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Weekend Wrap: Klitschko, Haye at center stage in big revival
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Ocala, FL (Sports Network) - It's a common lament.

When alleging that boxing is on its last legs -- or at least in the midst of a downturn -- among the first bits of evidence presented is a perceived lack of interest in the heavyweights.

Unlike past generations where the sport was carried by big men named Louis, Ali, Holmes or Tyson, there's been a significant recent stretch where achievements of smaller quarry like Pacquiao, Mayweather, De La Hoya and Hopkins have overshadowed a muddled crop of giants.

To a large degree, however, that confusion ends Saturday.

When Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye finally meet at Imtech Arena in Germany, they'll be competing not only for the four title belts they collectively hold going in -- but for the role of signature superstar in an at-least temporary resurgence of the 200-plus pounders.

HBO will carry the bout live on its "World Championship Boxing" show at 4:45 p.m. (et). It's scheduled for a tape-delayed rebroadcast at 9:45 p.m.

And at either hour, it's the culmination of a prolonged verbal rivalry between the camps.

The fighters have traded barbs throughout the bout's on-again, off-again run- up, with Haye unveiling a memorable T-shirt showing the severed heads of Klitschko and his older brother, Vitali.

"I think he sits in the room in the hotel and he thinks: 'What else can I do' to anger the Klitschko team," Wladimir said. "But little by little we're coming to the reality. And reality's name is July 2."

Now 35 years old, Klitschko is making the 10th defense of the share of the heavyweight empire he most recently claimed with a seventh-round stoppage of Chris Byrd in April 2006.

That win netted the IBF and IBO belts, to which he added the WBO jewelry after a unanimous decision over Sultan Ibragimov in February 2008. He'd previously held the WBO title from 2000-03 and defended five times before a second-round TKO loss to Corrie Sanders.


Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye.
Overall, the 6-foot-6 slugger is 55-3 with 49 knockouts in a career that began in 1996.

"I can't even take it seriously. It's not even funny anymore," he said. "You can trash talk a certain time, but as I said, reality is coming and it's serious business. It won't be funny for David Haye."

For his part, the talkative Haye claims his quick rise up the heavyweight ladder is a gift for fans who charge the Klitschko dynasty -- Wladimir's aforementioned brother, Vitali, holds the WBC title -- is draining the life from the marquee division.

"Their message is 'get Wladimir out of this division because he's killing it,'" Haye said. "It's only now, since I've started doing my thing, that people think, 'OK, let me see what this guy's all about, maybe we've got an entertaining fight here.'"

The 30-year-old won the WBA championship 20 months ago with a majority decision defeat of 7-foot Russian Nikolai Valuev. The fight was Haye's first in Germany, where Klitschko has lost just once in 43 tries, winning 39 times by KO.

Haye defended with a ninth-round stoppage of multiple-time claimant John Ruiz in April 2010 in Manchester, England, and followed with a third-round TKO of fellow Brit Audley Harrison at the same M.E.N. Arena venue on November 13.

He stands three inches shorter at 6-foot-3 and weighed in at 213 pounds to Klitschko's 243.

Not surprisingly, though, the size gap mattered little when it came to post- scales chatter.

"He's stared into the eyes of men who believed they were going to win in the past," said Haye, whose lone loss in 26 fights came by fifth-round TKO to IBO cruiserweight champion Carl Thompson in 2004, before a two-fight reign as that division's WBA/WBC/WBO title-holder in 2007-08.

"He's had enough fights to be able to handle a press conference or weigh-in so he looks confident. But once I start landing my shots and he can't land his, I guarantee he'll start crapping himself."

TV TOPICS

(Some fights may not be televised)

SATURDAY

FOX Espanol -- Centro de Usos Multiples, Hermosillo, MX

Hernan Marquez (30-2) vs. Edrin Dapudong (22-3) -- 12 WBA flyweight title

David Sanchez (13-2) vs. Jonathan Ramos (8-8-2) -- 10, junior bantamweights

Daniel Rosas (11-0) vs. Federico Catubay (26-18-3) -- 10, junior bantamweights

HBO -- Imtech Arena, Altona, Germany

Wladimir Klitschko (55-3) vs. David Haye (25-1) -- 12, IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO heavyweight titles

Ola Afolabi (16-2-3) vs. Terry Dunstan (24-3) -- 12, cruiserweights

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him on Twitter.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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