By Mitch Abramson
Vitali Klitschko has a dream.
It doesn’t involve the Lincoln Memorial or Martin Luther King Jr. But it does involve David Haye, whose words toward Vitali’s brother were so offensive that Vitali has made it his life’s work to get him in the ring for payback.
“This is personal,” Vitali Klitschko said during an HBO luncheon on Tuesday. He wasn’t talking about Tomasz Adamek, his opponent on Sept. 10, even though the luncheon was intended to hype their fight in Poland. Vitali (42-2, 39 knockouts) wants Haye, who lost a lackluster decision to Vitali’s younger brother Wladimir on July 2, but not before he blamed the public’s lack of interest in the heavyweight division on the Klitschko brothers. Currently, the two brothers hold all of the major championships belts (and they have scoffed at the idea of unifying the straps in the ring, brother vs. brother). At one point during the luncheon, Klitschko, who turned 40 on Tuesday, described a recurring “dream” he has that involves a big fight. He wouldn’t disclose the opponent in the dream, but it was clear that he views Haye as his biggest challenger.
“I want to fight David Haye,” Vitali went on with Adamek (44-1, 28 knockouts) sitting impassively across the table from him in HBO’s executive suite. “He made a decision to fight Wladimir. I was jealous of Wladimir because he had a chance to fight David Haye because I want to kick his ass for his bad words. Maybe I can realize my vision in the future. But right now I don’t want to talk about that because without a win against Tomasz Adamek it’s just hot air.”
Vitali is a natural talker. In a lively performance, Klitschko, a former mayoral candidate, hinted that he is perhaps two fights away from retirement (with the capper possibly against Haye), predicted a knockout against Adamek, who simply smiled in response, and promised his fight on Sept. 10 would be a lot more entertaining than his brother’s fight with Haye. Meanwhile, HBO’s Kery Davis, the network’s senior vice president for programming, sitting to Klitschko's right, promised renewed interest in the heavyweight division, with a possible fight involving Wladimir and Chris Arreola down the road and perhaps a date with the former Michigan State linebacker Seth Mitchell, now an undefeated heavyweight.
“We never ever want to abandon the heavyweight division,” Davis said. “It’s too important to the sport, too important to the network and we’re hoping that this fight will be the kind of fight that generates a lot of interest in the heavyweight division.”
The luncheon took place just days after HBO announced that Ross Greenburg, president of HBO Sports, would be moving on after 33 years at the network. There’s still no word as to who might replace him. Reporters were told not to delve into that subject during the luncheon. We tried but were summarily cut off by an HBO publicist.
“We’re done with this topic,” a publicist said.
The focus was supposed to be on the fighters in attendance. Sitting just a few feet away from each other, Klitschko immediately went to work on Adamek, pointing out the size difference between them. Klitscko is 6-7 and weighed nearly 250 pounds for his last fight; Adamek was a cruiserweight as recently as 2009 and expects to be around 220 pounds for the fight.
“Do you know what a [real] heavyweight looks like?” Klitschko asked Adamek, growing serious. “You were born lighter. You’re not heavy enough to be a [real heavyweight]. This is a big challenge for you. Are you ready to battle?”
To which a smiling Adamek shot back, “Oh yeah, I’m from Polland.”
I asked Adamek if it bothered him that Klitschko appeared to be trying to get inside his head.
“When I moved up to heavyweight,” Adamek began, before Klitschko interjected, “This was a big mistake."
Adamek smiled politely and continued.
“Many people said that when I moved to cruiserweight, ‘Tomasz what are you doing? Are you crazy?’” Adamek said. “Somebody can kill you.”
Klitschko again interrupted, “They’re right,” again eliciting laughter.
Still, Adamek went on: “When I won a title and I moved to heavyweight, people said, ‘Hey, Tomasz is stupid. He doesn’t know what he does. But I show everyone that I can be quick.”
Despite these brief interludes, most of the talk centered around Haye, and his actions before, during and after his fight against Wladimir.
Adamek, for his part, seemed to be positioning himself as a sort of anti-David Haye, a tough, smallish heavyweight who doesn’t say much but fights his ass off.
“I watched the fight and David Haye didn’t want to win,” Adamek said. “When I go into the ring, I want to win. I want to beat my opponent. If you don’t want to win, then it’s better to stay outside the ring. I will be ready 100%.”
Klitschko shot a glance at Adamek, but was he really thinking of David Haye?
Mitch Abramson covers boxing for the New York Daily News and BoxingScene.com and can be reached at [email protected].