I am not even going to pretend that I am an expert in the most noble of sports, but I do enjoy watching Boxing, I grew up when ITV Sport showed great Fight Cards featuring the likes of Hearnes, Duran, Leonard, Eubank et al, so I appreciate the sport from a fans prospective. Therefore, with the news that David Haye is hanging up his gloves, for the time being at least, I’d like to reflect on why I appreciate what he has done for the sport.
Standing in the Nevada Desert in June 1997, little did I know that I was witnessing the peak of Heavyweight Boxing as I knew it.
This was of course the build up to Holyfield-Tyson II, or the Bite Fight as it subsequently became. Amongst the hustle and bustle of a busy casino, I walked around the lobby of the MGM Grand as the American fight fans infused about previous contests and talked about what a wonderful Main Event there was going to be, the excitement was palatable.
Unfortunately, as a contest the fight was something of a farce, but the build up and the media coverage leading up to the main event was something to behold, sadly the spotlight would dim over time, driving boxing fans to concentrate their attention on smaller, more agile & skilful boxers in the lower weight classes, this was the pinnacle of modern heavyweight boxing and the circus that followed the larger than life pugilists.
Fast forward to November 2009 and another former cruiserweight had just become WBA Heavyweight Champion, this time it was David Haye, a ‘Marmite’ fighter in the publics eye, but in no doubt something different in the division and an irritant to the establishment. On that night Haye defeated Nikolai Valuev on points and proved that there was life in the old dog; a stale, uncompetitive, uninspiring heavyweight division, which for too long had been dominated by the Klitschko Brothers, a boxing equivalent of the Mitchell Brothers, bullying their way around the classification until they had all but one of the major titles, the WBA belt.
This of course meant one thing, that Haye after years of goading the Klitschko Brothers finally had the carrot to tempt one of them into the ring. So, after a mandatory defence against the veteran, albeit still dangerous, John Ruiz and the forgettable ‘Battle of Britain’ against the washed up Audley Harrison, a contest with Wladimir Klitschko was made for the 2nd July 2011 at the Hamburg Arena.
The fight was a stale affair, certainly not what the hoards of travelling fans had bayed for. Haye for all his bravado before the fight gave a disappointing account of himself and after the fight complained of a broken toe, but nevertheless he went the distance against a heavier and more experienced fighter, a much better performance than many pundits had predicted.
But that’s not the point, the fight signalled the renaissance of the Heavyweight Division, bringing back the razzmatazz of the Holyfield-Tyson era, because all of a sudden people were talking about the fight, the build up dominated the sports pages as the media followed their every move and the fight fans were excited once again, this is Haye’s legacy, he brought back the excitement and its something others have to grasp with both hands (or gloves) and ensure that the top division and the big money draw in Boxing is brought to the fore. The alternative will be that other more modern and ‘exciting’ forms of combat, that promise to deliver this kind of spectacle, will overtake the popularity of boxing, which may sadly become a forgotten art, in the eyes of the television executives at least.
So what of the end of David Haye’s career, well as with most boxers time will tell if he will be tempted out of retirement for one last hurrah, but right now few would argue the case that he has retired at the wrong time, especially while he is still relatively unaffected by the rigours of the sport, something other fighters should take note of and certainly something which sadly some of our boxing heroes should have been advised to do so also.
One final note is that amongst a number of British fight fans, Haye is unpopular, maybe because he dared to sell himself, to make the best of his abilities or even to insist on a larger share of the purse, all intrinsically un-British, therefore open to criticism. Sadly more would have been thought of David if he had rocked Wladimir Klitschko with a left hook at the end of the first round, but to be ultimately pummelled until a 5th round stoppage, do you know what I mean…
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