Klitschko comprehensively settles score with Haye
Wladimir Klitschko underlined his dominance of the heavyweight division by comprehensively outpointing David Haye in their unification clash at the Imtech Arena in Hamburg.
The Ukrainian succeeded in his mission to teach Haye some respect, doling out a hard lesson by dominating the fight behind his jab. It was a typically safety-first approach from Klitschko, but it was enough to carve a path to victory - and ensure his name will echo throughout boxing history.
Although Haye persistently complained to referee Genaro Rodriguez about what he perceived as unfair treatment, the decisive factor in the bout was Haye's failure to stay out of the way of Klitschko's jab. He also suffered for inactivity in the early part of rounds - far too often two minutes had elapsed before he made a mark. Klitschko landed nearly twice as many punches in the fight, which the judges awarded to him 117-109, 118-108, 116-110.
Haye talked a ferocious game before the bout and, while he put on a brave performance, he could not live up to that rhetoric - although he said afterwards he was hindered by a broken toe suffered three weeks ago.
He now faces the unenviable task of deciding what to do next with his career, having already revealed he will walk away from the sport before his 31st birthday in October. In contrast, Klitschko can reflect on the fact that he and his brother now hold all of the notable titles in the heavyweight division. Wladimir now wears the WBO, IBF and WBA straps, while Vitali is the WBC king.
Haye continued the mind-games until seconds before the fight began, delaying his entrance to the ring - and keeping Lennox Lewis, who was meeting him at the exit of the dressing room, waiting outside. Although Haye's music was playing around the arena, it was announced that he intended to keep the audience in suspense for a further ten minutes before entering. Off went the music as the atmosphere turned into a cauldron.
Ten minutes later, a pensive-looking Haye emerged wearing the new England away shirt. It was far from a serene walk for Haye, who saw jostling break out around him, with the security struggling to keep fans away from his entourage.
Klitschko, led out of the backstage area by his brother and George Foreman, did not come out at the scheduled time either - despite Foreman's initial attempt to enter his private area. Seconds later Klitschko, stony faced and intense, appeared and embarked on a slow trudge to the ring, his eyes darting between Haye and the floor.
The fighters did, surprisingly, touch gloves - and then, after two-and-a-half years of vicious insults, the fight was finally on. After a cagey start, Haye found himself on the floor with one minute elapsed, but referee Genaro Rodriguez ruled it was not a legitimate knockdown.
Klitschko landed more punches throughout the opening session, while it was Haye, boxing from the back foot, who looked for the bigger shots - although some of his work veered close to reckless territory.
Klitschko controlled the range expertly in the second session, as Haye was forced to lunge into his punches, meaning they carried little venom by the time they reached their target. The Brit found himself pinned back into the corner for sustained periods, with Klitschko using sharp sideways movement to cut off the ring shrewdly.
The battle caught fire in the third, Haye landing his best two shots - punishing right hands over the top - to cause Klitschko to wobble, before the Ukrainian came back with a rapid-fire combination against the ropes as the bell neared. A frustrating end but it was, by a wide margin, Haye's best stanza of the fight to that point.
Haye was slow to get going in the fourth, allowing Klitschko to control the fight behind the jab, as Haye found himself - and not for the first time - complaining to the referee about Klitschko pushing him to the floor. Although Haye landed a decent flurry towards the end, it felt like too little, too late. It was a similar story in the fifth, with Klitschko the aggressor, pushing forward on the front foot and landing a huge clean shot which, in fairness, Haye took well.
As the sixth rolled past, Haye was still having difficulty getting into range as Klitschko used his lethal jab to keep his rival at an unthreatening distance - a situation Haye compounded by showing a reluctance to seize the initiative, preferring instead to box off the back foot, with an eye on a counter that just wasn't coming.
Klitschko had a point deducted in the seventh as Haye once again was forced to the surface by a shove, before Haye proved elusive in the eighth, making Klitschko miss - but landing very few significant blows of his own, as the pattern of the fight continued.
Haye was stuttering at the end of the ninth, having found himself punished for throwing looping, clumsy haymakers, as the realisation began to dawn on him that he had to produce a knockout punch to stand any chance.
The referee awarded a contentious knockdown against Haye in the 11th as he took another significant step down the alley of defeat. Haye rocked Klitschko with a fine right hand in the 12th, but he couldn't get his adversary to the canvas.
At the final bell, a raging Adam Booth, Haye's trainer, went straight for the referee to complain - but he was powerless to stop Klitschko having the last word of a bitter feud.