Heavyweight Picks and Pans For 2012
by Johnny Walker
Over the next few days, we’ll be running our choices for the best and worst of boxing’s much maligned but still very much alive heavyweight division for 2012.
Today, we pick the fight of the year.
HEAVYWEIGHT FIGHT OF THE YEAR: DAVID “HAYEMAKER” HAYE VS DERECK “DEL BOY” CHISORA
Looking back at it now, you have to hand it to David Haye. He’d been embarrassed by Wladimir Klitschko in their 2011 fight, losing a near shut-out after talking very big for years about the massive injury he would inflict on either Klitschko brother should they meet in the squared circle. And Haye then compounded the problem by telling (and showing) the world that the reason he was almost entirely unsuccessful against Klitschko was a problem with his little toe.
Haye had been reduced to a laughing stock on the Internet, where a certain hefty ESPN boxing scribe subjected him to a never-ending series of rancid toe-jokes, and even worse, in his native England, where he was seen as an embarrassment to the country.
Then in February of this year, Haye showed up at the post-fight presser for the Vitali Klitschko versus Dereck Chisora fight in Munich, Germany, and suddenly the fighter’s life and career did another U-turn.
During the presser, a heckling Haye got flustered Klitschko manager Bernd Boente to promise him a shot at Vitali, who had just handed Chisora a beating, should Haye repeat the feat and also defeat his talented but unstable countryman nicknamed “Del Boy”. Chisora, sensing an opportunity to take the focus off of his loss to Klitschko, then got up and challenged Haye face-to-face, and took a hard right hand to the chin for his troubles that put him to the floor momentarily.
The ensuing melee and endless press reporting on the matter (including the usual hilariously overwrought eulogies for the sport of boxing) actually ended up enlivening the heavyweight division, getting it some needed world-wide attention for the first half of 2012. After the Klitschko debacle, David Haye suddenly found himself in the position of the good (or less bad, anyway) guy, with the British boxing public mostly on his side, especially after Haye gave some eloquent interviews on the topic of the “meltdown in Munich” with Chisora.
And the ensuing “grudge” fight–licensed by a foreign organization, no less–actually lived up to the hype.
In a highly charged atmosphere at the West Ham soccer stadium in London, the always game Chisora came forward against Haye, bobbing and weaving, and certainly got in his licks, rattling the Hayemaker hard a few times before finally being put to sleep at end of the fifth round by Haye’s much vaunted power shots.
The Hayemaker remarkably emerged from the whole thing with his image in the UK largely rehabilitated– he’s now gone on to become a high-rated reality TV star there, while waiting to see if the shot at a Klitschko promised by Bernd Boente ever materializes.
HEAVYWEIGHT FIGHT OF THE YEAR, RUNNER-UP: ALEXANDER POVETKIN VS MARCO “CAPTAIN” HUCK
It has long been WBO cruiserweight king Marco “Captain” Huck’s dream to make the move to heavyweight and become a champion there, and he came very close to realizing his dream last February when he met up with WBA “regular” heavyweight champion Alexander Povetkin.
In fact, Huck should have lifted Povetkin’s paper crown when they fought, but some very questionable refereeing and scoring from two judges foiled his brave effort.
Povetkin himself had just swtiched trainers, ditching the eccentric self-promoting American Teddy Atlas (who had insisted that Povetkin fight a series of no-hopers) for Russian coach Alexander Zimin, who had recently trained Nikolai Valuev. It was to be the duo’s first and last fight together, as Zimin and Povetkin apparently sat around eating Russian dumplings instead of training for the bout. At the weigh-in, Povetkin looked soft and fleshy, while the cruiserweight Huck, the man who was moving up, looked bigger, stronger, fitter than his opponent.
In this case, looks weren’t deceiving.
Povetkin did well for the first few rounds of the fight, and then Huck, a tough brawler who fights in flurries, began to take over, repeatedly tagging a tiring Povetkin with hard shots. Povetkin then began taking the bizarre action of repeatedly bending very low to avoid Huck’s punches, leaving the German fighter the only option of hitting him in the back of the head or not throwing at all. When the frustrated Huck did throw anyway, he was given warnings by referee Luis Pabon, who not once said anything to Povetkin about his blatantly illegal tactics.
The fight was an intense, drama-filled, exciting affair, with Povetkin showing the willpower he is known for even in the throes of utter exhaustion. Huck poured it on over the second half of the fight, staggering Povetkin numerous times and appearing on the verge of a stoppage victory. But Povetkin held on until the final bell, and two of the judges did the rest, handing him a very questionable majority win.
“Unfortunately, against Povetkin I also had to fight against the referee,” Huck later said. “This was clearly against me and unfortunately I was doomed. I still think I won against Povetkin. I had both the clear and effective punches.”
Notably, following the fight, Povetkin again changed trainers, taking on hard taskmaster Kostya Tszyu.
Huck has been agitating for a rematch, but has so far been stymied by his promoter, Kalle Sauerland, who wants Povetkin (also in his stable) to fight the actual world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, presumably before he has a chance to lose his paper title to Huck once again.
Boxing Insider’s Hans Olson says, “I think that Povetkin-Huck gets my vote [for Fight of the Year]. I scored that one a draw if I remember correctly…could have gone either way. The fact that Povetkin ate so many flush rights from a cruiserweight could mean trouble against the best right hand in the biz in Wlad. BUT, maybe not. Conventional wisdom hardly matters in boxing.
“I think Povetkin didn’t train well for that fight, and thought he could ‘out-tough’ a cruiserweight and wasn’t afraid to stand and trade. If they do have a rematch down the line, I just don’t think Huck would do as well. He’s a tough, fun (and kinda dirty) fighter to watch…but his skill won’t ever be as good as Povetkin’s. However, on the night…his performance was as memorable as they come.”