Boxing


The questions about David Haye's heavyweight invasion have officially begun

David Haye10.03.08 - By Chris Acosta Can he hurt a big man? What happens when a bigger man hits him? Is he more concerned about his image than his boxing? Can he go twelve hard rounds? Is he more of an athlete than a fighter?

My answer: who the hell cares?

David Haye isn't perfect. He has that ugly loss to Carl Thompson back in 2004. He just might be saddled with those dual flaws that all punchers seem to be born with: a weak chin and stamina. He sometimes gets a little wild in there. The doubts about him are legit in many ways.

But the good far outweigh the bad. As Haye proved last night in his second round dismantling of fellow titleholder Enzo Maccarinelli, the Londoner has an awful lot to compensate for his perceived weaknesses.. He possesses freakish speed and reflexes, humongous punching power and the kind of sharpness that I suspect will shock a few heavyweights before he's done. He's also supremely confident of himself which you wouldn't expect from a guy who supposedly carries so many faults into the ring with him.

And perhaps more importantly than anything else is that Haye is taking the game more seriously than ever and will now be competing at a weight more suited to his long, muscular frame. There was a time when David Haye relied on his vast talents alone to carry him through and who could blame him? He became so used to seeing his opponents crumble under his blazing fists that there seemed no reason to change anything because it always worked. He admitted that his training was less than consistent back in those days and while many a boxer have used that excuse to lie to themselves, Haye's recent performances suggest otherwise. The man is so genetically blessed – the kind of person who always looks in shape no matter what they do or how they eat- that it makes the rest of us violently envious. When so much is handed to you right out of the gate, it's not always easy to understand that such gifts require a need to be fostered just as much as the regular Joe.

Things roll along exactly the way you want them to until reality sets in. That reality was that loss to Carl Thompson, who at the time was considered nothing more than an aged journeyman, albeit a heavy –handed one. Haye dominated that contest the way he had all the rest: by being faster, more athletic and carrying superior firepower. He was also much younger than his opponent so it came as a shock to most when Haye found himself in a new position, one which he was in no position to handle. Thompson staggered and came perilously close to being stopped but unlike his brash adversary, he was never dependent on anything but hard work and dedication. He was being hurt, yes, but he fought back fiercely and by the fifth round it was Haye who was sucking in gulps of air and searching vainly for a second win that yielded insufficient funds. The loss was a humbling experience and might have ruined a lesser man. If there's anything more confidence shattering than a good ass- kicking, then I have yet to hear of it. For a puncher to have someone survive their best and stay upright, it's the stuff of nightmares. It opens the door to self-doubt and criticism, two things that take forever to shake, kind of like bad credit. But surprisingly, Haye actually took it with grace and as a lesson learned; confident that he would never again fall victim to himself.

Today, the very lesson of that night has turned out to have been for the best. After all, it was better to have suffered the meltdown early in his career which with every new victory seems like a long, long time ago. But now the challenge looms at heavyweight and if there was ever a time to cash in, it might be right now. This isn't 1988 when Evander Holyfield decided to take his chances at heavyweight while a fearsome Mike Tyson was at the helm. The current crop of big boys is devoid of many legitimate power hitters. Wladimir Klitschko is the best of the crop and while he does indeed carry KO authority in both hands, he's also painfully reluctant to utilize it. I think we have to accept that Wladimir will always be a long range boxer who simply will not allow his fights to go into the trenches. From a strategic standpoint, it's effective but also maddening thing to watch considering that he's so much bigger and stronger than just about every opponent he faces. And while Sam Peter (who of course won the WBC title against Oleg Maskaev last night) is strong and a good puncher, I'm not totally convinced of his alleged improvement. I think that the Nigerian has realized his potential already and any argument to the contrary is just wishful thinking. The rest of the contenders are competent but lacking in the kinds of explosive power play that fans crave after years of John Ruiz' clutching and Chris Byrd, whose boxing was admirable but dull.

With that said, the questions of Haye's chin become somewhat of a moot point. With the exception of Wladimir and Peter, his future opponents will be no more threatening than some of his cruiserweight challenges and they certainly won't be as fast. And as for the issue of his punch, Haye is already a puncher regardless of weight. His right hand, which he affectionately refers to as "The Hayemaker" is straight and clean and delivered with striking velocity. He also has a tremendous uppercut and booming jab. And perhaps most promising is his initiative: David Haye takes risks. Whether it was continuing to make a weight that his body was never truly meant to handle or taking each and every opening his opponents offer, the man understands the importance of playing to win.

Boxing can and has survived without a recognizable figure atop the heavyweight division. But when it has that figure, the sport prospers heavily. Aside from his talents in the ring, Haye would be the perfect man to represent boxing in an age in which style easily outsells substance. He's charismatic, handsome, articulate, has the look of an athlete just meant for all the big endorsements and he's ambitious. Adding to this is that David Haye at last understands that success requires more than all the things you were born with. With that in mind, he just might be the "big thing" we've been looking for.

Article posted on 10.03.2008



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