Wladimir Klitschko-David Haye fight set
The long-awaited showdown between heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko and titleholder David Haye is a pen stroke from being official.
More than two years in the making -- thanks to Haye's constant verbal trashing of Klitschko and his older brother, fellow titlist Vitali Klitschko -- the fight will take place either June 25 or July 2, both sides said.
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However, it is not signed yet.
"It's 99 percent," Bernd Boente, Klitschko's manager, told ESPN.com Sunday. "This week it will be finally signed and also announced. But it is not signed.
"We will sign it very soon. There are no question marks anymore," Boente said. "The fighters have to sign. [Haye manager/trainer] Adam Booth has to sign. I have to sign. Wladimir [has to sign]. As long as it's not signed, it's 99 percent."
"I am really pleased that we have closed a deal on this fight," Klitschko told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
"The terms were right, it's a fair deal -- it's a 50-50 split. That's what they wanted and that's what I wanted," Haye told the BBC. "Here it is -- end of June, beginning of July. Let's get ready to rumble."
The venue is not set, although the fight is likely to take place in Germany, where Ukraine's Klitschko is a major star.
"It will be in a European time zone, but England is out," Boente said. "It could be one of three different stadiums in Germany. We also have three options outside of Germany. All these things will be discussed A to Z between Adam and myself.
"In the contract we have a paragraph that we do all of these things together because that is what is best," he added. "Adam will be involved in the stadium deal. We will also talk to American TV stations HBO and Showtime. It could also be on pay-per-view in the U.S. if we can't find an agreement."
Boente said the deal between the camps was a 50-50 split of all revenue and that there are no rematch clauses on either side and no options on future fights.
"The points are agreed to, and I think both sides are happy," Boente said. "No options, no rematches. One fight. If we want to do another one and sit down afterward and see if it makes sense, we will do that. But this is a straight one-fight deal. It's obvious that if there is public interest in another fight, it will probably come."
The timing of the deal has been questioned by many because Klitschko withdrew Saturday from a scheduled April 30 defense against England's Dereck Chisora.
Klitschko also had called off the fight in December, citing a 2-inch abdominal tear he suffered in his final training session four days before the fight.
After that, Klitschko, 34, and Haye, 30, made a deal for a July 2 fight. However, when Klitschko announced his intention to reschedule the Chisora fight for April 30, Haye objected and called off the fight. He said nine weeks between fights for Klitschko was too short of a window to promote such a big event. He also was concerned that Klitschko could either lose or get injured.
Boente said calling off the Chisora fight had nothing to do with making the Haye deal, despite the timing.
"Our contract with Chisora says if someone is injured -- Wladimir still is -- there is no fight," Boente said. "It is the same injury from December, and it has not healed properly. So the April fight is off, but June or July, that is different. I can only tell you the truth. That is what the doctor said.
"The doctor checked Wladimir and said it is not possible to fight April 30. Why should anybody question it? However it looks, I can only tell you this is the truth and he is one of the top doctors in Germany."
One interesting twist: Boente said the contract with Haye says he could fight Wladimir or Vitali.
The priority is Wladimir facing Haye, Boente said. However, if Wladimir is still injured, Vitali could step in, contingent on Vitali winning his March 19 defense against Odlanier Solis.
"Knock on wood, nothing happens. Vitali has to win his fight in two weeks against Solis, which is a very tough fight," Boente said. "If he comes out of that fight, he is also a possibility. In the contract it says Vitali or Wladimir."
Previously, Haye had been unwilling to consider facing Vitali, the bigger and more durable of the brothers.
"Haye is now willing to fight Vitali," Boente said. "I think it will be Wladimir to face Haye, but it's not a precondition from Adam Booth or David Haye. In these negotiations they were very flexible. David said he was also willing to fight Vitali, which is different than last time. I think all sides acted as real gentlemen. That is why we reached the goal this time."
The Klitschkos have a similar deal in place with top contender Tomasz Adamek for a September fight. Adamek fights Kevin McBride on April 23, and the brothers also have interim bouts. If they all come through, the Klitschkos will determine which brother Adamek will face, and if one loses, Adamek would face the other brother.
"This deal with Haye is basically the same thing," Boente said.
Boente structured the deal with Adamek as he did in the event that Haye came back to the bargaining table.
"We had this door open all the time," Boente said. "Haye walked away last time because Wladimir was going to fight Chisora. But Wladimir was always willing to fight Haye in July if they came back to talk again. They did that."
Klitschko (55-3, 49 KOs), who will be making his 10th title defense, and Haye (25-1, 23 KOs) have been on a collision course for the past few years. Haye, a former cruiserweight champion who moved up to win a heavyweight belt via majority decision against Nicolai Valuev in November 2009, has repeatedly taunted the Klitschko brothers but also has been heavily criticized for not agreeing to fight them.
Once, at a news conference a few years ago, Haye famously wore a T-shirt depicting him standing in the ring with the decapitated heads of the brothers, which angered both of them.
Haye eventually did sign to challenge Wladimir in Germany in June 2009, but he backed out weeks before the fight claiming a back injury few believed -- and one for which he never produced the necessary medical report.
Later in 2009, Haye was supposed to challenge Vitali. They had agreed to terms, but just before signing the deal, Haye reneged and instead signed to fight titlist Valuev, with whom he had been secretly negotiating.
Haye has made two title defenses of his version of the title, knocking out former titlist John Ruiz last April and British countryman Audley Harrison in November.
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.