By Cliff Rold
There is no guarantee it will be a good fight. Given that the two men competing have both been stopped before, and rocked plenty, only a fool would guarantee a long fight.
But, damn it all, for the first time since Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko decided to say the hell with it and jump on each other at short notice, we’ve got a real “World Heavyweight Championship” fight.
Oh, sure, there have been plenty of ‘title fights’ since that last big one in the summer of 2003. A few were entertaining. One, Sergei Liakhovich’s 2006 WBO belt win over Lamon Brewster, earned being remembered as a great fight. None of them are what now looks certain for July 2nd in Hamburg, Germany.
It’s center spaced for magnitude.
Seriously though, this is the sort of fight the marquee has light bulbs for.
It’s a grudge match featuring a lineal World Champion in Klitschko (55-3, 49 KO) and a former lineal Cruiserweight king with a WBA belt of his own among the big boys in Haye (25-1, 23 KO).
Klitschko has won 13 straight, 10 early, since his last stoppage loss (and his losses all share the trait) while winning IBF and WBO honors.
Haye has gone the route twice in fifteen consecutive wins, across two divisions, since being stopped in his lone 2004 loss.
Building since the summer of 2009 when Haye pulled out first from a fight with Wladimir and then, later, walked out on negotiations with Vitali, this is the sort of main event Heavyweight boxing has been missing.
The real thing.
Longtime fight followers know what that means. This isn’t just a fight and, in fact, it remains to be seen just how much fight there will be. Regardless, this will be an event, something that always feels most special at the top of the boxing food chain. Over 50,000 will be on hand in Germany with literally millions watching in Britain, Germany, the U.S., and the states of the former Soviet Union.
One could point out Klitschko has done stadium fights already. Haye has put his share of butts in seats as well. It’s true. They are Heavyweight boxing stars of the highest order even if that order, for now, exists largely outside the U.S. To the sizable corners of the fistic universe that follow them, they are established big deals.
But this fight isn’t their normal big deal.
In the 1990s, Mike Tyson sold out the same MGM Grand for Peter McNeely that he did for both Evander Holyfield fights. The pay-per-view numbers were even of a relatively similar scale. That did not make the contests of the same magnitude. It takes two genuine players, on the same stage, to make an event.
It’s a shame it has to feel so overdue. Heavyweight used to do events more often. Sometimes they were great fights (think Ali-Frazier or Bowe-Holyfield). Other times, they featured great performances (think Tyson-Spinks or Louis-Schmeling II). They have told stories of validation (Holmes-Cooney), progress (Corbett-Sullivan), the pain of hubris (Ali-Holmes), and explosive coronation (Marciano-Walcott I).
Somewhere, someone is pointing out that the two combatants in question don’t belong mentioned in such company. In some ways, they may be right.
That’s not what matters right now. If the fight is a stinker, there will be plenty of time for all the naysayers to say nay.
For now, the event is upon us. It is what matters. How it, and its participants, fit in the broader canvas of the sports long and rich heritage can be determined after finding out if one big ass dude can make another big ass dude look at the lights.
Today it is asked:
What unique story will Klitschko and Haye tell?
That’s where one of the defining virtues of an event truly comes to the fore. We are in the midst of the defining of the contest, the framing of its story. Long on prologue, we’re into the meat of the telling now.
In the coming days and weeks, followed by the final hours and minutes that precede the opening bell, fight fans both cynical and excited, new and learned, will debate the virtues of this fight and its participants. The press and pundits will aid the fueling of these arguments with news and analysis all the way through the announcing of a victor.
From now until July 2nd, Heavyweight will have an ingredient lacking in any sort of universal way for a long time.
There will be anticipation.
Fights come and go. The ones fight fans live for, the ones that make all the politics and disappointments, bad decisions and dodgy efforts, worth enduring are those fans start to lose sleep over. When fight week arrives and it’s hard to concentrate at work or school, difficult to focus as the wife reads off the grocery list or Mom assigns the chores, the aura of the truly big fight will be at its peak.
As a young boxing fan, this scribe used to clip newspapers for stories about the big ones, gluing them to note paper and making personal boxing magazines. Those pages can still be turned to remember the first time Holyfield-Tyson was signed (in 1990) and the second time (in 1991).
The cancellation news is clipped as well in the form of headlines about someone named “Buster” and tales of a woeful busted rib. Sometimes, anticipation dies foul.
Then along comes 1996 to resurrect it. At least fans waiting for Klitschko-Haye didn’t have to wait as long.
That doesn’t mean they haven’t waited long enough. Two years of frustration, of wondering whether all the talk would result in someone getting smacked in the mouth, is coming to a head.
July 2nd will be here soon.
It won’t be soon enough.
But wait, there’s more…
Provodnikov Rebounds: http://www.boxingscene.com/ruslan-provodnikov-steps-back-towards-contention--38159
Salido Topples JuanMa: http://www.boxingscene.com/salido-creates-shockwaves-featherweight-division--38198
Weekend Grades: http://www.boxingscene.com/ortiz-salido-add-run-wars-review-ratings-update--38224
Divisional Ratings Update: http://www.boxingscene.com/forums/view.php?pg=boxing-ratings
Picks of the Week: http://www.boxingscene.com/boxingscenecoms-television-picks-week--38256
Cliff’s Notes… The late freak sciatic injury to Joseph Agbeko kills, for now, the Showtime Bantamweight tournament final with Abner Mares. What a bummer. This is the first major disappointment of the year and it’s a big one. What would be more disappointing is if anything bad happened to the valiant Agbeko. They will fight another day. It is worthy of our patience…Everyone cross fingers that the dispute between Carl Froch and his former promoter does not further impede the finishing of the Super Six. Glen Johnson probably figures he’ll take care of the issue anyways…Guillermo Jones-Yoan Pablo Hernandez? Dig it…Fight Camp 360 with Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley should make people look forward to getting back to Fight Camp 360 for the Super Six…Props to 39-year old, and presumed shot, Muhammad Rachman for coming off the floor to stop the younger Kwanthai Sithmorseng for a belt at 105 lbs. It’s like there is something in the air for old timers the last few weeks.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]