History was made Saturday with the Klitschko brothers’ long quest to unify the world heavyweight title between them finally reaching a successful conclusion.
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Ever since Vitali Klitschko returned from retirement in 2008 to claim the WBC title, only the WBA strap has eluded the brothers’ grasp with Wladimir Klitschko wearing Ring, IBF, IBO and WBO gold around his waist.
For most of the past decade-plus, the WBA belt has been controlled by Don King, who allowed only fighters he promoted — such as Nikolai Valeuv, John Ruiz and Ruslan Chagaev — to fight for it. David Haye’s victory over Nikolai Valeuv finally ended King’s control over the belt and turbo-boosted a rivalry between the former unified cruiserweight champion and the Klitschkos.
Haye had put the mild-mannered Wladimir on his back foot with ghoulish trash-talking, tastelessly haranguing Klitschko at a charity event before producing t-shirts and magazine shoots depicting the decapitation of both brothers. Despite having competed in two of the worst heavyweight title fights of all time in his victories over Valeuv and Audley Harrison, Haye berated the Klitschko’s quality of opposition and claimed that they were boring to watch.
Haye backed out of agreed fights with either brother a staggering four times in 2009 alone and was forced to get in the ring when Wladimir openly challenged him to a match in 2010. This despite the fact that Klitschko was offering Haye the terms he had always demanded — a 50/50 split of all match revenue. Only when confronted with a full-on backlash by British fans irate at being duped by farcical fight with Harrison did Haye finally sign the deal to fight Klitschko.
Among all that has been written about the three-year circus that has been Haye’s heavyweight campaign, nothing better illustrates the emptiness of his résumé and hollowness of his words than his performance Saturday in Hamburg. Accompanied by his trainer Adam Booth, a man whose camp openly revels in the moniker “The Dark Lord” (given to him by an internet message board and picked up by British papers), Haye assured everyone that he had the answer to Klitschko’s “boring” jab-and-grab tactics. He promised he would produce something special, something we had never seen before.
As Klitschko rightly pointed out after the fight, Haye fought like all those contenders he had mocked. Like them, he was shocked by the remarkable hand and foot speed of a man who weighs 240 pounds and stands 6-foot-4. Like them, he became frustrated by his inability to get behind the left jab of Klitschko. Like them, he became despondent as he was outmuscled by a much bigger, much stronger opponent. And just like them, he soon went into survival mode (and rather remarkably considering his latest claim of a broken toe), resorting to running around the ring trying to avoid even more punishment.
But so much more than any of them, Haye put in a pitiful performance. Indeed it was quite possibly the worst of any fighter in any major world heavyweight title fight. Not once was Haye even able to try anything as basic as putting together a combination to work his way inside. He would repeatedly throw himself to the ground, as if he was a soccer player trying to trick the referee into giving him a free kick. Likewise he was incessantly complaining to the referee about imaginary illegal blows. He showed a complete lack of boxing technique, repeatedly reduced to just lunging in with off-balance and wild overhand punches that were all too easily avoided by Klitschko.
What made Haye’s complete lack of anything that approached a coherent game plan even worse was the fact that Klitschko largely fought with his normal pattern, if a tad more aggressively than usual. He pressurized Haye constantly, using the left jab to control distance and frequently landing with it and the big right hand. Indeed, the only impressive thing about Haye’s performance was his ability to soak up the punishment that Klitschko dished out, which says something about how dismally his illusive fighting style failed.
The scorecards were a formality, as were Haye’s excuses. Both confirmed the mastery of Wladimir Klitschko with the much-maligned Ukrainian continuing to put his terrible 2004 far behind him with yet another dominant performance. He is the only man to currently hold all three major world titles and no brothers have ever successfully unified a championship between them like the Klitschkos have.
With Odlanier Solis and Haye easily dispatched, and Vitali Klitschko a heavy favorite in his upcoming fight against Tomasz Adamek, one has to wonder who can stop them.