- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
- 0 Shares
Weeks after they concluded their deal for one of the most anticipated fights in boxing, the heavyweight showdown between unified champion Wladimir Klitschko and titleholder David Haye now has a date and venue: July 2 at the Hamburg Imtech Arena in Germany.
The 55,000-seat stadium is the home arena for the German Bundesliga soccer club Hamburg SV.
"We are very glad that this mega-fight will finally come true," Bernd Boente, Klitschko's manager, said Wednesday. "We expect more than 150 TV stations worldwide to show the fight live or on a delay. Klitschko vs. Haye is definitely one of the top highlights in sport."
Most of the television revenue for the fight will come from pay-per-view on Sky Box Office in Haye's native England and from terrestrial network RTL in Germany, where Klitschko, of Ukraine, is a huge star. The fight will air live on HBO in the United States.
The fight was slated for either June 25 or July 2 but depended on which venue they made a deal with. Boente said it wound up going to Hamburg because stadium officials there made the best offer.
"Also, Hamburg is the second-biggest city in Germany after Berlin, so you have a huge potential fan base and the stadium is one a new stadium built just a few years ago," Boente said. "We are sure that because of the city and the stadium that we will have a sellout crowd."
Klitschko (55-3, 49 KOs) and Haye (25-1, 23 KOs) have traded trash talk for years, although it was Haye who really got the feud rolling when he famously wore a T-shirt depicting him standing in the ring with the decapitated heads of Klitschko and his older brother, fellow heavyweight titleholder Vitali Klitschko.
Haye also had signed to fight Wladimir in June 2009, but pulled out shortly before the fight. Later in 2009, he negotiated a deal with Vitali, but did not sign the contract he had agreed to and instead secretly negotiated to face Nikolai Valuev, the titleholder Haye eventually outpointed to claim a belt.
"I am very happy that Haye finally dares to step into the ring with me," Klitschko, 35, said. "He already ducked out of two fights with me and Vitali and is only trash-talking and producing stupid shirts. Now he has to prove in the ring what he has got. I have been waiting for this fight for over two years."
Said the 30-year-old Haye: "I always said I would knock out Wladimir, get his belts and will then finish up his brother Vitali to end my career on the peak. Wladimir has only fought wimps and cowards so far. I will show him his limitations and what it is like to fight a real champion. That is a promise."
Although the contracts are signed and the date and venue are now set, Klitschko said he still worries that Haye might pull out on short notice, as he did last time.
"I'm very excited about it because it's eventually time to make it happen. Finally. But it's not matter of fact that David Haye will show up on July 2," Klitschko said. "But I hope he will. We will face each other a couple of times at press conferences and I am a little bit worried about it because he is putting so much pressure on himself. He's consistently putting himself in a corner and now the action has to follow. Now he has to follow through with all the promises."
Klitschko also said that the abdominal injury that forced him to postpone a December fight with Dereck Chisora and then to cancel it altogether in April has healed.
He said it will not be a hindrance to his training.
"I am completely recovered and I have been cleared by the doctor, so I am ready to go," Klitschko said. "I can train now, but it's early. I do will do the same preparation I always do. I'm, of course, taking this fight like any other fight --seriously. I know exactly what to expect from him and what to do with him. My game plan has not changed since I was preparing to fight him in June 2009. To me nothing has changed."
Then Klitschko unveiled his dry wit: "To make it more clear, I am going to fight David Haye. After the clearance from the doctor, David Haye will get his wish to fight the younger, weaker Klitschko, as he says. It is his dream come true."
This will be the first heavyweight unification bout since Klitschko easily outpointed Sultan Ibragimov at New York's Madison Square Garden in February 2008.
"This will be the second heavyweight unification fight that we have promoted. The first was between Wladimir and Ibragimov at a sold out Madison Square Garden, but this fight between Wladimir and Haye is on a totally different level," said Tom Loeffler, the managing director of Klitschko's K2 Promotions. "It has been talked about for the last two years and now is the premiere event in boxing. The Klitschkos are the only boxers that can regularly fill the large soccer stadiums in Europe and the Imtech Arena in Hamburg is a great venue."
Boente said there would be a kickoff news conference next week in Hamburg, with one the following week in London.
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.
3hMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne
12hMarc Stein and Tim MacMahon
20hMarc Stein and Calvin Watkins