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Six reasons to give boxing's heavyweight division one last chance

Why, hello there, heavyweight division. It has been a long time. You look … different. Have you lost weight? Gotten your hair done? Teeth whitened? Whatever it is, it becomes you. What's that? Saturday night? You and me? Oh, I don't know. I've heard your promises before. You've stood me up so many times. Broke my heart, really. Maybe you've forgotten Sultan Ibragimov or Nicolay Valuev, but I haven't. Now you want another chance. Sigh. Fine. You know I can't quit you. But if this time doesn't work out, it's over. Six reasons to give the heavyweight division one last chance:

2. It's the best heavyweight fight since Vitali Klitschko-Lennox Lewis in 2003

Klitschko had Lewis seemingly out on his feet in that one, but couldn't finish off the champ. Lewis managed to bust Klitschko's face up to the point the fight had to be stopped, and lucky for him as he trailed on all three cards.

The rematch? Never happened.

Lewis, left, retired, Vitali got his title and retired, and the division's great history was handed over to champs like Lamon Brewster and Ruslan Chagaev, to name a few.

3. Haye is a polarizing, charismatic, compelling figure

He is talented and has the kind of punching power the division has been sorely lacking, but in the run-up to this fight he has been annoying, charming, arrogant, self-deprecating, funny.

But mostly, annoying.

In other words, exactly what the heavyweight division needs.

Some have likened it to Cassius Clay's approach against Sonny Liston before their first fight in 1964.

Like Clay, Haye is the underdog.

Like Clay, he is diligently working on driving his bigger, stronger opponent crazy with insults.

Boxing has thrived on such characters. It relies on its protagonists, needs them as much as it needs those with the technical skills and knockout power. We need someone to love, but sometimes someone to hate is even better (see Mayweather, Floyd).

So Saturday, you're probably either rooting for Haye to beat Klitschko and inject some fresh blood into the division, or you want to see him get knocked out of the ring.

There's no in between.

4. It's the first legitimate challenge for Wladimir Klitschko since 2005

Klitschko has reigned over the division since beating Samuel Peter in a tough decision, and it has been rather painful to watch ever since.

It's not Klitschko's fault. He came along at the wrong time.

Is he good? Yes.

Is he great? We'll never know.

Does he put you to slee…zzzzzzzzzzzz.

Klitschko has defended his title eight times, and if you can name any of the guys he has beaten, you need to spend more time with family and friends on Saturday nights.

(Tony Thompson, Sultan Ibragimov, Ruslan Chagev, Hasim Rahman, Ray Austin, Calvin Brock … okay, I'll stop.)

5. Saturday's fight can save the heavyweight division

Remember how mad you were when you missed that Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson fight?

Don't make the same mistake again.

Nothing against the reign of the Klitschko brothers, but it's easy to agree with Haye when he likens it to watching paint dry.

"It would be a shame if the Klitschko brothers ended up with all the belts," he told Wladimir Klitschko, to his face, on HBO's Face Off program. "What a way to truly (dump) on the heavyweight division. … I can't allow that to happen. For the good of boxing, for the good of the world, for the good of the universe. We got to take them belts off you, boy."

One fight may not save the division. Two might.

If Haye wins, he wants big brother Vitali next and even showed up to a news conference wearing a T-shirt depicting the decapitated heads of the brothers in each of his hands.

Think of the drama, the buildup, the story lines.

Haye trying to pull off what seems to be the impossible double play.

Vitali trying to avenge his brother.

Are those goose bumps?

6. Saturday's fight can kill the heavyweight division

If Haye gets knocked out, the Klitschko brothers will hold all the belts in the division, and that would be a shame. They won't fight each other, and chances are they will win until they retire and hand the belts back to the IBF, WBC, WBA, etc.

Thanks, guys. We're done with these.

Vitali will next fight Tomasz Adamek, who just beat Kevin McBride, a guy who has lost five of his past six fights though, yes, he did send Mike Tyson into retirement and a role in both Hangover movies.

As for Wladimir, which of the top-rated contenders do you want to see him fight?

His choices, according to the current rankings, will probably be Ruslan Chagaev, Eddie Chambers, maybe Tony Thompson.

He has already knocked out all of them.

1. A good fight!

No, really, that's what almost everyone is thinking. Or, is it wishful thinking?

Never mind what division it's in. The David Haye-Wladimir Klitschko bout Saturday night is one of the best matchups in three years.

There's a buzz. Genuine excitement. I even received two e-mails this week asking where to see the fight.

There have been better matchups on paper than this one, which features the giant Klitschko who hasn't lost in seven years, against a smaller former cruiserweight champ who won his title against Nicolay Valuev and has a questionable beard.

But these guys really hate each other, and not in the but-let's-get-a-beer-afterward way. There's serious animosity.

It's going to be a fight!

(There I go again, getting all hopeful.)

Wladimir Klitschko vs. David Haye

What: Boxing, heavyweight bout. Klitschko owns IBF, WBO and IBO belts. Haye has a WBA belt. Winner claims all four belts.

When/where: 10:15 p.m. Saturday in Hamburg, Germany.

TV: HBO

On the Web: Video of Haye and Klitschko trash talking at http://bit.ly/l87mxX

.Fast facts

Wladimir Klitschko vs. David Haye

What: Heavyweight boxing champion­ship bout. Klitschko owns IBF, WBO and IBO belts. Haye has a WBA belt. Winner claims all four belts.

When/where: 4:45 p.m. Saturday (Eastern time); Hamburg, Germany

TV: HBO

Six reasons to give boxing's heavyweight division one last chance 06/30/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 30, 2011 11:09pm]

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