The Complicated Legacy of David Haye

By Cain Bradley on May 14, 2018
The Complicated Legacy of David Haye
He was a dominant cruiserweight, perfect for the division, arguably one of the best ever.

His legacy is a complex one. Haye perhaps summed it up best when stating “I’m just as renowned for talking trash as knocking people out…”

The career of David Haye was probably brought to an abrupt end last week. The question now is about legacy. How should boxing fans remember David Haye? I think polling lots of different people will get lots of different answers. He achieved a level of notoriety that perhaps outstripped his talent. He was a big part of British boxing at a time when it really begun to emerge in the forefront of the public’s imagination. Unfortunately he may be remembered rather more negatively than the likes of Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe and maybe even Carl Froch.

There is a reason for the hype behind David Haye. A fighter usually has to be talented enough, for the hype to be created. It was with Haye. He was at his best during a rampant cruiserweight run which saw unify the world titles. Haye had terrifying power and blistering speed. In some ways his latest failures came as he became a victim to his own success. He was a dominant cruiserweight, perfect for the division, arguably one of the best ever. He was so close to the pinnacle of the sport in heavyweight boxing that he would have been criticized if he did not attempt the step up. The lack of credence given to the cruiserweight division means that the division is constantly a feeder to the heavyweights. Haye is often criticized, sometimes fairly, but don’t forget when people talk about the greatness of Haye, it mainly came before he was wildly famous, as a cruiserweight.

His talent was clear as an amateur, winning a bronze medal at the 2001 Amateur World Championships. Soon turning pro, he campaigned at cruiserweight. He had one loss at the weight, whilst he was an inexperienced novice. He was heavily favored against wily veteran Carl Thompson, but looking for an early stoppage Haye went too hard and was exhausted when stopped in the fifth. Haye grew from that experience though. Only three years later he found himself in the Palais des Sports Marcel Cerdan taking on Jean Marc Mormeck who had become unified champion by defeating O’Neil Bell. He got up after Mormeck dropped him and would go on to stop the Frenchman in the seventh round after a frightening combination. He was the best Cruiserweight in the world.

Haye was already talking about the heavyweight division and his childhood dream of being the heavyweight champion. He had moved up and won a fight but had one piece of unfinished business. Domestic rival Enzo Maccarinelli was the WBO Champion and sensing an opportunity to build his following, the bout was put together. Haye was at his predatorial best. A cut opened up early so Haye decided he had to finish the Welshman quickly. Two minutes into the second round and it was over. Another vicious combination, never letting Maccarinelli recover from initially being hurt. His cruiserweight run was short but it was highly impressive. His natural size advantage made him a great cruiserweight. The type of cruiserweight who cut weight rather than someone who was too big for light heavyweight. He was powerful and quick, with a finishing instinct that meant he was always dangerous. In a shallow division historically, he will probably go down as a top ten cruiserweight of all time.

Gift of the Gab
Part of the celebrity Haye achieved was notoriety. He learned how to hype a fight and numerous times got the British public to buy in. He is a smart man and with that he knows how to sell and work the public. Unfortunately that became my defining memory of Haye. His mouth became his main attribute, writing checks that he didn’t even seem to want to cash. The Maccarinelli bout saw some trash talk in the build up, but that part of his act really took off up at heavyweight. After winning a tune up against Monte Barrett, he would take on the giant Nikolai Valuev. Haye could have chosen to exploit the natural underdog role, looking to emphasize his role as Jack against the giant. Instead he brandished Valuev “the ugliest thing I have ever seen.” He constantly jibed about the looks of the Russian and promised to knock him out. When the bout was something of a damp squib for eleven rounds, it left a sour taste in the mouths of many after all his talking.

After defeating Valuev he defended against Ruiz and then would take on Audley Harrison. An old friend, he promised the fight would be “as one-sided as a gang rape.” He proved levels above Harrison, stopping him in three boring rounds, making him and an old friend millions. He saved his best for the Klitschko brothers. It started with a t-shirt that he wore on mainstream TV, depicting him holding the decapitated head of the younger brother. He described him as a boring robot who he would stop. Twelve boring rounds later and Haye would lose a decision, blaming a broken toe. Despite a humbling loss, Haye did not remain quiet. After Dereck Chisora gave Vitali a closer fight than Haye did with his brother, the two engaged in a press conference spat. Haye would glass Chisora leading to a fight between the pair. The two would be separated at the press conference by a steel fence. Haye has perhaps his most impressive heavyweight performance as he stopped Chisora in round five. This came after an initial retirement at 31. Following the Chisora fight, he would arrange a fight with Tyson Fury. As the injuries built up, Haye pulled out of the fight twice and many assumed he had retired.

Goodbye Gift
Despite, Haye always maintaining he wanted to retire young, at 31, he announced a return at the end of 2015. It has been referenced that Haye lives a lavish lifestyle and perhaps a return was necessary to fund that. He returned against overmatched Marc De Mori and Arnold Gjergjaj. Following these wins, he was called out by British cruiserweight Tony Bellew. It was again, a feisty buildup. Haye threw a left hook in a press conference, continuously referenced to him as “bellend” and his fans as “retards.” Haye was not choosing to work on his public image with his comeback. With heavy rumors approaching the first fight suggesting to me he was injured, he looked sluggish. His slick straights had become winging hooks. The speed and power had begun to dissipate. He ruptured his Achilles in the sixth round of the bout which turned the tide of the fight. He would go on to be stopped by Tony Bellew. A rematch would be arranged and Haye was quieter in the buildup this time around. That changed but the result would not. Bellew got Haye to fight on the inside and crushed him with a left hook, right hand combination that kept on landing.

His legacy is a complex one. Haye perhaps summed it up best when stating “I’m just as renowned for talking trash as knocking people out.” For someone so talented, that feels wrong. There is definitely a place for trash talk in boxing. I am one who thinks when done well it can be clever, funny and add intrigue to a bout. Haye, despite his smarts, never managed to be clever or funny with his trash talk. I assume it was all part of a plan. But, I doubt I was the only one who got sick of it. Especially when the in-ring product seemed to hardly ever live up to the huge words before it. Unfortunately whilst he will be remembered potentially as a cruiserweight great, at heavyweight it was a rather underwhelming run. Haye was an athletic specimen who tailored his body to boxing but it begun to fall apart, almost when he predicted it would. Unfortunately he did not stick to his plan of retiring at 31 and instead probably sullied his reputation a slight bit. He will go down probably a level bellow even the likes of Carl Froch in terms of achievement and definitely fanfare.

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  1. Balaamsass 12:05pm, 05/15/2018

    If Wlad wasn’t so damn overly sensitive/ self conscious about his chin or to put it more bluntly just plain gun shy….. this hash could have been settled long ago!

  2. Cain Bradley 07:18am, 05/15/2018

    I do not think him being below Froch is a consensus view. I think he has a lot more recognition and fame than his in ring performances deserve. I’m probably preaching to the choir in terms of educated boxing fans probably consider him where I do

  3. Balaamsass 06:01am, 05/15/2018

    Physicality you dipshitz! Physicality! Look at the friggin’ NBA! The NFL! Look at the 2016 Olympic weight lifting Gold medals! If China ever got serious about boxing it would be all China all the time all the way up to 135 and maybe higher! Why do you think Munguia pounded Ali’s ass like he was a redheaded orphan?!

  4. Ollie Downtown Brown 03:08pm, 05/14/2018

    My mistake. The cruiserweight division has been around for 39 years, not 36 years.

  5. brian 01:52pm, 05/14/2018

    I’m a huge fan of David,i feel the last 2 fights against Bellew has really tarnished a great career,David at his peak would have beaten Bellew with no problem.Unfortunately David’s body has let him down in both fights.I really believed he would beat Bellew last week,but in reality he was beaten even easier than the first fight,it was sad to watch a great athlete and boxer being beaten the way he was.His Achilles injury was not fully healed,and it clearly impacted on the outcome of the fight.His punch resistance has also declined,i just hope David chooses to stop boxing and concentrate on his promoters career.I believe he will go down in history as one of the best cruiserweights ever,and one of the most exciting,and explosive fighters our country has ever produced.

  6. Ollie Downtown Brown 01:49pm, 05/14/2018

    You would think the best “big men” would fight in the cruiserweight division. How many times have we heard from “experts” that the best heavyweights are guys about 6 1” to 6’ 2” and about 190-210lbs in fighting trim. IF that was the ideal size for a heavyweight you would still have guys that size skipping cruiserweight and taking the big title while weighing the modern day cruiserweight limit give or take a pound or two. After 36 years it looks as though the cruiserweight division isn’t about to relinquish its title as the “bastard division of boxing” anytime soon.

  7. The Beast of Bodmin 12:44pm, 05/14/2018

    Probably a level below Carl Froch? In terms of making the most of your ability and level of challenges taken on I would say Haye is light years below.
    For me, after the Klitschko debacle I never thought of him as anything but a chancer who was, admittedly very adept at, conning the public into thinking he was serious about winning titles. At heavyweight I would say he barely causes a ripple in the history of boxing. Even at cruiserweight his much vaunted legacy is based on what, 2 fights?
    Still, he made a lot of money and after all, that is all he wanted.

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