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Vitali Klitschko: What's Next and What's Left for the Champ at 40?

Like it or not, David Haye is the only opponent for Vitali Klitschko. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Like it or not, David Haye is the only opponent for Vitali Klitschko. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
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After yesterday's one-sided beatdown of a brave and respected but undersized Tomasz Adamek in Poland, 40-year-old Vitali Klitschko is facing dwindling options for a next opponent. Given his age and the fact that his body has betrayed him in the past, and we saw a bit of a stumble yesterday with his leg giving out underneath him at one point, there's not a lot of time left in what has been a great career, one that has seen Klitschko, like his brother, beat those who were put in front of him.

It has been a dominant comeback for Klitschko, who returned to the ring in 2008 after a four-year layoff due to injury. Many expected him to come back and be good, but as he came in to immediately face WBC heavyweight titleholder Samuel Peter, more than a few thought the comeback would be cut short by the Nigerian power puncher.

Instead, Klitschko put on a classic performance, punishing Peter with brutally hard jabs all night, until Peter retired from the fight after eight rounds. He didn't lose a second of the fight, let alone a round. "Dr. Ironfist" was back, refreshed and recharged.

Since then, no one has given him a challenge. Juan Carlos Gomez came to win ugly, and wound up beaten down. Chris Arreola came to make a fight, and did, but was punished for his slothful ways by the well-conditioned, highly intelligent Vitali. Kevin Johnson just showed up and did nothing more. Albert Sosnowski and Shannon Briggs, like Adamek and Arreola, were game and gave their all, but were nowhere near Vitali's level. And Odlanier Solis went down inside three minutes with a knee injury.

Where do we go from here? There's but one answer.

Like it or not, David Haye is the only opponent for Vitali Klitschko.

Yes, that David Haye. The David Haye who spent three years talking a big game, taunting the Klitschkos, insulting and angering them, and finally showed up to fight Wladimir in July, and put in a lousy non-performance.

David Haye has decided to postpone his retirement (as we all expected he would) -- if he can fight one of the Klitschkos. And he says he'll fight Vitali.

We know Vitali wants it. The more emotional, more hot-headed of the Klitschko brothes, Vitali has stated clearly that he wants to knock out David Haye and finish the job Wladimir started in Germany on July 2.

Make no mistake, there is still big money in Klitschko vs Haye. Some feel there is unfinished business. And Haye is a good talker, one who can, if nothing else, annoy enough fans with his boasting and guarantees of knockouts to get them to tune in to see if Vitali can take his head off, which Wladimir did not. The Klitschko vs Haye rivalry is real, and is not quite over.

That is, unless David Haye wants it to be over.

The one thing that could prevent this from happening is the fact that contracts to fight the Klitschkos are a bit demanding of the opponents, and in the views of more opponents than just David Haye, equate to "slave contracts," where to fight Vitali or Wladimir, you have to sacrifice future options and control of your own career. Given that they're the big dogs in terms of money and prestige in the division, they have the right to dictate terms to extreme levels.

If Haye, who was always unwilling to go in for a one-sided deal before, is now of the mindset that he has this fight or nothing else, the fight will happen.

If he's not, it won't.

In my view, and I know many won't feel this way, it's the only fight for Vitali Klitschko. And I still think -- I've got my armor on -- as I've said for years, Vitali is the better matchup for David Haye between the two brothers.

And if it's not David Haye, then who would you like to see in with Vitali?

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