David Haye lost last night in a manner as predictable as it was consistent. Wladmir Klitschko out-worked, out-punched and dominated the centre of the ring, pressurizing and pushing the life out of Haye. The excuses coming from Haye about a broken toe don’t fit in with the reality that he barely threw any punches. 72 landed over the course of 12 rounds. It doesn’t take a maths genius to work out the ratios there.
The question is is Haye just not that good or Wladmir that good? The simple answer is neither. Haye is talented but not great. He’s fast, mobile and athletic with solid combinations but is too small and has fortunately fought in a poor heavyweight era. Even his cruiserweight career where he united the belts for a matter of minutes (before moving up to heavyweight) is debatable. He pulled himself of the canvas to beat Mormeck, an ageing but talented champion and followed it up with a dramatic, quick win over Enzo, another Fraud Warren production. Haye could and should have stayed around to fight Steve Cunningham or Tomas Adamek but his ego was too great. He calculated he could become a quick-fire heavyweight champion winning a belt in a moribund division before retiring with the Sports Personality of the Year.
The argument that Wladmir is just too big is not remotely valid considering Haye won his belt against Valuev who is far bigger. Yet Haye handled him easily. The difference is Wladmir is also good. He has skills, an excellent jab, decent mobility, an excellent strategist in Emmanuel Stewart and dedication to the job. He is exceptionally functional in the ring but the ability to impose a gameplan on your opponent is the sign of a champion.
Haye will retire with very little public adoration. His antics were often beyond the pale but more than this, with Sky Sports still dominating boxing coverage, the heavyweight division struggling for excitement and Haye’s personality difficult to accept, I don’t even think beating Wladmir would get him the Sports Personality award, the kind of recognition his ego clearly craves. Sadly boxing just doesn’t endear itself to the nation as before.
So Wladmir will march on for a few more years. There are no real contenders. There hasn’t been a competitive heavyweight division since the mid-1990s. Its a myth though to think boxing is endlessly competitive, that we are simply in a bad era. I would only count the early 1970s as a great era for heavyweights. The men are simply too big to have great depth. Other divisions such as the middleweights, welterweights and featherweights have enjoyed far greater periods of sustained greatness probably due to the weight being closer to a man’s natural weight. So let’s not be too upset or surprised. Great heavyweights are not born every minute.