Thursday, May 21, 2009

David Haye Fights for the Hearts of Boxing Fans

David Deron Haye was born October 13, 1980 in London, England. It was eleven days after Larry Holmes beat Muhammad Ali in defense of his heavyweight championship. It was a contest the world watched.

After Holmes had dispatched of a virtually helpless Ali the heavyweight torch had finally been passed, at least in the eyes of the skeptics that for years viewed Holmes as a poor imitation of Ali - and his former sparring partner.

The morning after the fight, Ali peered through dark sunglasses and he saw what everyone else did; Larry Holmes was an unbeatable champion.

“Taking as many punches as I was, I was glad they stopped it,” said Ali of his fight with Holmes. “Take your hearts and turn them over to Larry. He's the heavyweight champion - until I return.”

Ali never did return to the heavyweight throne and the public never did turn their hearts over to Holmes because he was never who they wanted him to be. And passions of the heart, especially the hearts belonging to boxing fans, are fickle.

Now, nearly three decades after Ali said you should turn your heart over to Larry, David Haye is is about to fight not only for the heavyweight championship against Wladimir Klitschko, but for the now broken hearts of heavyweight boxing fans.

Since Lennox Lewis retired in 2004, the heavyweight division has been in disarray. In the past five years, five different men have held the WBC title, three the WBA, five the WBO and two the IBF.

The most consistent performer of the various names that have held the belts for short moments of time in the past half decade since Lewis left for the retirement community and a life in Montego Bay, is Wladimir Klitschko.

Klitschko (left) and Haye will meet on June 20th at the Veltins Arena in Germany. The venue holds 70,000 for boxing and is expected to be near capacity.

Wladimir has held the WBO belt for a little over three years and has made six successful defenses of the title. He added the IBF strap to his collection early last year and he is generally regarded as the best heavyweight in the world. His older brother Vitali, the WBC titlist, is a close second.

Which brings us back to David Haye.

In only 29 days he will face Wladimir in a German soccer stadium. Nearly 50,000 tickets were sold in the first 48 hours after they went on sale. An explosive puncher with both hands and the former world cruiserweight champion, Haye is the owner of a 22-1, 21 knockouts record. He will pose the most significant threat to Klitschko since he began the slow process of resurrecting himself under the careful guidance of Emanuel Steward in 2004.

Klitschko's recent numbers are impressive, but somewhat deceptive. Seven wins with six knockouts against fighters that had a collective record of 223 wins against only 15 losses. Two of those fighters were undefeated before he beat them and four of them were former heavyweight titlists. However, none of those fighters were truly dangerous nor did they pose a significant and dangerous threat. There were no Mike Tyson types on the list.

The critics say Klitschko has flaws. Some say a shaky chin, others say little punch variety, although he does possess an exceptional left jab. Others say no stamina. They skeptically claim he is only the champion because the competition is so pathetic.

None of what Klitschko has managed to accomplished concerns David Haye. Nor does it impress him. Haye is hungry for the heavyweight titles that Wladimir Klitschko holds and more pressing is his desire to stamp himself as a heavyweight champion the entire world can believe in.

A heavyweight champion they can turn their hearts over to.

Haye is an impressive physical specimen. When he decides to turn it on, he can be as explosive a fighter as you will see in the sport of boxing.

“None of who he has faced recently are of any consequence,” says the brash and outspoken Haye. “They've only shown up for the paychecks. They've been over the hill, under-motivated and it's pretty sad, to be honest, that he hasn't been able to give the fans the entertainment he should have been giving them. You put someone under-motivated, out of shape, fat and useless in front of me and I knock them out and make it look pretty doing it. He doesn't do that. He lets them go seven rounds, holding, clinching and leaning on them.”

There is some element of truth in Haye's words. Klitschko is a jab first and throw right hands later type of fighter. He tends to peck, poke and prod with his left jab and once an opponent is sufficiently weakened he begins to sparingly toss hard right hands. His style is cautious and not explosive. He is not usually always aesthetically pleasing to watch, but he is relatively effective.

David Haye is different. He's aggressive, quick handed, is eager for hand-to-hand combat and he unleashes hard, fast, straight punches that are all designed with one thing in mind – the knockout.

“I come out from the first bell and I throw bombs,” says Haye. “The tickets sold so fast, not because the people want to come and see Wladimir jab all night long - hell no. All you've got to do is go to one of his fights and look at the crowd. They're talking to each other, clapping. 'Oh, the guy has fallen over now, let's go home.' This isn't going to be like that, this is going to be electric.”

Haye would like to take Wladimir Klitschko out to deep water on June 20th - and drown him.

Some say that Haye has the necessary components of what it takes to be a superstar in the sport. He has the looks, the physique a heavyweight champion should, and he possesses equal doses of personality and charisma. However, he is not yet a proven commodity as a heavyweight and he has only fought four times above 200 pounds. Those that are predicting a Klitschko win say that Haye is too small to compete.

“I'm healthy, I'm happy and I'm in my prime,” counters Haye. “I'm 28-years old and this is my time to shine. The people in the boxing public, especially the American boxing public, they know what they're looking at. You can try and put Wladimir in with Sultan Ibragimov and they know it sucks, they know it's garbage. I want to bring boxing back to what it was like a few years ago. The last few years people have switched off from it, it's been boring.”

Haye says he can be the one to bring heavyweight boxing back from the doldrums and turn fans back onto the heavyweight division. He is in a great position to capitalize since the fight will be seen live around the world. If you believe even half of what he says then it could be a fight that a heavyweight boxing fan wouldn't want to miss.

“There's going to be a changing of the guard,” Haye predicts. “The old 6'7” heavyweight - jab, jab and grab - against the 'Haye-maker' coming out there throwing bombs and giving people what they're paying to see and that's excitement. Don't blink come June 20th. Don't go to the toilet, don't go to get yourself a cup of tea, don't go and get beer. Sit down and enjoy the new heavyweight sensation and that's David Haye.

“My plan is to go out there and destroy Wladimir Klitschko. I want to really shock Germany and I really want to shock Europe and really shock the United States. I guarantee people around the world will begin to recognize me after that. Someone needs to clean up the division, it's not what it once was. I fight with my heart on my sleeve.”

And speaking of hearts, as long as David Haye has anything to say about it, he thinks you'll turn yours over to him - soon.

May 2009

No comments: