HAMBURG, Germany - David Haye must rely on his blistering speed against the reach and power of Wladimir Klitschko in a much-anticipated heavyweight title fight.
The trash-talking Englishman has been looking for a fight with Klitschko or his older brother, Vitali, since he moved up from the cruiserweight division in 2008. It's finally happening Saturday in the unification bout at Imtech Arena in Hamburg.
Klitschko, the IBF and WBO champion, is the favorite (55-3, 49 KOs), and at 6-foot-6, has a 3-inch height advantage.
Klitschko weighed in Friday at 242 pounds, compared to 213 pounds for the 30-year-old Haye.
Undefeated in seven years, the 35-year-old Ukrainian tends to wear down his opponents with his jab before hammering them with a right cross.
WBA champion Haye has sought to rile his opponent in the lead up to the fight with taunts that go beyond the typical trash talk between boxers. Haye (25-1, 23 KOs) has promised to injure him, refused to shake his hand and worn a T-shirt depicting the severed heads of the Klitschko brothers.
Haye claimed the WBA belt in 2009 by defeating 7-foot-2 Russian fighter Nikolai Valuev, whom he had described as a "hairy freak" and a "circus act."
Klitschko called the Briton's behavior "childish" this week and vowed to make Haye "No. 50" in his list of knockout victims.
"He doesn't give any respect, but that's his personality," Klitschko said after a workout in Hamburg. "I believe he's not such a bad person, he just lost his mind" after beating Valuev. "He flies above the ground. So my goal, and this is what I'm going to do on July 2: put his feet on the ground. I think it's going to be good for him."
Many boxing fans say Haye has brought energy and excitement to a heavyweight division lacking strong profiles during the long reign of the Klitschkos. Haye calls the brothers "frauds," saying they've kept their belts by taking on lackluster opponents.
While that's a stretch, it's clear that Klitschko faces a career-defining moment against Haye, considered his strongest challenger yet. The Hamburg crowd will favor Klitschko, a fluent German-speaker, though Haye can count on the support of thousands of traveling British fans.
"David Haye has all the attributes to win, and win with a knockout," said Steve Victor, a 27-year-old IT consultant who traveled from London to watch the fight. "Speed, agility; his technical ability is better than any other in the division."
While both fighters are outstanding athletes, it remains to be seen who has the stronger chin. Haye has been knocked down by Lolenga Mock, Carl Thompson, Jean-Marc Moremec and Monte Barrett, but came back to win each time except against Thompson.
Klitschko beaten by knockout in fights against Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster, in 2003 and 2004. He was downed three times but came back to win on points against Samuel Peters.
If Haye wins, there's a narrow chance he could line up one last fight with the elder Klitschko brother, Vitali.
"I'll start thinking about Vitali after the referee has counted to 10 on Saturday and I'm the new unified champ," Haye said. "There's nobody else I want to fight."