By Kevin Mitchell in London/The Guardian
If, as seems likely, Wladimir Klitschko gets a chance to heal his wounded pride against Tyson Fury, the negotiations promise to be every bit as tough for him as was his defeat at the end of 11 glorious years as the best heavyweight in the world.
Officially Fury is now that man. He has the belts and the clout—although they usually arrive in reverse order.
But, since he outlasted the Ukrainian in Dusseldorf, the power has been in his big, gnarled hands.
Klitschko has said he wants to activate the rematch clause he had inserted in their original contract after several months of keeping Fury in a state of suspended frustration. How sweet that must have sounded to the new champion: now it's his turn to dangle the prize.
“I was really frustrated directly after the fight,” Klitschko said, “but, after some short nights [sleepless, perhaps], I now know that I want to show that I am much better than my performance on Saturday. I couldn’t show my potential at any time. This is what I want to change in the rematch—and I will. Failure is not an option.”
Well, that might not be entirely in his gift.
Ordinary a contest as it was, with grappling outstripping punching by a distance, the king of the division looked all of his 39 years and his decline was there for everyone to see—and for Fury to exploit, which he did with grim determination.
There will be grief ahead, of that we may be sure. Already the International Boxing Federation has sniffed a sanction bonanza and is pushing for its mandatory challenger, Vyacheslav Glazkov, to step in first. So there will be plenty of phone calls there, between Kathy Duva, who promotes the Florida-based Ukrainian, and Fury’s main negotiator, Mick Hennessy. It will not be garden party chit-chat.
As Robert Smith, the British Boxing Board of Control general secretary, told the Guardian: “Rematch clauses depend on sanctioning bodies. If there is a mandatory challenger, then they generally are not permitted.
“However, it will depend on the circumstances. For instance, as Tyson was himself a mandatory challenger, he will have a period in which to defend against the next mandatory—and therefore should be able to make a voluntary defence in the meantime [against Klitschko, perhaps].
“The board do not take any notice of such clauses and can order a return, if appropriate, for British championships. One problem for Tyson, though, is that he is champion of more than one sanctioning body [having taken the IBF, World Boxing Organisation, World Boxing Association (Super) and International Boxing Organisation titles from Klitschko), and they will have different mandatory challengers. It will be difficult to keep them all happy.”
That might be the understatement of the year.
Enter Bernd Bonte, the chief executive of the Klitschko Management Group and the man who kept David Haye waiting so long for his (ultimately doomed) shot at Klitschko. He is a renowned hard man at the negotiating table.
“There will be a huge worldwide interest in this fight [against his man], which already can be billed as the fight of 2016. We received so many questions from fans and journalists after last Saturday. The new champion and his challenger will answer all of them inside the ring,” Bonte said.
What Bonte and Duva might not have taken fully on board is that the man with the belts is no longer Ukrainian. He is a very stubborn and belligerent champion, glad to have proved so many doubters wrong and who will not be quick to dance any more to the tune of someone else’s fiddle.
Like a ghost from the past, Haye, who pulled out of two fights with Fury, eased himself back into the limelight before his own comeback and told the Evening Standard that the new champion would lose respect if he did not give him a title shot one day.
That is one scenario that is almost certain not going to happen. Fury will take as much delight in saying no to Haye as he will to saying yes to Klitschko.
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