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Dear Freddie”: An Open Letter to Freddie Roach Regarding David Haye and the Klitschkos

By Johnny Walker

“I said to [Wladimir] one day – “You’re a great athlete”. But you know what he said to me? “I wish I could fight”. The key to beating someone like that is to take their mental confidence away straight away. Haye can do that with his power, but not by boxing Wlad.

“I like guys who like to fight. Haye believes in himself, he talks a bit of bull, but he’s just trying to ignite interest in the fight. He’s young, exciting, and charismatic.

“Haye’s the best thing for the heavyweight division right now, because he comes to fight, he comes to win, and he’s a puncher.

“That’s what heavyweight boxing should be all about. The Klitschko brothers are great boxers but they are boring. They don’t take risks. You’ve got to go for it in this sport, and give 100 per cent.” – Freddie Roach, in the Telegraph

Freddie, Freddie, Freddie. I was expecting you to pop up soon, as you usually do before every Klitschko fight, with some backhanded compliments that usually only thinly veil your resentment of the Ukrainian heavyweight champions. I guess the fact that Wlad employed you as an assistant trainer for a brief time and then moved on, this before you became the super trainer and upcoming HBO series star you are today, still rankles, huh?

You really should get over your Klitschko problem. Lennox Lewis has finally gotten over his, and is all the better for it.
But no, there you are in the this week, with some resentful-sounding remarks about the Klitschkos, and lavish praise for David Haye.

Going to the home country of Wlad’s upcoming opponent and telling the press what they want to hear – especially when much of what you say is demonstrably false – should be beneath a man of your stature. And repeating something that was told to you in confidence in your professional capacity as a trainer is – well, tacky.

You’re better than this. Or so I’d hoped.

So about these quotes: let’s have a look at them.

“I like guys who like to fight.” You do? Then instead of praising David Haye, you should be asking why he has had only four fights since entering the heavyweight division in 2008. David Haye likes to fight? You could have fooled me. In fact, if I was a cynic, I might assume that, after having a rough time and getting knocked around in his heavyweight debut against Monte Barrett, Haye decided to fight as seldom as possible and to exit as soon as he could talk his way into a max-out payday. But it’s not nice to be cynical.

How about this one: “Haye’s the best thing for the heavyweight division right now, because he comes to fight, he comes to win, and he’s a puncher.” Haye comes to fight? Then why, in his biggest test to date, did he throw a pitiful average of 12 punches a round against Nicolay Valuev? For 11 rounds of that fight, Haye resembled none other than the Roadrunner (and Valuev did a nice Wile E. Coyote impression as well). Compare Vitali Klitschko’s 802 punches in 10 rounds against Cris Arreola in 2009, an average of 80 punches a round. But the Klitschkos, according to you, Freddie Roach, don’t “go for it.”

Haye’s a puncher? He set a record against Valuev for the fewest punches thrown in a heavyweight title fight. Against his last opponent, Audley Harrison, exasperated referee Luis Pabon actually had to order Haye to start throwing punches in round two. Until then, Haye was doing a great imitation of a statue. Did you not see these fights, Freddie?

Your complaints about the Klitschkos are very 2008. For one thing, you make the big mistake of lumping the brothers together, as if they are the same fighter, as if they fight the same way. You know better than that. Other than sharing a last name and being tall and strong, Wlad and Vitali have very little in common as fighters. Wlad fights more classically, with his hands held high, while Vitali fights with his hands at his sides like a gunslinger. Wlad relies on the left jab as a weapon, while Vitali uses the left jab more as a way to measure distance to set up a big right hand. They are in many ways polar opposites as fighters.

“They don’t take risks,” you say. Have you never seen Vitali’s vicious fight with Lennox Lewis, or his brutal Pier 6 brawl with Corrie Sanders? “Risks” were all Vitali took in those entertaining and bloody bouts.

Of course, Freddie, you are really talking about Wlad, not Vitali. You just don’t want it to look that way, because Wlad fired you, and it hurts. I get that. The bruised ego and all that. Guess it still hurts.

Hey, I’ll admit that Wlad can be boring. I was at his fight with Sultan Ibragimov. I saw the Eddie Chambers fight. The first was pretty frustrating, the second the same until the last round. Of course, both Ibragimov and Chambers have to share some of the blame with Wlad. It takes two people to make a fight, and neither Sultan nor Fast Eddie was all that eager to engage.

Wlad now approaches boxing like it’s a chess match, and it’s not always something the masses can appreciate. Just like more people would rather read comic books than Shakespeare, or would rather listen to Lady Gaga than a symphony. Wlad is a virtuoso, but not everyone likes the music he’s playing.

But Freddie, it’s your contention that David Haye is the antidote to Wlad’s “boring” fights that perplexes me. Again, have you seen any of the Hayemaker’s recent fights? Haye’s tedious bout with Valuev made Klitschko-Ibragimov look like Ali-Frazier III. The Audley Harrison fight saw Haye do nothing at all for two rounds before throwing a couple of flurries in round three and watching “Fraudley” fall down, seemingly on cue. This is what heavyweight boxing needs right now?

And Freddie, let’s say for the sake of argument that Haye does beat Wlad. Haye has said, oh, only about 3000 times now, that he is retiring in October, no ifs, ands, or buts. He says he won’t even wait to fight Vitali and try to unify all the titles if he beats Wladimir, all because of some arbitrary retirement date he has given himself. So Haye is done after this fight. How does this help the cause of the heavyweight division? It seems to me it would only make things more muddy and unclear than they already are. Please explain this, Mr. Roach.

As for Haye being “young, exciting and charismatic.” Well, he’s not that young for boxing (30), and I’ve already explained that he’s not that exciting. Charismatic? Let’s just say being charismatic, like being “boring,” is highly subjective. For me, David Haye’s personality is symptomatic of the age we live in. Let’s leave it at that.

What disturbed me most of all, Freddie, was your feeding the UK press the line Wladimir obviously told you in confidence: “I wish I could fight.” Wlad has often said that Vitali was born a fighter while he had to become one. But when Wlad told you that, he was in the darkest period of his boxing life. He was confused and trying to find his way back after a bad loss. To offer that confidence to the public now, as if that represents the heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko of 2011, was a disingenuous and self-serving move. Not classy at all.

As I said, I’d hoped the famous Freddie Roach, super trainer, was better than that.

Guess not.


Johnny Walker

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