BY PHILIP H. ANSELMO
Man, I promised myself there was no way in heck I’d buy into this whole mess again until I saw both guys in the ring, wearing trunks, gloves-on and with Michael Buffer introducing them in elongated squawks. David Haye has pulled an Aretha Franklin more times than Aretha has over the last 2-years, although I did see “The Queen of Soul” in person at last year’s annual Kronk fundraiser in Detroit. It was memorable because it was my 29th birthday (HA!). She’d missed the event the year before, so nobody really expected her to show-up. But, there she was: sitting at the table next to our group, surrounded by more security guards than Metallica. So maybe that’s why I’m more than optimistic the fight will actually take place this time… y’just never know, eh?
Haye has backed himself into a corner of his own creation. He has adamantly stated he wants to retire at the age of 31. He is into his 30th-year as I type these words and time is ticking. His reign as WBA HWChamp has been downright awful as far as historic content is concerned. He’s only stacked a paltry 2-defenses together since dethroning giant-but-limited Nicolay Valuev in November of 2009. Had Davey stepped it up a notch and made himself more visible, his popularity might be globally epic. But it isn’t. Beating some quality opposition along the way could’ve helped too. But that didn’t happen either. He stopped a faded version of John Ruiz in 9-rounds, and “Awful” Audley Harrison in 3-rounds respectively.
The Harrison fight was particularly sketchy, to be kind, but in truth, it wasn’t Haye’s fault Harrison tanked it. It WAS Haye’s fault for carrying Harrison for 2-rounds however. Klitschko can be blamed for the same thing though. Just think back to the Hasim Rahman fight. Or the Eddie Chambers fight. They were ugly. And speaking of ugly, Haye victim John Ruiz had given semi-elite fighters fits since he beat the “2nd-Shell of” Evander Holyfield in 2000. -(Note-Evander is now on his 10-th shell)! But the Ruiz Haye faced was pushing 40-years old and well past his prime. And Ruiz in his prime was never considered “Elite”. Not even close. One has to wonder about Haye’s pedigree…?
Does Haye have enough experience nestled under his WBA belt to match the skills of WORLD/IBO/IBF/WBO Champion Wlad Klitschko this summer? On paper, and/or if you judge by who’s fought the better opposition, it looks doubtful for “The Hayfaker” (credit Scoop). But there’s something about Haye’s chances that are intriguing nonetheless.
Davey is a huge puncher, no doubt. And to be sure, he’s very quick with his hands. But Wlad’s handspeed is very underrated. It will be interesting to see who has the faster mitts come fight night.
When it comes to footwork, Klitschko is unparalleled amongst the big men. He is light on his feet and extremely aware of where he is in the ring at all times. Haye can be sloppy on his feet, but he makes up for much of that with snake-like head and upper body movement.
Wlad’s right hand is like a guided missile with concussion written all over it when he lets it go; straight and right down the pipe. Haye’s right hand is equally as dangerous but he often telegraphs it. He also throws looping bombs from a distance. If either man lands one of those wreckingball right hands on the button, there’s no doubt the lights will go black in the receiver’s eyes.
Wlad has the deadliest left-hook in the division, and maybe one of the best in the sport next to Nonito Donaire. The problem is, he doesn’t let it go enough. It took well into the 12th-round in his fight with Eddie Chambers to finally land that very punch, and Chambers, who had lasted farther than many expected but had lost every round, fell like a man shot.
Haye has a lightning-fast, sweeping left-hook that seemingly comes out of nowhere, but it’s often nicely-timed and lethal. Haye also has a more compact left-hook when he is able to use it. However it’s doubtful anything short will land on the 6-6” champ. Klitschko’s left-hook-off the jab is a thing of physical poetry-meets-geometry, and he’s the absolute best at it. It is a fight-ending shot and he can follow up with the hook repeatedly (see Ray Austin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yB2fx14r1g). If he can find a rhythm and land that punch the fight would end shortly thereafter.
But the most important, and possibly telling choice of punch belongs to Wlad: the jab.
When it comes to comparing jabs, Klitschko is the master here, and I think this is where Haye is at a tremendous disadvantage, possibly his biggest. Haye uses his jab as more of a range-finder than anything, but it can be effective when he uses it. Wlad has made his entire career based off the jab. He controls fights with it and blinds most opponents with it before dropping the right hand. If Haye can find a way to neutralize Klitschko’s jab, he stands a chance of pulling off an upset. But that is a monumental “if”.
Part of me very much dislikes the way Davey has conducted himself as a professional. Pulling out of the many “almost” fights with both Klitschko brothers never sat well. Neither have his defenses. But another part of me believes that Haye TRULY BELIEVES he can win for the most part, and that’s a lot more than I can say for most K-Brother opponents. Big talk is commonplace before boxing matches, and there’s no one in the division right now more eloquent or vociferous than Haye. If Davey’s brash predictions come true, and he defeats Wladimir before his 31st-birthday, his prophecy will be sealed and that would be an incredible accomplishment. But once again, this is a hypothetical, very big “if”.
To be honest, I’d give Haye a chance vs. older brother and WBC Champ Vitali, who is visibly slowing down in his older age. Haye could possibly land counter punches against Vitali because of the two’s styles. Vitali keeps his left hand very low, and his reflexes are slowing. Haye could exploit Vitali, because David fights small out of a crouch, and I see Vitali struggling at times here with the lunging, quick counter punches of Haye.
But Wladimir is a whole different animal. Say what you will about his chin, the fact is that reaching it is easier said than done. He is a much more complete boxer-puncher than his older brother, and his past losses have made him EFFECTIVELY cautious. His defense is constantly on point. He hasn’t lost nearly a round in 7-years, and the truth is, he will finally be up for a fight, because he has true disdain for Davey. He wants Haye badly. This is not good for the Brit. A motivated Wladimir Klitschko is a scary prospect, and I believe deep in Haye’s heart, there are a few question marks despite his callous, ultra-confident demeanor. Haye’s chin has huge question marks hovering all around it as well, perhaps more than Klitschko. But both guys have select vulnerabilities, and both guys have deadly power. That’s what makes this fight so intensely intriguing in an oldschool boxing way. Lets hope it’s for real this time!
As the fight draws nearer, the conduct of both fighters will give hints into who has the psychological edge going into the fight. Right now, I’m obviously leaning towards Klitschko, but as the press conferences mount, and the staredowns get nose-to-nose closer, I could possibly change my tired old mind. So watch for my prediction you wild-ass boxing folk! Thanks for your time-
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