Since the disappointment of David Haye’s withdrawal from this year’s biggest heavyweight title fight and a potential record breaking event to boot it has been widely assumed Ruslan Chagaev would prove to be the natural replacement for the former Cruiserweight king. Similarly shorter than Wladimir, with a reliance on speed and movement the WBA champion is a far more obvious replacement, physically at least, than Nikolay Valuev, the near 7ft Russian who offers a polar opposite opponent than the one the younger Klitschko has spent many weeks preparing for. Bu this thesis overlooks one obvious factor, the 6ft Uzbekistan fighter is a left-hander.
Perhaps the seemingly feeble suggestion Wladimir Klitschko should wait for July 11th when David Haye is convinced he can be fit to fight, has more merit than has largely been asserted. After all, Chagaev has beaten a big, heavier opponent before with lateral movement and hand-speed when he thoroughly outboxed Valuev in their first meeting. Klitschko is cautious in demeanour and though clearly disgusted at Haye’s announcement, first and foremost he will want to minimise the risk of losing. Minimise lost revenue, something a postponement could cause, wll be important too but ultimately keeping the belts he has is key.
Cedric Boswell, who is booked to appear on the under card and has made his own case for filling the void left by Haye on the 20th, suspects Klitschko may prove willing to wait for Haye rather than fight a Southpaw he’s unprepared for. Chagaev is, after all, coming to the fight fully prepared for a big, tall orthodox fighter and will be in good shape following the recent scrapping of his return match with Valuev – he isn’t a traditional late notice opponent. Logistical obstacles remain for the revised date Haye is proposing – Felix Sturm is already featuring on that date, and he too is a big fixture on German TV but I wonder whether the conspiracy theorists who believe Haye’s reluctance on the 20th is because of a lack of financial stability at Setanta, the TV network being Haye’s only paymaster in this bout, rather than the back injury could be proven wrong. Could we yet see Haye v Klitschko on July 11th?
The Haye fight has enough significance, remuneration and personal ‘needle’ to prevent Klitschko listening to his instincts and fighting on the 20th June against a different opponent. As he cast an eye across the potential substitutes; Boswell, Chagaev or Valuev he may think there is too much inherent risk in switching horses at this late stage. He could be advised to recollect the trouble his brother Vitaly gave Lennox Lewis after Lewis agreed to him replacing the fat and mercurial Kirk Johnson.