This great sport, which we all love greatly, is filled with examples of hugely talented fighters who never quite achieved all that was expected of them; all they were capable of. Names like Gerry Cooney and David Tua often emerge, from the heavyweight ranks, when it comes to exciting, powerful and talented warriors who failed to get where they were going: all the way to the top.
But the case of a certain David Haye is as curious as it is different. Haye, a fine amateur boxer, absolutely loaded with natural talent and ability, WAS a success; winning major titles at not one, but two weights. One of the finest cruiserweights of the last 15 or twenty years, Haye became undisputed (short of the IBF title) king at 200 pounds in 2008. Then, in an incredible feat that only one other man has managed to accomplish (the legendary Evander Holyfield) Haye stepped up and won a recognised (as in either WBC, WBA or IBF – in this case WBA) belt at heavyweight.
That bag full of accomplishments would easily be enough for many a fighter to not have the tag of “underachiever” lobbed at them. But Haye is different. Maybe it is due to the promises he made, the convincing arguments he made that strongly suggested true greatness. Remember when we all bought it (or most of us anyway) when Haye vowed to make “Robot” Wladimir Klitschko blow a fuse and fall apart in front of his faster, smarter, more powerful weapons?
Instead, Haye was accused of running for safety as he lost a wide decision (later having the lack of class to suggest his injured little toe was largely responsible for the defeat). Ever since that July 2011 evening in Germany, Haye has been a part-time fighter – boxing just four times. There have been injuries (lots of them in fact), joke fights (shown live on Dave in the UK; neither Mark de Mori nor Arnold “The Cobra” being capable of testing Haye’s mettle in any way) and yet more layoffs; but what really disappoints is the way Haye assured us all how the best was yet to come.
Even ahead of his now scrapped (for the time being; some say for good and deservedly so) return with Tony Bellew, Haye was promising we would all see a performance “similar to the prime Hayemaker days.” Yet now, his very body seemingly falling apart, Haye is out of a fight and perhaps without a future.
So if Haye has fought his last, how will he be remembered? As a two-weight world champion, yes, but as a great? No. The bar may be set high in Haye’s case, but he was the fighter who set it so high in the first place.