David Haye – not shy, but is he retiring?

By Rob Moore: With a Haye V Klitschko fight now looking more likely, given the revenue it would generate, I would argue very likely, my thoughts returned to the assertion by David Haye that he will retire by his 31st birthday in October 2011, come what may. I appreciate that even the mention of the name David Haye stirs heightened emotions, but I would ask we remain calm for a minute or two and consider his decision objectively, as it is one I have found genuinely confounding.

For any sportsman who has devoted much of their life to their chosen sport, retirement is something that we try to avoid, but sooner or later mother nature flexes her muscles, puts us back in our place, and we are forced to accept the harsh truth that our performance is declining and we can no longer participate at the level to which we aspire. For someone like David Haye who has performed at the very highest level, found fame and fortune in the process, this time would normally be one to be delayed and avoided as long as possible. Retirement will see him leave behind the area of his life that has most defined him as a person and has made him elite. Numbers of fighters who should stay retired, return to the ring, as much to experience the emotion and purpose they have lost, as for the financial rewards. Men like Holyfield and Roy Jones Jr already have the complete respect of the boxing world, are in truth shadows of their former selves, yet they find it almost impossible to walk away. For Haye to to retire aged just 31, when he is likely to be at or approaching his peak as a heavyweight, is extremely hard for me to understand, particularly for a guy who talks about leaving a legacy. David Haye lives right and stays in shape, so he could certainly expect to be performing every bit as well when he is 35. So what is really going on here?
Haye's public explanation is that at 31 he will have been “punched in the face for 20 years” and that is long enough. Well that doesn't sound unreasonable, even from the safe side of the ropes, until you consider his career a little more closely. The Haye detractors may not wish to accept it, but the fact is that David Haye is a fine boxer, blessed with natural speed that has made him very hard to hit, combined with power allowing him to take many guys out early. His 26 professional fights have constituted just 102 rounds. None of these fights could be considered wars, and this figure includes 12 rounds with Valuev, when he was barely touched, and three rounds with Harrison who landed a solitary jab. Haye is certainly not battle worn and has probably been hit less than any other fighter who has held world titles a two weights. While I am certainly not in the camp that chooses to disbelieve everything Haye utters, I am struggling to swallow his explanation on this one.

So what other explanations are there? Perhaps the most popular, particularly among Klitschko fans, is that Haye sees 2011 as the year he faces a Klitschko and he expects to have a huge payday, but feels he may well lose. If he lost, and lost convincingly, then I could see how, for a fighter like David Haye there could be nowhere left go, and no financial imperative to continue. I just cannot see him being happy to accept a loss and remain simply a ranked heavyweight. In this scenario I can understand the rationale for retirement.

Puzzle solved then. Well no, not quite, because he claims that he will retire next year whatever happens, irrespective of whether a Klitschko fight takes place and the result of such a fight. Add to this that there is genuine belief in the Haye camp that he has every chance of beating a Klitschko, and I am back to square one. I appreciate that many boxing fans do not see David Haye beating, a Klitschko, but I have been told by a well informed source that the Haye camp are confident they can and will win, so David Haye is not planning for defeat. This leads to the scenario in which David Haye sees himself beating Vladimir Klitschko in 2011, and in so doing, proves himself the best heavyweight of the current generation and retires because there is nothing more to prove, no challenge deserving of the rigors of a training regime, and he retires physically undamaged. While a huge achievement, he will simply not have had enough fights at heavyweight to leave any sort of legacy and would walking away while his stock is at its highest and he is at his peak. I cannot think of a single fighter of recent times who has walked away while at their peak and holding a world title. Calzaghe and Lewis left as champions, but great as they were, their decisions were wise as their performances looked to have just started to wane. Lennox was 38 and Joe was approaching 37 and they were not at their peak.The other possible scenario is that David Haye reaches October next year having not fought either Klitschko brother, and perhaps a win against Chagaev under his belt. Nothing new would have been proved, no legacy and he walks away without that huge payday. A talent still largely unfulfilled and untested

Bottom line is that I struggle to accept Haye's own explanation for planned retirement, yet I cannot find an alternative that makes a whole lot of sense either. If his claim proves to be more than just a contract negotiation trick, I believe we will see him back in the ring much the same way we did with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Article posted on 25.12.2010

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