By Alexey Sukachev / Key Contributions: Inna Lagun (Allboxing.ru), Anton Gorunov and Evgueny Pilipenko (both vRINGE.com)
We are a few hours away. Via it's local reporters, BoxingScene contacted a handful of world-known pugilists from the former Soviet Union, mostly former and even reigning world champions, to know their feelings and their perceptions in regards to the biggest heavyweight collision in almost a decade. Three questions were asked to each respondent:
1. Imagine your TV set is the ideal machine and you are living in the perfect world. You have both Showtime and HBO switched on and you have a conflict of dates. While Showtime is airing Pacquiao versus Mayweather, HBO is set for Klitschko vs. Haye at the same time. Which fight will you choose to watch?
2. Give us your take (opinion, perception, thoughts) of the upcoming fight.
3. What is your prediction?
Dmitry Pirog (reigning WBO middleweight champion)
1. I’ll certainly watch welterweights. I don’t think heavyweights are all that exciting to watch. I’m not fascinated with heavyweight boxing and heavyweight fights. Guys in smaller weight classes have a sounder technique; they are plain faster.
2. There’s so much fuss around this fight. Haye is a showman. If he wins, he will be like Cassius Clay. If he loses, he will be just another liar and braggart.
3. This battle will end in knockout. If Haye is able to control Wladimir’s left hand, he will be a winner on July 2. The reason is that the Brit is just the more skillful fighter of the two. Emanuel Steward, on the other hand, will try to make Klitschko more aggressive. If he is successful doing so, Wladimir will knock Haye out.
Andrey Kotelnik (former WBA light welterweight champion)
1. I’ll watch both fights simultaneously using two TV sets at once (laughs). If I don’t have such an opportunity, I’ll lean towards watching Klitschko vs. Haye. Firstly, Wladimir is Ukrainian. Secondly, it’s the fight of the decade, while Mayweather against Pacquiao is very far from being done at the time.
2. Klitschko is a hands-down favorite in this collision. On the other hand, everyone can jump over his head once in a lifetime. Haye talks too much indeed, but he is a former undisputed cruiserweight champion, and he also holds a title in the heavyweight division now. He is surely one of the most dangerous opponents in Klitschko’s entire career. Wladimir should take the fight under his control from the very beginning. And he should be extremely aware not to take a flash shot from Haye, as the fight ends immediately at this moment.
3. I’m not ready to pick a winner – it’s a fifty/fifty fight. However, Wladimir is still a favorite.
Ruslan Chagaev (former WBA heavyweight champion)
1. I think I’ll probably watch the heavyweights. Heavyweights are heavyweights – it’s always a thriller. Plus, I’m looking forward to a winner of this match-up; my future plans depend on who will win on Saturday night.
2. I’m not one hundred percent sure this fight will take its place indeed. Klitschko has won my sympathies. I’ll root for him not because he has beaten me but because he is a better fighter in comparison with Haye. It’ll be an interesting fight if it is really a go. But I’ll doubt the clash is on till the very opening bell, because David Haye is a tricky dude, and one can anticipate almost anything from him.
3. Either it will be an early knockout win or an uneventful and boring fight, which was a case in David’s fight against Nikolay Valuev. I prefer Klitschko even though anything is possible.
Denis Boytsov (heavyweight contender)
1. Both fights are so tasty, so exciting, that I just cannot avoid watching either of them. I’ll definitely use two TV sets to see them both. Heavyweight is my native weight class, but I also like Mayweather’s style and approach so much, and both Pacquiao and Mayweather are real superstars of boxing.
2. Haye has been getting under Wladimir’s skin for a long time. David is angered and so is Klitschko. Looks like they both dislike each other and both are ready to break each other into pieces. We shall see who will keep his word and who won’t.
3. It’s a fifty/fifty clash. The one, who will land a big punch first, will come out as a victor.
Ismayl Syllakh (light heavyweight contender and NABF titleholder)
1. If these fights are being aired at the same time, I’ll certainly choose Mayweather versus Pacquiao over Klitschko versus Haye. Floyd is my favorite boxer, and his fight with the Filipino superstar is much more interesting in my mind.
2. Everything is moving along pretty fine. Fans are heated up, emotions are erupting, and everybody is involved into promotion. I hope this fight won’t be a fake, and we shall see a first-class showdown between two outstanding fighters.
3. I think Wladimir will put David to sleep before the bell to start round ten. Haye isn’t so brave, so he will sit on his bicycle and will try to avoid any big punches from Klitschko. But then he gets tired and Wladimir kayos the British star – that’s how it will be.
Roman Karmazin (former IBF light middleweight champion)
1. I’ll definitely watch Pacquiao against Mayweather. Heavyweights are not what they used to be during the good old days. The time of Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis or young Evander Holyfield is gone with the wind. You can hardly see something useful or something inspiring by observing the present heavyweight landscape.
2. I don’t know what to expect from this bout. Klitschko is an overwhelming favorite, and he will win this fight without any problems at all.
3. Wladimir stops David Haye in later rounds.
Alexander Dimitrenko (European heavyweight champion)
1. Both of these fights are interesting but I prefer Klitschko against Haye over Pacquiao versus Mayweather. There will be three titles at stake plus it’s my home weight class plus I’m looking forward to fight the winner so it’ll be useful to study my possible opponents. My title shot can be felt in foreseeable future.
2. Klitschko is a favorite but it can all twist in just a second. Experts are making their predictions but they can be fed with them easily because in professional boxing everything is a subject of change. Klitschko is seen by many to be an invincible warrior, a perfect champion but this is not correct. You can find a force to even off every other force in existence. As for Haye, he can be compared to Muhammad Ali in terms of his speeches. It has much to do with his public image. But Haye shouldn’t be underrated. He is fast, he is confident and he isn’t afraid of Wladimir. Haye is a well-schooled boxer-puncher, and his arsenal isn’t limited to a couple of straight right hands. I can go as far as to say that the Brit is a sounder technician than his opponent. But Klitschko controls the fight well.
3. I don’t like to make predictions but I feel it will be awarded to Klitschko if it goes a distance.
Denis Inkin (former WBO super middleweight champion)
1. Pacquiao versus Mayweather. This fight will be much more interesting. The Klitschkos haven’t delivered a classy show for a long-long time. Everything is good but, frankly speaking, quite uninteresting at the same time. And, I believe, David Haye isn’t the type of opponent to please fans with a thriller.
2. Wladimir will surely win this one. I’ll root for him. He is our former compatriot; he is a Russian-speaking fighter. But clearly I cannot see why this bout is so important. When Pacquiao battles Mayweather, it will be about defining the best fighter in the world. July 2 clash isn’t on the same level.
3. Wladimir will stop Haye without any significant problems.
Note: “I’m working as a fitness coach in one of local gyms and I also teach young guys to fight. I’m pleased with what I’m doing. I think it’s important to quit prizefighting at the right time. So, I will not consider a comeback now”.
Dmitry Kirillov (former IBF super flyweight champion)
1. Mayweather against Pacquiao is my choice.
2. If Haye isn’t capable of inventing something new and if he isn’t too active in the fight, Klitschko will keep him at the very end of his front left hand with a subsequent increase of his right hand’s activity. If David can impose his will on Klitschko and if he induces some dirty work, some muddle in the ring, then he will be able to land something meaningful and to trouble Wladimir. But the Brit has virtually no chances in a shootout.
3. Klitschko – on points.
Note: “I’m presently finished with boxing and my job isn’t even boxing-related. I’m not aiming at comeback”.
Yuri Nuzhnenko (former WBA welterweight champion)
1. I think I’ll rather watch Klitschko fight than Mayweather versus Pacquiao, because Wladimir is my countryman. But it’s certainly interesting to watch them both.
2. Wladimir will control the bout with his hard front hand from round one. Moreover, he is getting better from fight to fight in each department, and his endurance is also improving rapidly. He is fit and as capable of great endurance as any other fighter in the world. So, I think Haye has no chances whatsoever. The Brit will try to snarl but he will ultimately fail in doing so.
3. Klitschko stops Haye in rounds seven or eight.
Rakhim Chakhkiev (2008 Beijing Olympics heavyweight gold medalist)
1. Pacquiao versus Mayweather is my choice, because their boxing is more exciting. Plus this is a rivalry of two different continents.
2. Klitschko should be respected as a true gentleman of the ring. I prefer this type of behavior more. I don’t know how the fight will go and I don’t care much about that but I’ll definitely root for Wladimir.
3. Klitschko should be a winner. But you never know something for sure in prizefighting.
German Titov (2007/2008 Russian promoter of the year)
1. It’s a difficult question to answer but I’m looking forward for Pacquiao versus Mayweather. That is the fight we have all been waiting for.
2. It’s an interesting and anticipated fight – what else can I say?!
3. If Haye doesn’t land a lucky punch, Wladimir will either win on points or by a late stoppage.
Alina Shaternikova (Former WIBF bantamweight champion and Ukrainian Federation’s general secretary)
1. Surely, I choose Pacquiao versus Mayweather. You can only be satisfied with a true art of boxing when you watch those two little titans in the same ring. That is the true art of prizefighting. I’m a patriot of my beloved Motherhood, and Wladimir is certainly my compatriot but my love of the true art of boxing is just slightly bigger.
2. I have no doubt in Wladimir’s win even though Haye is his most dangerous opponent in the last several years. As a cruiserweight, David Haye was an outstanding performer. His win over Jean-Marc Mormeck was a true marvel of modern pugilism. But, in my mind, he is too small for an elite heavyweight. If Klitschko leaves all his animosity and all his feeling in the dressing room, if he is just as cool as he always is, he will surely overwhelm David Haye.
3. Klitschko will win this fight anyway. He will either knock Haye out in the ninth or tenth round or will earn a comfortable margin on the judges’ scorecards.