Is David Haye The Next Great Heavyweight Champion?

By Paul McCreath - Whenever the subject of David Haye and his future prospects comes up it becomes immediately clear that there are two schools of thought on this matter. On the one hand we have David's loyal fans who are sure he is headed strait for the heavyweight title. Some even think he could KO both of the Klitschko brothers right now. On the other hand are the doubters who think that David is sure to come up short for any one of several reasons. I am inclined to think that the truth lies somewhere in the middle ground between the two sides. In this article we will look at some of the various opinions,add a few facts and hopefully reach some kind of logical conclusion..

First of all we have the fact that David held 3 of the 4 cruiserweight belts before moving up to heavyweight. He was generally recognized as the best 200 pounder in the world. While this success at cruiser does not guarantee he will do the same at heavyweight it does indicate that he has exceptional talent. Nobody gets to be number one in the world at any weight without a lot of skills. The question of course is can he bring those skills up with him against the big boys.

So far we have had only two fights from which to judge Haye at over 200 pounds. His first bout was an easily forgotten one round blastout of Tomasz Bonin who entered the bout with a top 15 rating from one of the alphabet groups and a 37-1 record. Both the record and the rating were a joke and this fight proved nothing. This past weekend David fought fight number 2 against faded former fringe contender Monte Barrett. He won easily while scoring 5 knockdowns in a fight that ended in the 5th round. So far so good but beating a faded old vet is far removed from beating one of the Klitschko brothers. Keep in mind that Barrett had not won a meaningful bout since he outpointed Owen Beck in 2005. Please don't tell me his win over Tye Fields with his inflated record means anything. Barrett was also KOd in 2 by the very ordinary Cliff Couser in July of last year. He did reverse that loss later but so what? Everybody who is decent beats Couser. The fights with Bonin and Barrett did strongly suggest one thing. David Haye's punching power also works at heavyweight.

Those who doubt David usually bring up his weak chin but is this a valid point? David was stopped back in his 11th pro fight by the veteran former world belt holder Carl Thompson. He was not knocked out but fell from total exhaustion much like Wlad Klitschko did against Ross Puritty. He was also knocked down in a couple of other fights but what heavyweight has not visited the floor a few times? While a good chin is important it is not the only thing. Look at Lamon Brewster and Sam Peter. Both had great chins and both have been stopped and in the case of Brewster by the so called weak chinned Wlad Klitschko.Did you ever notice too that the fighters who have the reputations as having great chins usually are the ones that get hit the most? I personally do not think that David's chin will be a factor one way or the other in determining his greatness.

Another thing that David's detractors like to bring up is his size or rather the lack of it. He stands 6 foot 3 and he weighed 215 pounds for the Barrett fight. Evander Holyfield is 6 foot 2 and 1/2 while Mike Tyson is 5 foot 10. Both weighed around 215 in their prime. Need I say more?David Haye is not that small. Look at any list of top 10 heavies today. Other than Valuev and the two Klitschkos Haye is as tall as most of them. He does weigh less than most but he is expected to add 5 or 10 more pounds in the near future. Isn't the difference in weight more a case of physical fitness with many of these heavier contenders? Other than the Klitschkos who is as fit as David Haye? Size can be nice but it can be overcome by speed and power and both Tyson and Holyfield proved that. Again I doubt that David's size will have much to do with his eventual success or failure.It will be about his skills.

That brings us to that very question of skills and there are no definite facts here only opinions and everybody has one. Haye had the skills to reach the top of the cruisers but will these same skills be the ones he needs to become a heavyweight great as well? Frankly after watching him against Barrett I think he has some work to do yet. I noticed a few flaws that could be his undoing against better opposition. For one thing he tends to back up on a strait line when under attack. As we all know that can be a recipe for disaster against a faster fighter than Barrett or one with a reach long enough to get to him. David also tends to throw rather wild looping punches and sometimes lunges in. This is an open invitation for a good counterpuncher.I would also like to see more jabs and more combinations.

On the plus side I think Haye has better than average power, good hand and foot speed,counters well, and he fights at a good pace for a heavyweight. The negatives are all things that can possibly be corrected given enough time and experience and that brings up the question of where he should go from here.

David has two possible paths to follow. He can probably go for a strait shot at one of the Klitschkos but this carries a risk.While the money would be good he could wind up another Jeff Lacy if he is not ready. 12 to 18 months from now his chances would be much better. I believe he would have only a slim puncher's chance against either of the Kilitschko brothers now and if he pulled an upset he could easily wind up a one hit wonder like Shannon Briggs. I would prefer to see Haye go after one of the veterans who are still at least fringe contenders. Someone like Jameel McCline, Ray Austin, Sergei Lyakhovich,or Oleg Maskaev would be ideal but there are others who would do.Evander Holyfield showed us the proper approach like this years ago. After that David could step up a bit further and meet one of the top 5 or 6 heavies possibly in an eliminator.

Fights like these carry the risk of an upset but a single defeat would only postpone his title shot. Consider how many times McCline or Andrew Golota or Hasim Rahman have bounced back from defeat and gotten another chance. David could do the same.

In closing I think that David Haye has the potential to become a great heavyweight champion but he is not there yet. It is a long journey from passing your first test to eventual graduation. We will need more time before we can judge Haye properly at heavyweight. It is too soon to write him off and too soon to anoint him as the savior of the division. What do you think?

Article posted on 18.11.2008

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