Sunday, April 02, 2023  |



Hauser: W. Klitschko’s anger is understandable but …

Fighters Network

Wladimir Klitschko has been quite vocal about David Haye during the past week.

Klitschko is upset that Haye pulled out of proposed title fights against each of the Klitschko brothers. To make his point, he posted a video on YouTube in which he declared, “(Haye) bitched out on me and then he bitched out on my brother. He lied about his injury, and then he lied to the last moment and pulled out of the fight with my brother to take the Valuev fight. I really don't like anything about him. He lies; he's sneaky. This is a personal issue to me.”

Wladimir is also offended by Haye’s penchant for trash-talking. In that regard, he’s particularly angered by a T-shirt Haye has worn that depicts him holding the bloody severed heads of the Klitschko brothers.

“He did terrible things the way he presented himself,” Wladimir states. “I didn't like that and neither did my brother.”

I’m not a fan of Haye’s mouth. But let’s look at the record.

Yes, Haye pulled out of his fight against Wladimir, claiming a back injury of questionable provenance. But Setanta (the television network slated to carry Klitschko-Haye in the UK) was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Given the way Haye’s fight contract had been structured, he was to receive most of his purse from Setanta. It was unrealistic to expect him to go through with the bout given the likelihood that he wouldn’t be paid.

And yes, Haye abruptly cut off negotiations for a fight against Vitali in favor of challenging Nikolay Valuev, who was the WBA heavyweight champion at the time.

Poor manners? Absolutely. But not unprecedented.

Let’s not forget that Shannon Briggs thought he had a deal to fight Wladimir at Madison Square Garden in late 2007. Klitschko adviser Shelly Finkel assured the Briggs camp that the bout was “one thousand percent certain.” Then Klitschko left Briggs standing at the alter and fought Sultan Ibragimov instead.

As for Haye’s poor manners, I agree with Klitschko that part of being a champion is treating people, and particularly fellow athletes, with respect. That’s why I was disheartened that, as part of his diatribe against Haye, Wladimir labeled Valuev “a freak show.”

Let me quote something that Valuev said to me several years ago:

“I am not a machine. I am not a piece of meat. I am not a circus show. I am a normal human being. I have human feelings. I have a beautiful family. I have many friends. I like good music, classical music. I read books. People sometimes do not treat me like a human being because of my size. They make a sensation. I try to not take it personally because they do not know me as a person. But there are times when it hurts me inside.”

Nikolay Valuev has always conducted himself in the athletic arena with dignity and personal grace. Wladimir Klitschko owes him an apology.

* * *

The boxing community said goodbye to two of its finest this month.

Don and Lorraine Chargin were married on Dec. 28, 1961. She was the building manager at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. He’d just started matchmaking there for promoter Aileen Eaton. The best match that either of them ever made was with each other.

Don and Lorraine were involved in various aspects of the fight game for a half-century. In 2001, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored them with the James J. Walker Award for long and meritorious service to boxing.

Lorraine died of cancer on April 6. I vividly remember her holding hands with Don one afternoon as they left the media center at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. They were boxing’s nicest couple. It will always be impossible for me think of one of them without the other.

Arthur Mercante refereed his first world title fight (Benny Paret vs. Federico Thompson) in 1954. Over the next half century, he was the third man in the ring for 145 championship bouts including, most famously, the March 8, 1971 “Fight of the Century” at Madison Square Garden between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.

Arthur was a master at positioning in the ring. He had a thorough knowledge of boxing’s rules and regulations, which he coupled with sound judgment and the ability to act decisively in a crisis. He ruled without fear or favor. Late in life, he left the confines of the ring to judge fights from the outside. His place within the ropes was taken by his son, Arthur Jr.

The younger Mercante once explained why he didn’t think it would be a good idea for his father to judge a fight that he refereed. “Number one,” Arthur noted, “some people might think it was a conflict of interest. And number two, I know my father. He'd be critiquing my performance instead of concentrating on scoring the fight.”

Arthur Mercante died on April 10 at age 90. He was a gentleman.

Thomas Hauser can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] His most recent book (“An Unforgiving Sport”) was published by the University of Arkansas Press.