Planes, Trains & Autobahns: A Travelling Brit's Perspective from Hamburg
There is a sense the 07.50 London Stansed - Hanover is a little busier than usual. But this isn't just any Friday. On Saturday night in Hamburg, Germany, London's David Haye, 25-1 (23) will step into the ring at the Imtech Arena, a little after 11pm local time to take on the Ukranian Wladimir Klitschko, 53-3 (49) in the most eagerly anticipated Heavyweight unification fight in a number of years.
The 'Hayemaker's UK fight fans are descending on Germany's 'Gateway To The World' in their thousands ahead of the big fight. The flight from London to Germany is a short one, just enough time to discuss and debate if Haye can blast his way to glory, or if 'Dr Steelhammer' will jab, jab, jab his way to a familiar looking victory.
The train from the airport to Hanover HBF runs 5 minutes late - even German efficieny has off days it seems. Nondescript stations with platforms overgrown with weeds and European style graffiti adorning every wall ensures the journey isn't a glamorous one, but no matter, Saturday night will have glamour by the bucket load, with the travelling Brits and a who's-who of the boxing world cramming into the 57,000 capacity football stadium.
UK fight fans travel well. Not always in style and cetainly not always successfully. But they do travel in numbers to support their boxing heroes. Large numbers, as anyone who witnessed the Hatton invasions of Las Vegas for the Mayweather and Pacquiao fights will confirm.
Inexplicably, the train from Hanover to Hamburg is running 50 minutes late, to the collective astonishment of the British contingent. But thankfully the delay should not affect anyone's ability to make the weigh-in, due to be held at the Karstadt Sporthaus opposite the central station at 1pm local time.
The ICE train is comfortable, and the view is certainly more appealing, allowing more time to contemplate fight night and read up on the views and predictions from the great and good (and the not so good!) of the boxing world. Boxing News editor, Tris Dixon, after much deliberation, opts for Haye in 6 or 7. Amir Khan also goes for the Haye win, but sees his fellow world title holder stopping Klitschko late. Joe Gallagher, trainer of the brave Matthew Macklin who lost his Middleweight world title fight in Gemany but won a new army of fans only last weekend, is less committed, but gives Haye a big chance and believes the win could come early.
Haye also has his backers across the pond, with the US Boxing Writers Trainer of The Year Freddie Roach arguing Haye can use his power and aggession to win out. The general consensus stateside however, is that Klitschko is too big, too strong and too good at what he does. Lou DiBella, Bob Arum and Al Bernstein all favour the Ukranian.
Of course, big fight build-ups are all about opinions and this one is no exception.
Boxing circles have been buzzing with lively exchanges for weeks about the tactics, scenarios and outcome of what should be the biggest night for the sport this year. For what it's worth, I agee Klitschko is very good at what he does and his longevity in the sport is testament to that, but I look at his list of recent opponents and do not see anyone who came close to bringing what Haye brings to this fight. I see Haye using his speed and mobility to slip the jab, frustrate the bigger man, get into range and drop big bombs, with the referee jumping in to save Klitschko in the middle rounds.
As the train leaves behind the lush green countryside and the industrial skyline of Hambug rolls into view, there is some serious fun to be had at the fight...