Why Get Excited Already? The odds are still against David Haye

By Jason Peck: Some transitions are natural. Super-featherweights often score at lightweight; super-bantamweights often succeed at featherweight. But only ONE of the 51 men who held cruiserweight belts managed a successful heavyweight career, making this perhaps the least successful weight transition in boxing history. No matter how much David Haye talks, that doesn’t change the fact that history is overwhelmingly against him..

So doesn’t Haye-mania seem a bit premature? His November fight is being treated as though his future heavyweight conquest is a matter of course. Ring Magazine even gave him its blessings, arguing that Golden Boy Promotions doesn’t sign just anyone (of course, a Golden Boy property should know).

Rather than be accused of writing an article out of spite, I mention again that I have actually looked over the career histories of every past cruiserweight champ before putting pen to paper. That way I can make the point in cold, hard fact.

That means every man who has ever held a cruiserweight title from the four main sanctioning bodies (WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO) as of Sept. 4, 2008 – all from Marvin Camel in 1980 to Firat Arslan in 2007. My research showed that the number of fighters who held world titles at cruiser and heavyweight comes to just Evander Holyfield.

That’s one man of 51. Broken down as a statistic, that means nearly 2 percent of all cruiserweights have done what Haye thinks he’ll do.

Virtually every other cruiser who tried the heavyweight division not only failed, but failed bad. Vassily Jirov reigned as an unbeaten champ until he lost his belt to James Toney. In response, he moved to heavyweight, and lost harder (I still say he deserved the nod against Mesi, but that’s my opinion). Al Cole was an undefeated cruiser who defended the IBF title numerous times. Then he moved to heavyweight, and immediately started losing. James Toney reinvigorated his sagging career with a cruiserweight title, but – as Haye himself pointed out – his heavyweight career has been a mixed bag.

Likewise, Orlin Norris failed as a heavyweight before lost a few pounds and won a title at cruiser. No doubt flush with success, he moved back to heavyweight, and lost again. And how about Bobby Czyz, Adolpho Washington, Ossie Ocasio and Jeff Lampkin? Well, how about them? In all seriousness, Lee Roy Murphy did go on to win the Illinois State Heavyweight Title. So I guess there’s hope after all.

So why couldn’t cruisers cut the mustard at a heavier weight? That answer’s obvious: The cruiserweight division is much weaker.

There’s undoubtedly some talent here, but the division as a whole is usually doomed to revert to mediocrity. A talented cruiserweight champ could stay at this weight and give the division respect, but he’s unlikely to view it as anything but a stepping-stone to heavyweight. Fighters aren’t stupid – why take head shots for peanuts in a weight class nobody knows about? The heavyweight division still has bigger paychecks and more bragging rights. Why do you think Haye all of a sudden couldn’t make weight after unifying the titles?

By and large cruiserweight fighters are either bulked-up light heavyweights or starved-down heavyweights who couldn’t hack a tougher weight class. It’s where aging champions go to hump pugilistic glory for the last time.

Knocking out Jean Marc-Mormeck is a poor standard for future victory against Wladimir Klitschko. Namely, because Mormeck would likely lose in another weight class. As a heavyweight, Rob Calloway was a perpetual journeyman incapable of beating a real contender. But he’s moved to cruiserweight and a world title is finally in reach.

Another point – Holyfield defeated six heavyweights before earning his heavyweight title shot against James “Buster” Douglas. By contrast, Haye will likely get that title shot after a single fight, even if his heavyweight debut falls flat. No bones about it –Holyfield stood head and shoulders above Haye as a prospect.

As far as I’m concerned, Haye still falls short of the hype he’s built. He’s got a date for his heavyweight debut in November. If he doesn’t hurry up and just pick an opponent already, he’ll miss his own coming-out party.

Article posted on 05.09.2008

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