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Klitschko, Chagaev reach agreement

05
Jun

Wladimir Klitschko vs. Ruslan Chagaev is on.

The fighters have agreed in terms to fight for the vacant RING magazine heavyweight championship on June 20, the same day Klitschko was supposed to fight David Haye, Klitschko’s manager told RingTV.com. The venue also remains the same, a 60,000-seat soccer stadium in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.

Only two formal steps remain: the lawyers' approval and the fighters’ signatures.

“There are no further obstacles,” Bernd B├Ânte said. “We’ll exchange contracts probably tomorrow but we’ve agreed to the numbers. There are no further problems.”

Haye pulled out of the fight on Wednesday with a back injury. Chagaev was scheduled to fight Nikolai Valuev last Saturday in Finland but was shown to have a hepatitis B antigen in his system and was not allowed to fight.

Nigel Collins, Editor-in-Chief of THE RING magazine, also confirmed that Klitschko, rated No. 1, and No. 3 Chagaev will fight for the championship.

“THE RING magazine will recognize the upcoming bout between Wladimir Klitschko and Ruslan Chagaev as being for the vacant RING heavyweight championship of the world,” Collins said. “Usually, we require a match between the No. 1 and No. 2 contenders to fill a vacancy. But in certain circumstances, we will recognize a match between No. 1 and No. 3, and this is one of those circumstances.

“Wladimir is THE RING’s No. 1 heavyweight contender, and his participation is mandatory, but as the No. 2 contender is his brother, Vitali, and the brothers have stated many times that they will never fight, a match between Wladimir and No. 3 contender Chagaev meets THE RING’s criterion.”

The agreement is a relief to Klitschko and his camp.

They considered Haye’s request to postpone the fight until July 11 but decided it was too risky. Had they agreed and Haye still hadn’t recovered, Klitschko would’ve had to wait months for his next fight.

Now, neither Klitschko nor a crowd expected to approach the 60,000 limit will be left hanging.

“Are we relieved? Absolutely,” B├Ânte said. “The alternative would’ve been to postpone the fight for three weeks. We considered it but Haye could’ve come back and said he has back problems again. Then we would’ve had to wait until after summer vacation. Wladimir might not have fought again until September.

“Everyone on the team is very happy that this fight is on.”

The Klitschko-Haye fight, which probably was more attractive universally than Klitschko-Chagaev because of Haye's charisma, was to be televised by HBO in the U.S. However, HBO has rejected the new pairing, according to Shelly Finkel, Klitschko's U.S. representative.

Almost certainly another network will pick up the fight here.

The Klitschko-Chagaev matchup is unusual in that the replacement fighter is more-accomplished – and perhaps better — than the original opponent.

Haye is a former crusierweight champion but has fought over the cruiserweight limit of 200 pounds only four times. Chagaev (25-0-1, 17 knockouts) is the WBA’s heavyweight “champion in recess” and a former two-time world amateur champion.

Plus, he’s left-handed. Klitschko had been preparing for an orthodox opponent in Haye.

“I think this opponent is even better (than Haye),” B├Ânte said. “He’s a world champion, he’s unbeaten. He’s beaten guys like (John) Ruiz and Valuev. He was a top amateur, a former amateur world champion. He even beat Felix Savon, the three-time Olympic champion.

“This is a big challenge. I think you see that Wladimir isn’t afraid to fight anyone – even on short notice. I think it shows his class.”

B├Ânte also said that the THE RING championship adds luster to the event. Klitschko vs. Haye was not for the THE RING title.

“Wladimir told me that he’s absolutely thrilled that this is for THE RING championship, especially because the last one to hold that title was his brother, Vitali, before he retired,” B├Ânte said.

Chagaev, an Ukbek who lives in Hamburg, Germany, has fought the majority of his fights in his adopted country. B├Ânte said the postitive test for the hepatitis B antigen in Finland won’t stand in the way of this fight.

“A doctor in Berlin, at one of the most-reputable hospitals in the world, was asked by a journalist after the fight with Valuev was called off whether someone could be infected by Chagaev,” B├Ânte said. “He was told the chances were as high as you walking out of your home and having the sky fall on your head.

“Plus, Wladimir has been inoculated against hepatitis. That’s normal for youngsters in Europe.”

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]

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