BY PHILIP H. ANSELMO
As boxing fans, we’ve all had our favorite fighters. The credo of “May the best man win” doesn’t always apply when your favorite fighter is involved. You just want your guy to win, period. Take the undefeated, undisputed Heavyweight Champ version of “Iron” Mike Tyson for instance. I was one of millions of belligerent Tyson fans, and would argue to the death if anyone picked against him, even vs. the Ali’s and Marciano’s of the world. Beat Tyson? Were they kidding? In my mind, after he’d KO’d Michael Spinks, there was no way he was gonna lose his belts in the ring. He would reign till he retired, and any man who crossed his path would be crushed. Well…
I remember the night Tyson was KO’d by 42-to-1 underdog James “Buster” Douglas vividly. I was throwing my regular “Tyson” party. I was living in Texas and busy recording the 1st major label Pantera record, “Cowboys From Hell” in the studio around the corner. Earlier in the week, my guitarist Dimebag Darrell (RIP) had done the unthinkable and bet me Tyson would lose to Buster.
Well, long-story-short, I forgot how much money I lost (it was A LOT and I skipped-out of a couple studio sessions afterwards) but the point is, I made the bet because I never thought in my wildest imagination Tyson would lose. That’s why these days I do everything in my power to NOT get too attached to a fighter, no matter how dominant they are in that brief window of time, better known as their careers.
It’s an almost inconceivable thing when a pro fighter retires on his own terms, at the top of his game and on a winning note.
Former Heavyweight Champ and HOFamer Lennox Lewis is a rare example. But during his career, I felt the polar opposite about him compared to Tyson. I rooted against him usually, and when he got KO’d by Hasim Rahman the 1st go ‘round, I jumped so high out of my chair I almost hit the ceiling. However, these days I reflect on his career and give nothing but praise. He was as dominant-a-champ as they come, and he deserves his spot in Canastota. He also deserves to be recognized as the best of his era. And like most, in retrospect my feelings about Tyson and his career have changed. Two different guys, two-different paths, two-different legacies…
Which brings me to the Wladimir Klitschko- David Haye debate. We have two-totally different personalities and legacies at hand when the two finally meet on July-the-2nd. For Wlad, in his mind David Haye represents the ultimate nemesis he’s been searching for to define his career. A career defining fight (and victory) for Wlad would not only unify another portion of the alphabet straps, but could possibly be a perfect ending and vindication for and to his long and dominant reign. Wlad could walk away from the sport knowing that he (along with big brother) had virtually wiped out all-comers within the top-20 in the division. Knocking out David Haye in style would be Wlad’s holy grail and swan song wrapped in one.
For Haye, Wlad represents the icing on an “I told you so” type of career; a career that could end that very night if he follows through with his retirement plans, win or lose.
I could go into deep analysis here (again) and tell why I think Wlad will and should win this fight, but I’ll spare you. Heck yes I think Wlad’ll win, but this is the type fight one has to see to believe.
Besides, Haye is no Buster Douglas-type opponent. He is a feared KO artist who has been so boisterous over the past 2-years one has to at least admire his self-belief. He may be the underdog going into this fight, but the odds will be close come fight night. Debunking a Klitschko would definitely legitimize his career in the eyes of boxing fans. But if he wins, and he retires shortly thereafter, what then? Where does/would his legacy stand amongst the big men throughout history?
Surely there would be public outcries for Haye to fight Wlad’s older brother and WBC Champ Vitali, but if David retires, all contracts would be null-and-void. No one can “make” a fighter step in the ring if he’s lost the passion. David is a naturally gifted athlete in his prime, and he’s potentially a great fighter. What would Haye do without boxing at such a relatively young age? And with such a great deal of money yet to be made, surely he has to know that building his resume goes with the territory?
Also, depending on how Haye would’ve beaten Wlad, there would/could be a clambering for a rematch; a rematch that could/would be extremely lucrative for both fighters, especially Haye. If leverage was ever a problem for Camp Haye in negotiating with Camp Klitschko before, it wouldn’t/shouldn’t be if he wins. Haye would definitely be in line to take the lion’s share of any Klitschko brother fight, rematch or otherwise.
Once again, if Haye retires in victory, where would the division be after the fact?
I’ll tell you: directly back into the waiting fists of the Klitschko brothers, alphabet titles be damned. Guys like Ray Austin and Chris Arreola would be squaring-off for those trinkets and the integrity of the division would go down the toilet. The Klitschko’s would still be regarded as the best, and the only man to defeat either them in the past 8-years would be walking the streets. There would be too many questions left unanswered if Haye packed it in, so my guess is he’ll stick around well past 31-years of age, like 98% of all fighters do, especially if he wins Wlad’s laurels.
The fact is fairly obvious; there’s too much money to be made for David to retire, and that temptation to defend the Heavyweight Championship of the World vs. Vitali would be too tempting to pass up. Vitali would be 40-plus-years-old if or when the two met, and no doubt Haye would be extremely confident after defeating Wlad. And if he beat Wlad impressively, the odds would have to be in favor of him defeating Vitali as well.
All this is as hypothetical as it gets, but still, if David Haye becomes Heavyweight Champ on July 2nd, with things the way they are, only half of his job will be done. David had stated many times that he’d like to beat both Klitschko brothers if given the chance. Well, his chance (and mission) begins vs. Wladimir. Making a fight with Vitali shortly thereafter only makes sense for David’s potential legacy. Not to mention, Vitali is fighting former WBC Light Heavyweight and IBF Cruiserweight Champ Tomasz Adamek this fall. It’s not likely Adamek beats Vitali, but if he does, a meeting between the two former cruiserweights would definitely be a multi-national ticket-seller as well.
For my buck, David Haye had better not retire if he beats Wladimir Klitschko, for the sake of the fans. He’s too dynamic-a-personality. He looks the part and talks a good game- all great qualities for boxing in general. And with HBO perhaps picking-up Klitschko-Haye, American fight fans will not be satisfied with a one-and-done scenario out of Haye if he wins. Haye will win plenty of fans over if he topples big Wlad, and no doubt, gaining popularity in the US, the way fellow countryman Lennox Lewis did, will have to encourage David to trudge on.
A lot has been said about Haye “just taking the fight and money and getting out”, because he knows he’ll lose to Wladimir in his heart. “Cashing in” is a common thing. Just look at some of Mike Tyson’s former opponents. They knew they were going to lose; therefore they’d tank it (remember Bruce Seldon anyone?). But anyone who thinks Haye isn’t going to give Wlad his best is a fool. And anyone who really buys into Haye’s predicted retirement is even more a fool. Because I’m pretty sure, if in fact David Haye wins, he and his team will NOT be fools enough to retire with so much still at stake.
Philip H. Anselmo is a musician, vocalist, songwriter for such groups as Pantera, Down, Super Joint Ritual and Arson Anthem. You can keep up with Phil’s latest music production and going-ons, including his video interview with former New Orleans Saints star Jeremy Shockey at www.thehousecorerecords.com