By Jake Donovan
Negotiations are still underway for the pending World heavyweight championship rematch between long-reigning lineal king Wladimir Klitschko and Tony Thompson. The two fought in July ’08, with Klitschko winning an 11th round stoppage in Germany, where he and older brother Vitali Klitschko have served for years as blockbuster attractions.
All indications has the bout heading to a purse bid, which normally results in the champion receiving 75% of the total bid, with the remaining 25% going to the challenger. However, a recent news item on Boxingscene.com indicated Klitschko (57-3, 50KO) being granted approval by the IBF for the pie to be divided 85/15 in his favor should it be forced to go to a purse bid hearing.
There is precedence for such a split, but is normally reserved when the challenger is ranked #3 or lower. Such is not the case with Thompson (36-2, 24KO), who was granted mandatory status after Eddie Chambers pulled out of their scheduled elimination bout last October.
How the purse is ultimately split isn’t of great concern to Thompson or his handlers. Their primary goal – aside from landing the rematch itself – is securing the rights to stage the fights much closer to home. Thompson traveled to Germany for the first fight; his team would prefer for the Klitschko camp to board a plane this time around.
“We knew about the IBF’s ruling, but were never concerned with the split,” insists Dan Goossen, whose Goossen-Tutor Promotions proudly represents the 40-year old Thompson. “We made a very substantial offer – regardless of split – for Wladimir to come to D.C. to defend his title.”
Thompson has not enjoyed a fight in the D/M/V area (D.C., Maryland and Virginia) in more than six years, when he was still performing on the local club circuit on the outskirts of Baltimore.
The area itself has never served as a boxing hotbed beyond the club level, but received a major shot in the arm last December. A sold-out crowd filled the D.C. Convention Center to watch home-grown Lamont Peterson capture his first championship with a split decision win over Amir Khan.
While the outcome of the bout remains disputed to this day, there’s no denying that local fans will respond to a quality event. The world heavyweight championship would certainly fit that bill, even with the division held in far lesser regard these days than in past generations. With the first fight having already taken place in Germany, changing up the location is a good start in jazzing up the promotion.
“I feel like Wladimir and Vitali are major stars everywhere in the world and can be even bigger in the U.S.,” Goossen believes. “We can sell out the Verizon Center and make this the biggest fight in America in quite some time.”
Doing so may now require Goossen – or any other investor interested in promoting the fight in the U.S. – to submit a massive purse bid in order to secure the rights to the fight. He remains optimistic that it won’t come to that, though understands why Klitschko has taken such recent measures.
“We’ve had very good conversations with Shelly Finkel (Klischko’s advisor) regarding this fight,” Goossen states. “I’ll do all I can to bring this fight to the U.S. Regarding the 85/15 split, I think that has more to do where they want the fight to take place more than anything else. My perception was never geared on percentages, but providing the right stage for a fight of this magnitude.”
Klitschko (57-3, 50KO) has blitzed through all competition since reclaiming a portion of the crown in 2006, along with the lineal championship acquired in June ’09. The hulking Ukrainian star is fresh off of a four-round blitzing of former cruiserweight king Jean-Marc Mormeck earlier this month, in a bout that was an even grosser mismatch in reality than believed to be on paper.
Meanwhile, the 40-year old Thompson (36-2, 24KO) has managed to claw his way back to title contention. The American southpaw has won five straight – all by knockout – since suffering the lone stoppage defeat of his 12-year career against Klitschko.
It is believed – albeit in retrospect – that Thompson’s challenge was the closest thing Klitschko has come to a stiff test over the course of his current title run, now approaching six years. While loving nothing more than the chance to vie for the sport’s biggest prize in front of his hometown faithful, landing the opportunity takes priority over where that opportunity necessarily lands.
“All Tony cares about is getting Wladimir inside the ring,” Goossen insists, though while continuing to make a strong push to bring the fight to the U.S. “I believe people continue to underestimate his chances; I’m confident that in Tony, I have the future heavyweight champion of the world.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected].