WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO vs. DAVID HAYE
When: Saturday, July 2
Where: Hamburg, Germany
TV: HBO, 1:45 p.m. PT / 4:45 p.m. ET
Weight: Heavyweight (unlimited)
Title(s) at stake: Klitschko’s IBF, WBO; Haye’s WBA
Also on the card: Ola Afolabi vs. Terry Dunstan, 12 rounds, cruiserweights
Height / Reach: 6-6½ (199cm) / 81 (206cm)
Hometown: Kiev, Ukraine
Nickname: Dr. Steelhammer
Turned pro: 1996
Record: 55-3 (49 knockouts)
Trainer: Emanuel Steward
Fight-by-fight: Click here
The Ring rating: Heavyweight champion
Titles: WBO heavyweight (2000-03; lost it to Corrie Sanders); IBF heavyweight (2006-present); WBO heavyweight (2008-present).
Biggest victories: Axel Schulz, Sept, 25, 1999, TKO 8 (won European title); Chris Byrd, Oct, 14, 2000, UD 12 (won WBO title); Ray Mercer, June 29, 2002, TKO 6; Sam Peter, Sept, 24, 2005, UD 12 (title eliminator); Byrd, April 22, 2006, TKO 7 (won IBF title); Lamon Brewster, July 7, 2007, TKO 6; Sultan Ibragimov, Feb. 23, 2008, UD 12 (won WBO title); Peter, Sept. 11, 2010, KO 10 (most-recent fight).
Losses: Ross Puritty, Dec. 12, 1998, TKO 11; Corrie Sanders, March 8, 2003, TKO 2 (lost title); Lamon Brewster, April 10, 2004, TKO 5 (for vacant title).
Height / reach: 6-3 (191cm) / 78 (198cm)
Hometown: London, England
Turned pro: 2002
Record: 25-1 (23 knockouts)
Trainer: Adam Booth
Fight-by-fight: Click here
The Ring rating: No. 2 heavyweight
Titles: WBA cruiserweight (2007-08; vacated); WBC cruiserweight (2007-08; vacated); WBO cruiserweight (2008; vacated); WBA heavyweight (2009-present).
Biggest victories: Jean Marc Mormeck, Nov. 10, 2007, TKO 7 (won WBA and WBC titles); Enzo Macarinelli, March 8, 2008, TKO 2 (won WBO title); Monte Barrett, Nov. 15, 2008, TKO 5 (first fight as full-fledged heavyweight); Nikolai Valuev, Nov. 7, 2009, MD 12 (won WBA title); John Ruiz, April 3, 2010, TKO 9; Audley Harrison, Nov. 13, 2010, TKO 3 (most-recent fight).
Loss: Carl Thompson, Sept. 10, 2004, TKO 5.
HEAD TO HEAD
Skills: Both combatants are boxers by nature despite their ridiculously high KO percentages. Klitschko, a 1996 Olympic gold medalist, is a classic stand-up boxer who can stick and move or stalk and punish with textbook technique and surprisingly good footwork. Haye, a silver medalist at the 2001 world amateur championships, is an unorthodox boxer-puncher who uses lateral movement and excellent reflexes and timing to set up his powerful pot shots that can come from any angle. Klitschko works all of his offense off what is arguably the best jab in the heavyweight division. He controls distance with it, hooks off it, and works deadly accurate one-two combinations with it. Haye doesn’t always use a jab to set up his scoring punches, but he’s more versatile with his power shots. He shoots to the body, works uppercuts when in close, and can fire hooks and crosses while on the move. However, Haye often leaves himself open with this style. Klitschko is usually in a safe position when he gets off his shots.
Power: In a pound-for-pound sense, Haye, who has a slightly higher KO percentage than Klitschko (88.5 to 84.5), is probably the harder puncher. However, the 30-year-old Londoner is a natural cruiserweight. He fought 21 of his 26 pro fights at the 200-pound division where he was recognized as the undisputed champ. However, he can certainly punch at heavyweight. Nikolay Valuev, who was 99 pounds heavier than Haye, is the only heavyweight to go the distance with the former cruiserweight, and even he was rocked in the final round. It should be noted, though, that apart from a past-prime John Ruiz (TKO 9), Haye has not faced respected heavyweight opposition. Although Klitschko is capable of scoring quick, one-shot stoppages (such as his second-round KO of Ray Austin), he usually wears his opponents down to late technical knockouts. This is more of an indication of his temperament than his power. Even fighting in a reserved manner, Klitschko has managed to stop normally durable heavyweights who had not previously been halted, such as Lamon Brewster (RTD 6, in their rematch), Tony Thompson (KO 11), Ruslan Chagaev (RTD 9) and Eddie Chambers (KO 12).
Speed and athletic ability: Both Klitschko and Haye are superb athletes, gifted with strength, power, balance, reflexes and hand-eye coordination. Haye, however, is the more explosive of the two. Perhaps due in part to his smaller size, the Briton has faster hands and quicker reflexes. His ring movement is also more fluid than Klitschko’s.
Defense: Neither man prides himself on taking a punch. Both fighters have a healthy sense of self preservation that is born out of their “boxer” identities. Haye avoids punches with his lateral movement and very good head and upper-body movement, which is aided by his excellent reflexes. Klitschko uses his exceptional height and reach to keep out of range, but he also blocks punches well, and tucks his chin behind his shoulder when he needs to. Haye’s unorthodox style, which includes keeps both hands down and often jumping with his punches, leaves him more open to well-timed counter punches than Klitschko, who keeps his hands in proper position and works a busy jab. Those able to can get past Klitschko’s jab usually get tied up by the giant Ukrainian who has become very good at grab-and-clinch tactics.
Experience: Haye’s got a lot of experience for a fighter with less than 30 bouts. He’s faced seven men who have held major titles, inducing former cruiserweight champ Jean Marc Mormeck (TKO 7). However, Klitschko has faced nine men who have held major titles, including Chris Byrd (UD 12, TKO 7) and former undisputed champ Hasim Rahman (TKO 7), and he’s fought more professional rounds than Haye (273 to 102).
Chin: Both men have been stopped in their pro careers. Haye was knocked out in the fifth round of his 11th pro fight with rugged former cruiserweight beltholder Carl Thompson in 2004. Klitschko ran out of gas against iron-chinned journeyman Ross Puritty, who stopped him in the 11th round of their bout in December of 1998. Klitschko was blitzed in two rounds by former beltholder Corrie Sanders, who dropped him four times en route to the shocking upset, in March of 2003. He punched himself out against Lamon Brewster, who punched him out in brutal fashion in the fifth round of their bout, 13 months later. Neither fighter has been stopped since ‘04, but both have hit the canvas. Haye was dropped in his fight against Mormeck. Klitschko was knocked down once against DaVarryl Williamson in ‘04 and three times during his 12-round victory over Samuel Peter in 2005. Klitschko has been stopped and dropped more often than Haye but he’s also been in with the bigger and harder-punching fighters.
Conditioning: Both fighters are serious about their physical preparation before a fight. Both men lead active lives, cross train year around, and never appear out of shape between fights. Haye, who came up in weight from cruiserweight, engages in more weight training than Klitschko, who does more cardio work, such as track-style intervals instead of conventional road work.
Wear and tear: Klitschko, who is five years older than Haye, has fought 171 more rounds and he’s taken more punishment in the ring.
Corner: Adam Booth is more than Haye’s trainer. He’s also the fighter’s manager and close friend. Booth, a former amateur boxer, has trained Haye since the age of 16 and the two obviously have a winning chemistry. Booth is renown for his physical conditioning methods and respected for his strategies, which have helped Haye to defeat much bigger fighters, such as Valuev, and more experienced veterans, such as Mormeck. Booth also trains other talented British fighters, including undefeated super middleweight prospect George Groves, who recently out-pointed heavily favored Olympic gold medalist James DeGale. Klitschko’s trainer, Emanuel Steward, is arguably one of the best of all time. Since Klitschko’s loss to Brewster, Steward has developed the Ukrainian into the closest thing to a prime Lennox Lewis, who the hall-of-famer also rebuilt following a devastating KO loss. Klitschko respects and trusts Steward, who has added dimensions to the heavyweights style and ring generalship. Klitschko’s physical attributes — being an upright fighter who throws straight power shots — also plays into the trainer’s strengths. Steward has always excelled with tall orthodox boxers with a good jab and hard right hand.
Outcome: Klitschko will immediately apply smart pressure on Haye behind his jab. Haye will cautiously circle Klitschko, just out of range, with his right hand cocked and ready as he looks for counter-punch opportunities. Haye will find that moment in the final minute of the opening round when he lands a big right hand over one of Klitschko’s jabs. The punch and the speed of its delivery will surprise and stun Klitschko back on his heels, which prompts Haye to go for the blitz. Haye fires single bombs to Klitschko’s body and head, backing the champ into the ropes, where he hopes to end matters, but the giant grabs him in close and uses his 30-pound weight advantage to smother the brash challenger. Klitschko makes it to the bell, but Haye is invigorated by his early success. The confident beltholder darts in, out and around Klitschko in the second round, feinting and taunting the giant with attitude as he does so. Haye fires some wild hooks and straight rights to the body, but isn’t able to land clean enough to hurt Klitschko. However, he’s satisfied with keeping Klitschko on the defensive. The third round looks much like the second until Klitschko times one of Haye’s lunges with a compact lead hook. The punch jolts Haye in his tracks, which gives Klitschko the opportunity to drop a quick one-two combinations that severely wobbles the challenger. Klitschko goes in for the kill, but Haye’s fast back-pedaling and upper-body movement spare him from follow-up punches. Both fighters are cautious in rounds four and five, but Klitschko boxes with more confidence, steadily walking Haye down with his jab while occasionally landing a hard right. Haye’s face begins to show the damage of Klitschko’s jab by the sixth round; his body shows serious signs of fatigue by the seventh. At this point in the fight, Klitschko begins to systematically break Haye down.
Prediction: Klitschko by mid-to-late rounds stoppage.
Note: The original painting by Richard Slone appeared on the cover of the July 2011 issue of THE RING magazine.