Haye-Klitschko: The David That Provoked Goliath

By David Matthew: “The Hayemaker is coming for you! Forget about fighting bums like Tony Thompson and Alexander Povetkin. I'm the main man!” These were the words WBA Heavyweight champion David “The Hayemaker” Haye (25-1 23 KO) hurled at WBO/IBO/IBF Heavyweight champion Wladimir “Dr. Steelhammer” Klitschko (55-3 49KO) as he ambushed Klitschko in London's Excel Airport back in the Spring of 2008. At this point in time, Haye was fresh off of a spectacular KO performance against Enzo Macarenelli to unify the Cruiserweight titles by effectively cleaning out the division in dynamic fashion. Despite this, Haye was still relatively unknown for a fighter of his stature, but that all quickly changed with his brash outspoken bravado and lofty ambitions of cleaning out the Heavyweight division to become the first fighter since Evander Holyfield to successfully unify titles as both a Cruiswerweight and a Heavyweight.

The always well-mannered Klitschko didn't seem phased at all by Haye when initially approached, and laughed off Haye's verbal assault by asking him in jest - “how much do you weigh? You look light.” The statuesque Klitschko (6'6”, 250 lbs.) seemed to tower over the smaller Haye (6'3”, 210 lbs.) - yet Haye showed nothing but bright-eyed anticipation at the prospect of squaring off against the undisputed Heavyweight champion of the world.

After a series of botched negotiations and failed attempts at getting these two warriors in the ring – the time has finally come for the biggest Heavyweight fight in nearly a decade as Wladimir Klitschko faces David Haye this Saturday (July 2nd) at Imtech soccer stadium in Hamburg, Germany.

HBO analyst Max Kellerman has referred to this bout as the “second richest fight that can be made in boxing” (outside of Pacquiao v. Mayweather) – and he has good reason to make such a claim. With 60,000+ expected to show up in Hamburg to watch this spectacle, and reports from London that Sky Box Office pre-sales for the £50 million super-fight could overhaul the 1.2 million record buys in the UK for Ricky Hatton’s world title fight with Floyd Mayweather in December 2008, all signs point towards this bout being the biggest fight in boxing in the 2011 calendar year.

Those numbers may even climb higher when you consider that both Haye and Klitschko have wrestled back-and-forth with verbal insults and promises of knock-out performances in what has been an entertaining pre-fight build-up. There is genuine angst and tension between Haye and Klitschko that hasn't been seen in the HW division since the freshly-minted hall-of-famer Mike Tyson caused a melee at a pre-fight conference in the build-up to his fight with then undisputed champion Lennox Lewis.

Even legendary Kronk-Gym wizard & trainer Emanuel Steward (who trains Klitschko) has expressed awe at the magnitude of the fight: “I’ve been involved in super-fights for 30 years, since the first fight between Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard. This is leading up to be the second biggest after the Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson fight.” Steward said. “Finally, Wlad has a ‘live’ opponent in David, who has a winning mindset, and not a lot of Wlad’s recent opponents have had that. This has a great feel about it.”

The well-mannered Klitschko has opened up out of his shell in unexpected fashion, and at times has even been the more entertaining joker and protagonist in press-conferences. Promising to give Haye a “pizza-face” after he “punishes him for 12 rounds before finally knocking him out." Klitschko has promised to teach Haye a lesson. “My name is Dr Klitschko, I am a therapist and on July 2nd I am going to give you treatment. I will knock you out into reality, which will be good for your life,” Klitschko said. “I respect you as a fighter, but not as a person. You will be a better person and have better manners after this fight.”

Certainly, the charismatic Haye has successfully gotten under Klitschko's skin with insults ranging from donning t-shirts featuring the decapitated heads of the Klitschko brothers in his hands, to constant tweets demeaning the Ukrainian on Twitter to his 250,000 followers, to even the release of an I-phone app inviting fans “to knock the head off an Eastern European heavyweight champion.” Haye has blamed the Klitschkos for “killing boxing” and characterizes Wladimir's style as “robotic and boring, just like his personality outside of the ring.” Haye has promised the dramatic as he has vouched to dismantle Klitschko. “You are going to see the most brutal execution of a boxer,” Haye exclaimed on Monday. “I will absolutely destroy him.”

Evident in the interaction between the two heavyweights is not just a genuine disdain for the other's style and personality – but in between the insults you will also find a respect for the other's ability and stature as both athletes and boxers.

While Haye may lambast Klitschko in interviews and press conferences by dismissing Wladimir as merely a predictable, robotic fighter – he knows that Klitschko is a tremendous athlete who has developed into a master pugilist under the tutelage of Steward. Klitschko has transformed from a crude slugger with poor balance into the cerebral boxing titan that he is today with a high boxing I.Q. and an uncanny mastery of distance/ring generalship that utilizes his entire 6'6" frame. Wladimir has always had shocking one-punch power in both hands (as evidenced by his record featuring one of the highest KO ratios in the sport's history), but early in his career his technique lacked polish. The 2011 version of Dr. Steelhammer features one of the best piston-like jabs in the division’s history matched with a disciplined/measured approach to the ring that some may find unappealing. Nonetheless, few champions have been as dominating as Klitschko has, and should he defeat Haye, he will appropriately be regarded as one of the best Heavyweights of all-time.

Since Klitschko's ugly losses to Lamon Brewster and Corrie Sanders nearly 8 years ago, Dr. Steelhammer has reeled off 13 consecutive wins, including 10 straight title defenses (9 of which have ended by KO) – in what has been one of the longest Heavyweight title runs in the sport's history. Very few opponents have been able to escape Klitschko's stiff-jab, and he has dominated opponents with out ever needing to unleash his signature Steelhammer straight right-hand.

Nonetheless, Haye has demonstratively disparaged Klitschko's opponents as “fat, out-of-shape bums just looking for a paycheck” - and in some respects, Haye has a point. While Klitschko has certainly dominated the division for the better part of the last decade, it hasn't been against the glossiest of opponents. Names like Samuel Peter, Sultan Ibragimov, Ruslan Chagaev, Eddie Chambers, and Tony Thompson won't make anyone forget about the earlier more glamorous decades of the Heavyweight division – but it's not as if they are awful fighters. Klitschko deserves credit for making the aforementioned opponents look inferior, but there is still a relevant question as to whether Klitschko is really as dominant as he appears to be, or if his ascension is largely a product of a deficient division. A fighter of Haye's caliber will answer such a question – which is precisely why Klitschko needs this fight to bolster his legacy.

Conversely, David Haye – while still undeservedly somewhat unknown to American audiences – has emerged as a superstar in the UK – and rightfully so. While some critics discount Haye as merely a big-mouthed fighter who is unproven – this couldn't be further from the truth. Haye has overcome considerable adversity in his career and has earned this shot at Klitschko the hard way. He has won titles in foreign territory both as a Cruiserweight (by knocking out Jean Marc Mormeck in France) and as a Heavyweight (by cleverly out-boxing Nikolai Valuev in Germany) – so going to hostile territory to dethrone a champ is nothing new to the Hayemaker. After achieving everything possible at Cruiserweight, Haye has silenced doubters who claimed he was too small to compete in the Heavyweight division. Along with his win vs. Valuev capturing the title, Haye has knocked out the ultra durable John Ruiz, Monte Barrett, and Audley Harrison in definitive fashion – proving that his considerable power is just as shocking at Heavyweight as it was at Cruiswerweight. With exceptional reflexes for a man his size, knockout power in both hands, and fluid foot-work with an ability to show his opponent's multiple angles, Haye is the most athletic fighter in the Heavyweight division today. His combination of speed and power is something that will give anyone problems – including Klitschko. While he is at a considerable size disadvantage, this doesn't mean that he isn't capable of knocking Klitschko out. He's the only man who ever was able to legitimately hurt the 7-foot 300+ pound giant Nikolai Valuev (with a left-hand at that) – and as Haye has proven time and time again – he can end a fight with one-punch if he's able to land cleanly. Kitschko will need all of his considerable defensive abilities to be showcased on July 2nd if he is to survive getting hit by a wide-looping Hayemaker that could give Klitschko nightmares of Corrie Sanders. However, for all that Haye has accomplished, he knows that his legacy largely is contingent upon this singular mega-fight which is career-defining for both himself and Klitschko. If Haye wins – he is instantly in consideration as a top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and instantly will become somewhat of a legend for dethroning the seemingly unbeatable Wladimir Klitschko.

This is the bottom line: This is a super-fight of mega proportions that features two Heavyweight champions with awe-inspiring athleticism and shocking punching power. Thus – it is a throwback type fight that can give boxing fans nostalgia of a more glamorous era when Heavyweight boxing was the epicenter of the sporting universe. That in itself qualifies this as a must-watch fight. While one can't blame American fans for being disillusioned with the Heavyweight division – this is not the time to be pessimistic. If you don't know about David Haye – YouTube some of his fights and get acquainted – you won't be disappointed. If you think Wladimir Klitschko is no better than he was 10 years ago, you haven't been paying attention to his impressive transformation into an all-time great Heavyweight champion. While it's true that today's Heavyweight champions don't hail from Louisville, Kentucky or Brooklyn, NY – that doesn't mean American fans can't be excited about the present crop of Heavyweight champions who hail from places like Kiev, Ukraine and London, England. One of the beautiful things about boxing is that it is truly a multi-cultural and global sport featuring fighters from every corner of the Earth. After all - what unifies us as boxing fans is a shared affinity for the Sweet Science and mastery of pugilism on display in modern-day Coliseums known as boxing rings. We should celebrate our warriors and gladiators - regardless of where they come from – even if that means as Americans that we must concede that we no longer have a monopoly on the sport. Here's to David Haye and Wladimir Klitschko – for this boxing aficionado thanks you both respectively for making the Heavyweight division as exciting as any other division in boxing – at least for this one day on July 2nd in Hamburg, Germany.

David Haye v. Wladimir Klitschko can be seen LIVE on HBO World Championship Boxing at 4:45 p.m. (EST) on Saturday, July 2nd.

Article posted on 30.06.2011

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