Thursday, June 4, 2009

David Haye Lost His Place in Line

Let me say this right off the top - I was looking forward to the big fight on June 20th as much as you were.

But when David Haye pulled out of his fight against IBF/WBO heavyweight titlist Wladimir Klitschko earlier this week due to a bad back – he lost his place in line - so to speak. The way I see it is like this; Klitschko is the champ and in my book the champ calls the shots and holds all the cards.

David Haye claims he can be ready to fight by July 11th and he wants Wladimir to wait around for him. Haye figures if he lays off for three weeks or so that he'll be ready to go. But what if his back doesn't heal quickly enough? What if he begins to train again and on the first punch he throws at the heavy bag or the first time he wings a “Hayemaker” at a sparring partner the back goes out again? Then where are we?

If you've ever done anything to injure your back, you know it is a tricky part of the body to get right again. For all of you guys that have ever bent over to put on your socks and felt a twinge, twisted your back on a golf swing or woke up one morning stiff and sore – you know what back pain is and how long it can sometimes take to go away.

So when Haye and his camp claim all will be well and they hope he will be ready to compete on July 11th that sounds like a lot of wishful thinking to me. It's like one of my former mentors once said: “Hope is not a strategy.”

Haye is now pleading his case and suddenly playing “Mr. Nice Guy.” The man who displayed the severed heads on a T-shirt of the heavyweight champion brothers Wladimir and Vitali is now hoping that all will be forgotten. Haye is begging Wladimir to put his career on hold another three weeks to sit around and wait for him so that Haye can be given his shot at the title. This is the same man mind you that has endlessly shot his mouth off for the past several months and called Klitschko “a robot” blamed him for “ruining the heavyweight division” and said that “I will destroy him.”

Wladimir Klitschko has a decision to make. Does he wait for David Haye to heal or move ahead with other plans?

Now he wants Klitschko to put his plans on hold. The point is that Klitschko has been waiting for Haye for a long time. Haye and his backers originally said they could bring the fight to Stamford Bridge in London. Klitschko agreed to that venue, but then Haye's people weren't able to bring that grandiose plan to fruition which caused the fight to be pushed to Germany in June.

“I'm sorry to disappoint all my fans across the world and I hope that once I have had the sufficient treatment, I will be able to start training again and we can get the fight on as soon as possible,” said Haye in a statement issued by Golden Boy Promotions on Thursday. “I know this is the fight the fans want and I will do everything to make sure it happens.”

Well, here's the thing with David Haye. In the grand scheme of things - and truth be told - he didn't really deserve a title shot to begin with. Sure he was the former cruiserweight champion that held three title belts at 200 pounds, but the only heavyweight of any note that he had ever beaten – was 37 year-old Monte Barrett.

Haye, however, is an excellent self promoter and a good talker. He talked the talk and got himself into the title fight with Klitschko, but unfortunately his back didn't allow him to walk the walk.

Like I said at the beginning, I really wanted to see this fight and I still do. But Klitschko should do like they used to do in the old days when a challenger had to pull out of a shot at the title at the last minute. Klitschko should go straight to the next available contender.

Ruslan Chagaev holds the WBA title belt and is undefeated. He is the most logical choice for Klitschko to fill the void left by Haye.

In this case that next available contender appears to be Ruslan Chagaev who is the current “WBA heavyweight champion in recess.” Chagaev is undefeated at 25-0-1, 17 knockouts, like Klitschko has a big fan following in Germany, and he says he is ready and it is a fight that his management is willing to put together. Moreover, the 60,000 people that were to fill the stadium for the Haye fight would likely still fill the stands for this fight, too.

A bout against Chagaev is a natural if you ask me. While it would likely not produce the fireworks that the fight with Haye would have, it is the best fight in terms of significance that can be made in the heavyweight division at this point.

Klitschko is the holder of the IBF and WBO title belts while Chagaev holds the WBA strap. The Ring magazine has said if the two were to meet they would recognize the winner as the champion. For hardcore boxing fans that have repeatedly called for the heavyweight titles to be unified, this is their dream come true, or at least pretty darn close to it. The winner holds three of the four belts with only the WBC belt being out of the mix and currently held by Vitali Klitschko, Wladimir's older brother.

Were Chagaev to beat Wladimir he could eventually go to a fight with the elder Klitschko for all four belts which is exactly the scenario that boxing fans have been calling for since Lennox Lewis retired in February 2004.

Wladimir (left) and Vitali have a virtual lock on the world heavyweight championship belts. All that is missing from their collection is the WBA strap.

Or maybe the winner goes ahead and faces Nikolay Valuev, the WBA regular heavyweight titlist. Either way, the winner is likely regarded as the world's best heavyweight and that's precisely what the fans on boxing message boards and in chat rooms have been whining about every day for the past five years – a unified heavyweight champion.

Whatever the case with Haye, I say let him prove himself in the heavyweight division. Let him prove he is healthy and let him earn his shot at the heavyweight title. If he is all that he says he is then that shouldn't be a problem for him. But him asking Klitschko, the champion mind you, to wait around for him isn't even a request that Klitschko should give a moment's thought to. Klitschko should move ahead with his own plans, his own agenda and shape his own destiny.

It's like what happens when you step out of line at Wal Mart – you start at the back all over again. If Haye is what he says he is, he'll eventually get his chance at the check-out counter and he'll get there the old fashioned way – he'll wait in line along with everybody else.

June 2009

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