Once there was a time in boxing where it was managers who prevented fights from happening to protect their fighters from forces greater than their talents. Who could blame them? After all, protecting their fighter was, in theory at least, their job.
Then it became promoters (who for years now have served as de facto managers anyway) who blocked too many of the fights fans most wanted to see for pretty much the same reason, although a touch of greed was always in there somewhere unless they had both sides of the equation, in which case it was two touches of greed.
Television networks, on the other hand, usually were pushing all parties toward the biggest – and hence the most dangerous – matches because, well, they were in the TV business and that’s what made the best television. Well, no more.
The latest and one of the most brazenly obvious, examples of this was the collapse last week of another round of negotiations between Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye. Both have claimed for two years that they want nothing more than to unify their ends of the heavyweight title at the expense of the other yet neither ever seems quite able to reach a lasting agreement or avoid an injury long enough for the fight to actually come off.
But the latest collapse of what was hoped to be an April 30 showdown in Germany between them was not the fault of either man. In fact, both sides agreed to a 50-50 split of the fight’s revenues, neutral officials and one of two stadium venues in Germany. In other words they were sane.
So why isn’t the fight happening? Because today even the TV executives are promoters and what they are promoting is always themselves.
Apparently the fight could not be made on or around April 30 because RTL, the Germany terrestrial TV network that televises Klitschko in Germany, and Sky-TV, which televises Haye on subscription broadcasting and pay-per-view in England, couldn’t agree on a date when the biggest heavyweight fight in years would work for them.
Klitschko’s manager, Bernd Boente, said SKY opposed an April date because it had already scheduled an Amir Khan fight on pay-per-view on April 16 and didn’t want to ask its customers to pay twice in a month for boxing, even though Khan doesn’t even have an opponent yet and Klitschko-Haye would be a far more significant fight in a division that has been insignificant since Lennox Lewis retired. With the division in the doldrums for years now, Lewis’ retirement seems like it was as long ago as when Joe Louis retired.
Both sides insist they can’t delay the fight into May or June because there are stadium issues due to conflicts with soccer’s schedules so the fight now won’t happen before July. But with Klitschko’s injury history and his plan to fight in April regardless that is wishful thinking in a division that hasn’t seen many of its fans’ wishes granted in a long time.
Haye is already hollering he won’t fight Klitschko this summer if he takes a tune-up fight (and why not you might ask since Klitschko has already said its fine with him if Haye does the same). Truth be told, if Klitschko fights Dereck Chisora (yes the next appropriate word is “who?’’) in April there’s no way he comes back to fight again eight weeks later. Judging by his track record if he fights eight months later it will only be because of Divine Intervention.
Haye, of course, could agree to the July fight and end the matter but word is he is now angling to face mandatory challenger Ruslan Chagaev (good seats available) sometime in late May, which means he won’t be available in July anyway. So instead of a relevant and interesting heavyweight matchup for the first time in years between probably the two best heavyweights in the world (excluding Klitschko’s brother, Vitali, who might well beat them both if the opportunity arose – which it won’t) we get Wladimir Klitschko against a Brit with 14 wins, nine knockouts and no chance and Haye against someone like boringly shopworn Ruslan Chagaev.
Chisora (14-0) actually said, “I’ve earned my opportunity’’ after the Klitschko-Haye fight fell through. Obviously he’s no matchmaker and no boxing historian.
How’d he earn it? Was it the stoppage of Zurah Noniashvili that did it? Or when he wiped the floor with Danill Peretyatko? Or maybe it was his two big wins over Sam Sexton that earned him this sparring session with Klitschko?
No wonder even HBO has stopped writing checks to the Klitschko brothers and Haye, who was last seen in the ring with Audley Harrison but only if you lived in England, which is a reminder that we here in the States do have something to be thankful for.
But you can’t rightfully blame the 34-year-old Klitschko (55-3, 49 KO) or Haye this time, even though Haye has now agreed to fight a Klitschko three times without yet getting into anything but a verbal sparring session with them.
Can’t even blame HBO, SHOWTIME, Don King or Bob Arum because none of them were involved either. Just blame some television executives in England and Germany and you’ll have it about right…which is why heavyweight boxing once again got it all wrong.