IBF/IBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko has told Sports Illustrated that his handlers have initiated talks with the management for WBO champion Sultan Ibragimov, hoping to make a title unification bout for February 23 on HBO, which is Klitschko's next date.
The best that we could hope for really might be Klitschko-Ibragimov. Who else is Wlad going to face? David Tua? Hasim Rahman? Both guys have been discussed, too, and are probably every bit as likely as us actually getting a heavyweight title unification of any kind. Wlad has said basically since the moment he beat Byrd last year that his goal is to re-unify the belts. Whether or not he's all that serious about it is another story, and at this point, I'll believe it when the bell rings.
But what does give me some hope is that Ibragimov has also shown a willingness to fight the other champions since he beat Shannon Briggs this summer. He had a bout with WBA champ Ruslan Chagaev scheduled, but Chagaev fell ill and had to bow out, opening us up for the Holyfield fight. (That fight, by the way, I finally watched in its entirety, and found rather depressing. Evander was never in it, though it wasn't as bad as the Larry Donald loss. Most things aren't.)
The WBC title is still all wrangled up between Maskaev and Peter and, after that, possibly Wladimir's brother if he can overcome his latest injuries and valiantly show up for a title fight he hasn't earned in any way, shape or form. Plus Jameel McCline's people are sticking their nose in because they thought the scores were wrong in their bout against Peter. So whatever -- Wlad against the WBC champion is looking like 2009 at the earliest.
Klitschko-Ibragimov makes sense for everyone. Ibragimov's name will not get hotter than it is right now. Old and worn out or not, Holyfield still has more name recognition in the States than any heavyweight out there. The second-biggest name is probably Lennox Lewis, and all he does is wear a suit and compare Andre Dirrell to Muhammad Ali. Wlad is unanimously considered the best heavyweight in the sport. Ibragimov's name is now out there. Strike while the iron is hot, and unify some of these damn belts already.
Hopefully, the fight goes off, and then the winner can face whoever comes out of the Byrd/Povetkin/Brock/Chambers deal next summer. But, again, I'll believe it when I see it actually happen.