Is David Haye the Resurrection Man?

boxing20.07.08 - By Michael Klimes: The late comic genius George Carlin, as many of you know, was a fan of Joe Pesci. I am too. I am mesmerised by Pesci’s use of the word fuck and his deftness at squeezing it into almost every sentence that comes out of his mouth. Whether it was the gangster flicks Goodfellas and Casino or that beautiful comedy My Cousin Vinny, Pesci was the actor whose lines thrilled and chilled movie goers in equal measure. Whenever I return to these films I am happy that Pesci is there to be conservative and radical at the same time. He is conservative in the sense that he can be depended on to swear voluminously as he is a hydrogen bomb waiting to go off. However, he is a radical in the way his technique never wavers or becomes clichéd. Pesci is predictably unpredictable. It is difficult to pick a favourite scene where he explodes at something or somebody but I have awarded my Oscar..

It is from My Cousin Vinny. Pesci and his girlfriend retreat into the woods and snuggle up in a log cabin as they have been unable to get a decent night’s sleep since they arrived in the Deep South. They are experiencing paradise until an owl wakes them with a rude squawk. Pesci awakes in a splendid tantrum and interrogates the alien sound with the remark, “What the fuck is that?!” His facial expressions are unforgettable and he runs out of bed to a gun cabinet and arms himself with a heavy calibre weapon. Marisa Tomei, his girlfriend, looks on in confusion. The camera then swings to the owl outside with the front of the log cabin behind it. Pesci runs out in a leather jacket, underpants, high socks and trainers and shoots widely. The owl is completely unperturbed. Silence follows and he walks back into the cabin with a cool swagger only for the owl to squawk again.

Did anyone have a similar experience when they watched the title fight between Wladimir Klitschko and Tony Thompson? I questioned what I was seeing with Pesci’s lexicon. If Wladimir Klitschko is the best fighter Europe has to offer and Tony Thompson is the best America has to offer, the question shifts from “what the fuck is that?” to “What the fuck went wrong?” I for one cannot say and the stereotypical explanations fall short of providing the answer. Is it American athletes simply going into other sports since they are more lucrative and there are more opportunities? Is it the regurgitated view that the decline of boxing in the US, especially among the heavyweights is terminal? From the European perspective, some hoped that the Eastern Europeans were a reservoir of talent but they have proved to be limited. Nikolai Valuev is huge, nothing else, Ruslan Chagaev is injured and supposedly a “champion in recess”, Aleksander Povetkin still needs to develop, John Ruiz is courageous and confronts everybody but is not in his physical prime, Hasim Rahman is the same and Evander Holyfield is well beyond these stages. Only God knows about James Toney, a fiendish dark horse who has answered the doubters repeatedly but never was a true heavyweight and is not the future. His charisma is endearing, skills in their depleted shape still impressive but his lax training is not.

No one has really stepped up to annex all the titles or our imaginations. This is making a statement since Lennox Lewis retired four years ago. There are a couple of heavyweights who have emerged from other corners of the world like Samuel Peter from Nigeria and David Tua but they have not dazzled the stage. Tua is from the previous decade, not this one and Peter has not surpassed his predecessor, the extremely gifted yet self-destructive Ike Ibeabuchi.

I do not want to disrespect and be dismissive of the current heavyweights but I cannot myself. The division is fragmented, disorganised and a downright mess. I am not excited about it and I cannot see any heavyweight on the horizon who will extract us from the mediocrity. The lauded prospects Dominick Guinn and Audley Harrison disintegrated years ago, especially Harrison. Harrison was genuinely talented and affable man that had and still does have psychological shortcomings. The last really dynamic heavyweight I can think of is Lamon Brewster but he always got hit too much to be around for the long term. In retrospect, Vitali Klitschko’s excommunication from boxing by injury was catastrophic. He was mentally tougher than his younger brother and was a solid professional. He had a very classical style which was reminiscent of boxers from the 1930s. It is easy to imagine Klit Senior fighting on a black and white film reel. He was not boring to watch and although not spectacular moved well for a heavyweight of his size, was fairly quick and threw technically precise punches. He was primarily a one-two fighter, adding the hook and upper cut now and again for a little variety but he was the best of the bunch. His return is welcome but one can never be sure about lay offs. Injuries do not usually decrease but mount with age.

So the only fighter I can see plugging the breach is David Haye. The cruiserweight is a rarity in today’s boxing. He can talk and fight. Furthermore, he is articulate, intelligent, charismatic, exciting and the complete package minus the questionable chin. He does not lack bravery though. He has considerable skill, exceptional power, a good record, does not mind travelling and is entertaining. What more do you want? Haye has the potential to be a superstar and hopefully Golden Boy Promotions can make this happen. Oscar de la Hoya has more shine than anyone else in boxing and the connections. He should be kind and hand a little to Haye who has some himself but maybe not enough to do it all on his own. Whatever happens, I wish Haye the utmost success with his campaign with the big boys. He deserves all the success he can get and I say keep on talking! We need to rebuild the boxing capital back from a squalid ghetto into imperial Rome. All the other divisions are relatively strong compared to the heavyweights. Whether we like it or not, the heavyweights still matter and matter too much.

I admire Haye but I would not want to be him. He is not just boxing for the money, celebrity, prestige, legacy and fame. His significant battle is not even against history, the most resilient foe of all. His task is greater than that. He is fighting for the reputation of the heavyweight division and the health of boxing. He is striving to prove that boxing is for the “now” and not the “then”. Haye must be embraced and accepted across national boundaries, the stakes are too high. Of course, you will retain the right to veto his efforts. Do so if you want to but you will be shunning our best chance for survival, meaning Haye becoming the most important boxer on Earth: The undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

Article posted on 20.07.2008

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