Countdown: Klitschko vs. Haye

By Robert Ecksel on June 26, 2011
Countdown: Klitschko vs. Haye
The heavyweight division, and by default boxing, has needed this fight

We want our heavyweights to be do-or-die, mad dogs, avatars of destruction, not mild-mannered chess players…

It’s been a long time since there’s been a heavyweight unification bout. Some might say too long. After Saturday’s fight in Hamburg, Germany, some might say it’s not been long enough. But the fight between IBF/WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko and WBA heavyweight champion David Haye is finally here, a fight that has been as eagerly anticipated as it is long overdue.

The buildup to Klitschko-Haye has drawn more attention to the heavyweights than any fight in years. Most of the attention has resulted, for better or worse, from David Haye’s antics outside the ring. His t-shirt showing decapitated Klitschkos got things going and pretty much said it all. But Haye, in addition to being a great puncher, is a great talker, so talk is what he did. He followed up his dead Klitschkos with incessant chatter, psychologically sophisticated name-calling that challenged Wladimir’s boxing, Wladimir’s accent, Wladimir’s sexuality, Wladimir’s whatever. Haye’s mouthiness generated press and made him a perfect foil for the subdued Klitschko. But fights aren’t won in the press any more than they’re won with the spoken word. We’ll have to wait and see if Haye can put his money where his mouth is, his fists where Klitschko’s chin is.

Haye’s verbosity shouldn’t detract from the fact that he’s a terrific fighter. He’s got solid power, good hand and foot speed, great reflexes, and he’s fearless. We still don’t know if he can absorb a heavyweight’s best shot, Valuev’s zeppelin punches notwithstanding, but Haye is brimming with confidence and has no doubt that he’ll stop Klitschko when they meet. As he recently said, “I know what Wladimir’s about, I know what he’s always been about, and that’s why I’ve aimed for him since before I had my first heavyweight contest. Even when I was a cruiserweight, I’ve seen his style, I’ve seen what he does in the ring, I’ve seen how he comes into the ring, and I believe he’s a fraud.”

Klitschko is not a verbal as Haye, at least not in English. He has tried and failed to match Haye word for word, just as he may try and fail to match Haye punch for punch. Klitschko did his best—and his annoyance at the Haye’s jibes is palpable—but his attempts at trash talk were unconvincing, out of this world, from another planet. He has promised to knock out Haye in Round 12, to extend the punishment, to prolong the pain, to teach the mouthy shrimp a lesson. But when he tells Haye to “Come and get me and hit my weak chin—if you dare,” Klitschko sounds like he’s reading from a script, auditioning for a part for which he’s not sure he’s qualified.

Klitschko the man has been a great ambassador for the sport. One couldn’t ask for a more solid citizen. But Klitschko the fighter has always left something to be desired. His methodical, safety-first style hasn’t won him many fans on this side of the Atlantic. He has his claque, but most of us want our heavyweights to be do-or-die, mad dogs, avatars of destruction, not mild-mannered chess players. That complaint was leveled against Lennox Lewis. And it’s been leveled against Klitschko. One can argue that winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. But Klitschko’s jab-jab-hold, jab-jab-hold, jab-jab-hold style, with an occasional booming right thrown in, never raises the pulse, let alone the dead. It may be boring, but it is effective, and it’s what Haye needs to contend with if he hopes to unify the titles.

Kudos to Manny Steward, Klitschko’s trainer, for developing a blueprint to advance Klitschko’s strengths—size, power, stiff left jab—while protecting his weaknesses—stamina, chin, psyche, lack of killer instinct. Manny created a masterpiece, an exemplary boxing specimen, there’s no doubt about it, but he deserves a Bronx cheer for giving us a heavyweight champion who, however skilled and accomplished, is so dull.

When Klitschko and Haye meet this Saturday at the Imtech Arena in Hamburg, all bets are off as to who emerges victorious. But something tells me Haye’s fearlessness wins the day and the fight. He’s already pocketed the first round. He got inside Klitschko’s head. When the formal match starts, Haye’s going to jump on Klitschko and try to get inside his jab, try to get inside his defense, and land enough to rattle the Ukrainian. If that happens—and Steward will beseech his charge between rounds to stay focused—Klitschko is toast, and a new era in heavyweight boxing will have begun.

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  1. andrew powell 05:04pm, 07/01/2011

    Haye will get stopped no later than round 7 he talks to much

  2. David Dame 05:04am, 07/01/2011

    David is the winner, Wladimir is a loser and gonna lose tomorrow night.

  3. "Old Yank" Schneider 09:02pm, 06/27/2011

    Haye is an unproven commodity at heavyweight.  Monty “The Snail” Barrett, Nik “The Circus Clown” Valuev, John “The Quiet and Totally Asleep Man” Ruiz, and Audley “Does Anyone Know Who I Am” Harrison, do not exactly represent a stellar lineup on a resume for Haye.  This bout will not be close.  Klitschko will do an Ali-like “What’s My Name” punishment on Haye, leading to a late-round KO of Haye.  Or else Klitschko will jab Haye to a boring but inevitable death.  Klitschko by late-round KO or by LOPSIDED UD!

  4. Patrick Hogan 01:40pm, 06/27/2011

    It’s definitely going to be a tight and tough bout but nonetheless with the strong jabs and accuracy haye will carry the day.

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