x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

David Haye is enjoying the spotlight

Brition says his fight with Wladimir Klitschko is "the biggest in boxing". With 50,000 fans planning to pack in Intech Arena in, and millions more crammed around televisions around the world, he has a point.

HAMBURG, GERMANY // David Haye said Saturday night's showdown with Wladimir Klitschko is "the biggest fight in boxing".

The pair face-off with Klitschko's IBF and WBO belts and Haye's WBA heavyweight title on the line.

And they will do so when the card starts at 11pm, UAE time, in front of more than 50,000 fans at the Imtech Arena and on televisions around the world in the most tantalising heavyweight bout since Lennox Lewis fought Mike Tyson in 2002. Haye is well aware of the size of the occasion and is enjoying the spotlight.

"This is the biggest fight in boxing, plain and simple," he said.

"I think the only fight that could match it is Floyd Mayweather [Jr] against Manny Pacquiao.

"Obviously, for various reasons, their fight has not happened, and won't happen this year, so this is the biggest fight to happen in boxing by far.

"I'm so proud to be involved in it and to be the guy that knocks the other unconscious is going to be a great feeling, to be the main man, at the pinnacle of the heavyweight division.

"I believe being the unified heavyweight champion is the pinnacle of the sport and I'm looking forward to going in there and claiming my rightly deserved titles."

Klitschko denied that he has been stung by Haye's numerous publicity stunts and regular goading.

"I'm just more focused," he said.

"I really enjoy being around David Haye, I really enjoy the press conference and stuff, because it's such an exciting time in my life.

"To have such attention, such an opponent and such a buzz around it ... I'm actually not taking that much of it in.

"I'm angry for the last three years, but it has transformed into concentration and motivation now."

At yesterday's weigh-in, in central Hamburg, Haye was cheered on to the scales by vociferous British supporters who also wasted little time insulting Klitschko.

Haye, 30, weighed in at a svelte 212lbs 12oz (15st 2lb 12oz), just two pounds more than when he beat Audley Harrison last time out and lighter than most of his fights at heavyweight.

Klitschko, as expected, was much heavier at 242lb 8oz (17st 4lb 8oz), but nearly five pounds lighter than his last fight, against Samuel Peter, in September.

The Ukrainian is rightly the heavy favourite and all signs point to another win for the 6ft 6in powerhouse.

The consensus is that Haye (25-1, 23KOs) must knock out Klitschko to take an upset victory.

Opting to use his speed to box rather than fight would be a risky strategy for the Englishman against a man renowned for his conservative but effective boxing skills. Haye's best chance of winning centres on Klitschko's supposedly vulnerable chin.

But the Germany-based boxer has won 55 fights, 49 by knockout, against three knockout defeats. His chin, if weak, has rarely troubled him.

"I've been called a dead man walking before. But this dead man keeps walking," he said.

"And you know what? It's OK the way Haye talks and represents himself. I'll definitely enjoy the fight.

"I've been involved in this for the last two years and David Haye has been around, talking a lot, and now it is time for the talking to end."

Pundits around the boxing world have been making their predictions, and Lennox Lewis, the former world champion, is saying Klitschko will triumph.

The Briton retired in 2003 having beaten elder Klitschko brother, Vitali, in a career which saw him knock out Mike Tyson in June 2002 and hold both the WBC and IBF belts. Lewis, 45, said that Wladimir has a better jab than Haye, a wealth of experience and, in Emanuel Steward, one of boxing's top coaches in his corner, who coached Lewis to his knockout of Tyson. Lewis cautioned that Haye can cause Klitschko problems.

"My heart says David, but my head says Wladimir," Lewis told the boxing website, boxrec.com.

Elsewhere, Vitali Klitschko has said he is jealous of brother, Wladimir. Vitali, who holds the other heavyweight belt, the WBC title, said: "I'd like to shut this idiot up with my fists myself, but I know that Wladimir will do the job just as well as I could.

"David Haye did not shake Wladimir's right hand before the fight, now he will get the chance to feel it in the ring."