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Haye out as Klitschko foe; replacement sought

03
Jun

David Haye is out. Many others are clamoring to get in.

The boxing world was shocked Wednesday by the news that Haye pulled out of his much-anticipated heavyweight fight against Wladimir Klitschko on June 20 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany because of a hand injury suffered in training.

Klitschko said he still wants to fight that night in the 60,000-seat Veltins-Arena, which is expected to be packed, if an opponent acceptable to him and the television networks can be found, which seems likely.

Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions, Klitschko’s promotional firm, said the fighter has received offers from 20 prospective opponents since Haye announced he couldn’t fight. Klitschko and Co. hope to make an announcement as early as Friday.

It’s also possible that the fight will be postponed if Haye can heal quickly enough.

“The first choice for Wladimir is to fight on the same date,” Loeffler said. “We have a commitment to the arena and to television. It’s just a matter of finding a replacement acceptable to the television networks and the soccer stadium. We’ve sold a lot of tickets. It would have to be someone attractive.

“It seems everyone has called to tell us they’re ready to take the fight. At least 20 have called. That’s 20 world-class fighters.”

A logical choice would be Nikolai Valuev, whose fight against Ruslan Chagaev scheduled for last Saturday was canceled when Chagaev tested positive for hepatitis B. Valuev is fit and, at 7 feet, also is an intriguing figure.

Another possibility is either Eddie Chambers or Alexander Dimitrenko, who are scheduled to fight in a title eliminator on July 4.

Loeffler said Klitschko doesn’t care about the size or style of a prospective opponent.

“A lot of people are in the mix. All you have to do is go down the list of contenders,” Loeffler said.

Klitschko and his handlers were extremely disappointed at the news.

The fight, one of the most-intriguing possible in the division, had generated considerable attention both in Europe and the U.S. The momentum was building toward a big night in front of a huge crowd, the biggest of Klitschko’s career.

“I am very disappointed that the fight got canceled,” Klitschko said in a statement. “I’ve been in training camp for weeks. I am in top condition and I was really looking forward to fight night. I don’t want to disappoint the fans in Schalke and I am willing to fight a different opponent as well.”

Shelly Finkel, Klitschko’s U.S. representative, said Klitschko is trying to determine how long Haye would need to heal sufficiently to fight before a final decision is made.

“If he can reschedule in five weeks, then we might wait,” he said. “But, yes, the first preference would be to find an acceptable opponent and fight (on June 20).”

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]

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