By Daniel Cann
Britain’s David Haye was soundly defeated on points last night at the Imtech Arena in Hamburg in front of the 45,000 crowd at ringside and millions watching around the world. Both trainer of Haye, Adam Booth and the boxer himself claimed they had a new strategy to defeat the rival champion Wladimir Klitschko but in the event they had no answer to him.
Photo: ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images
The story of the fight was Klitschko controlling from the centre of the ring, pursuing and continuously applying the pressure keeping his ramrod jab in Haye’s face all night. Apart from a decent third round and a last gasp effort in the twelfth Haye was completely outmanoeuvred, outclassed and at the end widely outpointed: scores were unanimously in favour of Klitschko: 117 – 109, 118 – 108 and 116 – 110 even after a point deduction in the seventh for leaning and shoving Haye down (although it must be said Haye made a meal of this).
The outdoor arena was cold and wet and Haye was very late getting into the ring, which must have pleased the promoters and television companies. When the fight finally started the atmosphere was electric with anticipation, yet those believing they would be treated to a heavyweight version of ‘Hagler versus Hearns’ were to be sorely disappointed.
Former heavyweight champions Lennox Lewis and George Foreman had asserted that Haye’s best chance of victory was to jump on the giant Klitschko from the off and take chances, taking him out of his comfort zone. Sadly for Team Haye and the fans none of this happened and instead they got yet another intelligent display of boxing from the IBF, WBO and IBO world champion.
Photo: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images
From the first bell to the last Klitschko calmly went about his business, measuring the distance well, using good footwork to stay out of trouble and dictating behind his excellent jab. Haye had no answer.
Round after round followed this pattern and apart from a few sporadic attacks from the British fighter he was being dominated and spent most of the evening on the back foot. Klitschko was doubling up on the jab and landing left – right combinations with impunity. Haye showed a good chin (although admirable does not win fights) as he took a crunching right in the fifth round.
At times the fight got sloppy and Haye was wrestled to the canvas with almost contemptuous ease on several occasions, there was no secret as to who was the stronger man. This resulted in the points deduction for Klitschko in the seventh. During the interval before the eighth Klitschko’s cornerman and chief second Kronk veteran Emmanuel Steward joined in on the gamesmanship (Haye’s corner had been yelling at the referee all night) and berated the referee Genaro Rodriguez for the deduction. For the remainder of the fight any new infractions from the giant Ukrainian were ignored.
Klitschko was so confident by round nine he was throwing right hand leads. Fighters only do this if they are totally confident; it is an open mark of contempt for the opponent’s speed and power. So by doing this Klitschko was mocking Haye’s best assets and getting away with it.
It was at this point in the ninth when Haye was clearly a mile behind on points and desperately needed to change his game plan. Sadly he had no answer whatsoever and his plight continued as the predominantly German crowd chanted ‘Klitschko! Klitschko!’
Haye was on the floor in round eleven, which looked like a cross between a shove and a slip but Rodriguez surprisingly called it a knockdown resulting in a 10 – 8 round. Not that it mattered to the scoring anyway; he was in desperate need of a knockout or a stoppage to win by now. Nearly all of his attacks had been amateurish and uncoordinated and easily nullified by his opponent.
Haye had a better twelfth but Klitschko matched him punch for punch and at the bell both men signalled that they thought they had won (Haye was perhaps displaying bravado rather than a serious belief that he had won). Klitschko retained his calm professional demeanour that he had all night and when the scores were finally announced he smiled broadly satisfied at another successful defence.
Klitschko took Haye’s WBA title adding it to his impressive collection of belts that also include the IBF, WBO and IBO ones. His older brother Vitali holds the remaining belt of significance the WBC one, so the two brothers have achieved what they always wanted: to hold all the major belts between them.
It must have been particularly satisfying for Klitschko as he had endured all the insults and slights: Haye petulantly refused to shake his hand in press conferences and the T shirts of Haye decapitating him were in poor taste; tellingly Haye now shook his hand in a belated show of respect.
Haye was totally outclassed in the end and he was disappointingly one-dimensional. Despite paying his opponent credit in the post fight interview he annoyingly made excuses about a broken toe. Unfortunately that just does not wash, many other boxers have fought on with far worse injuries and gone on to win, although this was a handicap so conclusive was the manner of Klitschko’s victory that I would wager that the pair could fight each other every day of the week and Klitschko would still win every time.
At the end of this I could not help but think of all the boasts, showboating and predictions from Haye. Muhammad Ali could always managed to back up his boasts and when he did lose (which was rare) he never made excuses and paid full credit to his opponent. After this Haye had major egg on his face.
Klitschko’s tactics were sound and it is clear why he has been a two-time world champion and has not lost for seven years. This was his nineteenth world title fight and it looks like he can carry on defending for as long as he wants to. Every opponent that gets in the ring with the Klitschko brothers claim they are ‘robotic’ and vulnerable yet once they are in the ring challengers seem to freeze or suddenly run out of ideas and fortitude. That is all a credit to the brother’s underrated boxing skill and tactical brains in addition to their imposing strength and stature. You can tell they both play chess!
Haye knew he was beaten by the better man yet the talk in the interview was not about his ‘promised’ retirement on his thirty first birthday on 13 October but going back into training and to ‘watch the fight again to see how ‘bad’ it really was.’ I would not be surprised to see him going back on his word and wanting to continue. We shall see. This time he was humbled. What is the saying?
‘You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting.’
If Haye retires in October like he always has said he would then he has achieved some great things in boxing like winning world titles at two different weights and beating a man who although lumbering, was nearly a foot taller and seven stone heavier (Nikolai Valuev). But based on this performance he may be remembered as a mere footnote on Wladimir Klitschko’s record, another result in the ‘win’ column.
Boxing is a cruel and harsh sport and both men were talking about their legacies throughout the build-up to this one. There is no doubt in my mind that Klitschko has earned respect and is a deserving world champion. His future looks positive.
For Haye the question will remain at least for the near future: can he walk away from the sport now or will he want to redeem himself? It will mean he will have to swallow his pride, accept all the criticisms, barbs and taunts of his opponents in and out of the ring, and come out fighting again. Time will tell.