavyweight of his era came of age in his first meeting with Sam Peter in 2005 – three fights after the Brewster disaster.

Klitschko went down twice in the fifth round and once more in the 10th but dominated the rest of the fight to win a unanimous decision.

“That’s what put Wladimir over the hump,” Finkel said. “That proved to him that it’s not the end of the world if you get hit. Emanuel said to him, ‘OK, you got hit and now you know what to do.’ He got up and did it.

“I think mentally that fight put him where he had to be.”

Klitschko hasn’t been seriously challenged since.

Steward confident: Steward said Haye’s constant trash talking has a familiar ring to it.

“To me, when I listen to him, I hear Naseem Hamed all over again,” he said. “The same accent, the same showmanship. It all sounds the same to me.”

Of course, we know what happened with Hamed. The hard-punching southpaw from Sheffield had a nice run but fell flat when he faced a Hall of Fame-caliber opponent, Marco Antonio Barrera in 2001. The Mexican won a one-sided decision.

Steward doesn’t believe Haye will do any better against his fighter.

“Wladimir is just too much for him all around,” he said. “He’s too big, too experienced in big fights, too experienced in general. They say (Haye) has speed but we’ve trained for that, just like against Eddie Chambers and (Sultan) Ibragimov. And Wladimir has more speed than people think.

“Wladimir has the advantage in every other way. He's at his peak right now.”

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