David Haye will get a heavyweight title shot but it won't come against Vitali Klitschko, as was in the works.
Instead, the former cruiserweight champion signed to challenge heavyweight titlist Nikolai Valuev on Nov. 7 in Germany after snubbing the deal to fight Klitschko, Haye trainer and manager Adam Booth told ESPN.com on Wednesday.
The revelation marked the end of a curious day. Klitschko's manager, Bernd Boente, and adviser Shelly Finkel couldn't reach Booth to finalize a deal they thought they had agreed to for Klitschko and Haye to meet Sept. 12 at the 55,000-seat Commerzbank Arena in Frankfurt, Germany. The fight would have had live television coverage on HBO in the United States.
"I am thrilled to announce that my dream of becoming world heavyweight champion will be realized on Nov. 7 when I challenge the tallest and heaviest champion of all time, Nikolai Valuev," the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Haye said of the 7-foot, 320-pound Russian giant. "Valuev's known as 'The Beast From The East' and there's a reason he's got that nickname. He's a big, ugly, sweaty and hairy man from the Eastern Bloc. David only needed a slingshot and a stone to flatten Goliath and I'm convinced my right hand generates more power than a stone."
Unable to reach Booth, Boente was livid even before realizing that Haye had taken another fight.
"The fight is definitely off," he told ESPN.com from Germany. "Now we have to plan our next step."
Boente said Klitschko (37-2, 36 KOs) would line up another opponent for September, possibly American contender Cristobal Arreola for a fight in the United States, although talks would have to move quickly.
Negotiations for Klitschko-Haye were difficult but Boente said they had reached an agreement for the bout. Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions, Haye's American promoter, said two weeks ago that they had reached a deal. Yet the contracts went unsigned by the Haye camp as it quietly made the deal with Valuev promoter Sauerland Event instead.
Boente said Booth received the final draft of a contract they had agreed to but refused to sign it or return telephone calls, e-mails and text messages from Boente and Finkel.
"Haye is saying it's a slavery contract and won't sign it after we agreed to everything," Boente said. "The contract we agreed on is on their desk and they don't sign it. From [Wednesday] morning on, they don't answer us. This is the worst I have seen in negotiating. We have not heard from them. This is so amateurish. How little class do they have? I really prefer to negotiate with people like Don King or Peter Kohl, who are tough, but at least you can talk to them and negotiate. This guy has no idea what he is doing. Haye has the right trainer maybe, but not the right manager."
Haye and Booth had a different story.
"There were reports in the German press that I had signed to fight Vitali Klitschko in September, but those reports were never true," Haye said. "There have been long and exhausting discussions about the clash, but unfortunately I could never put my name to the fight contract the Klitschkos offered. The level of disrespect they have shown me throughout has left me feeling insulted. As for signing the contract, now that I realize just how much support and interest I have from the people in Germany, it would have been like selling my soul to the devil. I will not be a slave fighter.
"Once I have snatched Valuev's title, I will be happy to battle out heavyweight supremacy with the Klitschkos, but only on equal and fair terms. I only hope the Klitschkos still want to fight me after I have slayed 'The Beast.'"
Although Booth didn't speak to the Klitschko camp on Wednesday, he said he had a heated conversation with HBO's Kery Davis over the fight falling through. HBO had made it an important part of its fall schedule.
"Publicly [the Klitschko camp] may be perplexed but they know the fight was never on," Booth said. "They have overstated the position. We never once said it was done. There have been ups and downs, but in the final analysis, David made the decision for what he feels is the best for his career. They have our final position. I had to do what was best for David. He was always unhappy with the contract for the Klitschko fight. He's a young man trying to fulfill his dreams and he wants to do it the way he wants to do it."
Boente has been down this road with Haye and Booth before. After a difficult negotiation, Haye signed to challenge unified titlist Wladimir Klitschko, Vitali's younger brother, on June 20 at a 60,000-seat stadium in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. The fight was originally supposed to take place in England, but the stadium deal Booth promised never materialized and the two sides reworked the deal.
However, three weeks before the fight, Haye, claiming a back injury, withdrew. Many believed his pullout had nothing to do with an injury but rather the impending bankruptcy of Setanta, the British subscription sports network that was on the hook for Haye's entire purse, and he was worried he wouldn't be paid for the fight.
With Setanta out of business in England and Wladimir Klitschko scheduled for a mandatory defense in the fall and unable to reschedule with Haye, Haye turned to Vitali instead and the negotiations began in late June.
The fight was supposed to be televised on pay-per-view in the United Kingdom by Sky Box Office, the British equivalent to HBO PPV. Boente said that the reluctance of Haye and Booth to sign might have to do with poor pay-per-view sales of last week's Amir Khan-Andreas Kotelnik fight on Sky Box Office. Most of Haye's purse for the fight was not guaranteed, but instead based on how well the pay-per-view sold in the United Kingdom, Boente said.
Valuev-Haye will be televised by Sky Box Office in the U.K., but terms of Haye's deal for that fight have not been disclosed.
Booth denied the accusation and said that Haye's camp simply believed the fight with Valuev was better for Haye (22-1, 21 KOs), who hasn't fought since moving up to heavyweight and stopping a faded Monte Barrett in five rounds in November.
The Klitschko camp isn't buying it.
"Everything was OK, we thought," Finkel said. "The only thing up in the air was what little technical things had to be finished between Sky and [German broadcaster] RTL. They were very minor and had nothing to do with the important deal points. All of a sudden [Booth] and his lawyer became unavailable. But we got a letter from the lawyer saying things were fine on all points except the technical issues [between broadcasters].
"I understand the business. If you're making a deal and you want to back out, just say it. But don't do it like this. [Booth] doesn't even have the guts to answer our phone calls."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.