By Jake Donovan
Any concerns from Kubrat Pulev and his handlers over whether or not Wladimir Klitschko was willing to face him were emphatically answered during Tuesday’s purse bid hearing in New Jersey.
Klitschko’s K2 Promotions secured the rights to promote the heavyweight championship bout, submitting a winning bid of just over $7.25 million. The amount was more than 25% greater than the next highest bid, which came from Sauerland Event, Pulev’s promoter who offered over $5.29 million.
The event is required to take place within 90 days from the purse bid hearing. As per terms of any purse bid, a tentative date and location must be included with the winning bid. K2 Promotions revealed that a hold has been placed for the O2 World Arena, a 16,000-seat venue in Hamburg, Germany. The targeted date for the bout is September 6.
Should the date and location hold up, it will mark the third time that Klitschko (62-3, 52KO) headlines at the venue, all coming in world title fights. His last appearance came in Nov. ’12, scoring a 12-round decision over Mariusz Wach in an emotional evening marking his first fight since the passing of legendary Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward, who took over as Klitschko’s head trainer in 2004.
Klitschko’s lone other appearance at the venue came in July ’08, when it was still known as the Color Line Arena. The night proved to be one of his more competitive defenses – relatively speaking – going into the championship rounds before stopping Thompson in 11 rounds.
A rematch in July ’12 proved far more one-sided, with Klitschko scoring a 6th round stoppage. The 38-year old has made nine successful defenses of the true lineal heavyweight championship since gaining recognition as THE heavyweight king in his 9th round stoppage of Ruslan Chagaev in June ’09.
In an alphabet sense, Klitschko has made 16 consecutive defenses since reclaiming hardware in April ’06 for his second title reign. His most recent win came this past April, stopping Alex Leapai in five rounds. All news involving his name since then has come beyond the ropes – his brother Vitali winning a mayoral election in his native Ukraine, followed by the announcement of his fiancée, actress Hayden Panitierre pregnant with their first child.
Pulev (20-0, 11KO) fights in his first world title fight. The unbeaten boxer from Bulgaria earned a mandatory ranking with a 12-round win over Thompson last August, but had to wait out several others waiting in line for Klitschko, who holds a slew of belts in addition to the genuine world heavyweight championship.
Securing fights has proven difficult for Pulev, who watched several ordered title eliminators fall through before finally landing the aforementioned fight with Thompson last summer. He has since won two stay-busy fights, including a 3rd round stoppage of sub .500 fighter Ivica Perkovic this past April.
American network rights have not yet been announced for the fight, or if there is even any interest among stateside networks.
Klitschko is under contract with RTL in Germany, where he draws huge ratings in addition to the massive crowds that flock to arenas to see his events. Stateside coverage and interest hasn’t been as consistent. HBO was once actively involved in his career, but that ended in 2008 – one fight prior to his gaining recognition as World lineal champion.
Only two of his bouts have since aired on the American cable giant – points wins over David Haye (July ’11) and Alexander Povetkin (Oct. ’13).
ESPN has expressed past interest in his bouts, through its flagship and sister networks and streaming website ESPN3.com including his aforementioned win over Leapai this past April. Klitschko also appeared on EPIX when the pay-cable network enjoyed a brief foray into the boxing world before ending its coverage last year.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox