By Olly Campbell: As a boxing writer and columnist, you learn very quickly that certain fighters get talked about a hell of a lot more than others, particularly by the fans. In this country, be it by virtue of their in ring exploits, life outside it, or BOTH, it’s a hard fact that fighters such as Tyson Fury, Carl Froch and Amir Khan get mentioned more than a lot of others in today’s fight game.
There is a very simple reason for this in my opinion: These fighters, like Naseem Hamed and Chris Eubank before them, seem wholly more divisive and elicit a far stronger reaction from fight fans. They are the guys who are like marmite: People either love them or hate them. There are very few in-betweens.
One fighter who fits into this category for many is former world cruiserweight and heavyweight champion David Haye, who as recently as January was asserting the following:
"Trust me. 2015 is the return of ’The Hayemaker.’ I’ll be bigger, better, faster and stronger. With a new plan."
I can almost hear the collective sigh of those who are now more used to seeing Haye on celebrity game shows, chilling with Mickey Rourke, eating bugs in the jungle and proffering himself as the first black James Bond, than duking it out in a boxing ring.
The closest Haye has been to boxing as of late, was a punditry position on the recent Carl Frampton v Chris Avalos fight for ITV. Just last night in Britain on that same channel however, he attempted to win money for charity on a celebrity special of gameshow "The Chase", so it’s certainly important to consider just how realistic a ring return for "The Hayemaker" might actually be.
Are his assertions credible? Or as the cynics might like to suggest, simply just another way of keeping his name in the spotlight. ANY spotlight?
Haye last did what he does best in July of 2012 when he knocked out Dereck Chisora in five rounds on a rain soaked night at London’s Upton Park. That was his first appearance in a boxing ring in exactly a year, since that ill-fated world title unification fight with Wladimir Klitschko in Germany which resulted in the now famous "toe-gate" disappointment and that landslide 12 round decision loss.
There are many who obviously believe that David Haye lost the desire to fight after the beat down at Klitschko’s hands and much of the evidence would seem to support that. I’m not however going to speculate as to exactly why he was in Munich for the post fight presser of Dereck Chisora/Vitali Klitschko just seven months after his loss to Wladimir, but we all know what happened next.
Before all that David Haye was one of the most exciting young fighters in Britain. A devastating knockout artist, the only criticism of his fledgling career, despite his talent, was perhaps underestimating the teak tough former world champion Carl Thompson, who despite being 40 years old, had showed he still had it in an all out war with Sebastiaan Rothmann in his previous fight. It was Hayes 11th outing as a pro. Thompson famously stopped him in the fifth, live on the BBC.
Yet under the tutelage of master tactician Adam Booth, Haye blitzed back up the rankings and made both their names in boxing together when he travelled to France and knocked out champion Jean Marc Mormeck after himself tasting the canvas. It was at the time a career best win, which would become all the sweeter when Haye arguably topped it in the massive British showdown with Welshman Enzo Maccarrinelli to unify the cruiserweight titles in March of 2008.
As his long time pal Joe Calzaghe looked on in horror, Big Mac was devastatingly stopped in two, a brutal knockout that was the beginning of the end for Enzo. David Haye was a superstar to the boxing public and the British public especially. Undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world.
With success comes attention. That attention in turn can then lead to fame. There can surely be no more famous prize in ALL of sports than the HEAVYWEIGHT championship of the world? That prize transcends boxing. It’s the "Best Actor" at the Oscars or the "Best Artist" award at The Grammy’s. Its every fighter’s dream. And damn, if that fighter with a dream just so happens to be big enough?
Its that prize that David Haye sought to close in on in November 2009 when he faced 7ft "Giant" Nikolai Valuev.
This was the contest that would announce David Haye to the general public, and assert what became the beginning of his celebrity status in the eyes of the non-boxing fan, particularly in Britain. This was to be David Haye’s crossover, from boxer to household name.
The fight was marketed perfectly. A David vs Goliath event where one of the protagonists even shared a name with the old fabled hero. Except this David would be using hands encased in leather gloves to dethrone the modern Goliath, Valuev. Every play possible was made on the "Giant Slayer" angle and the general public absolutely lapped it up. Much was also made of Valuev’s fearsome (50-1) record, yet the boxing public, the true fans were a lot more cynical. They knew, as did Haye and Adam Booth, that the record was inflated. They knew Valuev was a plodding, ponderous champion, who had already held on to his title by the skin of his teeth against an ancient, finished and ring rusty Evander Holyfield. Despite the huge size difference, a boxer of Haye’s stature (a relatively small hw) should be able to execute a box and move game plan. Booth knew this, and that was exactly the game plan he executed from the corner on fight night.
It was never going to be the most aesthetically pleasing of fights, but Haye pulled it off, even wobbling the granite chinned Russian in the final round. It was to be Valuev’s final fight. A career as a Russian Yeti enthusiast was to await him back home. (No joke) Yet in David Haye, a star was born.
Now it’s not for this writer to judge the spirit, motivation or ethics of a fantastic fighter and ambassador for the sport such as David Haye. The cold, hard facts, and boxing fans the world over do that all on their own. Yet at this stage, at what was the height of his career, Haye was a newly crowned heavyweight champion on course for even greater things.
A defence against faded American John Ruiz was hyped by Sky Box Office but failed to stir excitement amongst anyone else in the trade, and especially among the hardcore fans. Ruiz was 38 years old and long on the wane. Granite chinned, his (44-8-1) slate going in had some stellar names, though not all were victories. The most impressive thing perhaps was that he’d only been stopped once. Haye got him out of there in the ninth round, flooring Ruiz 4x along the way.
The next defence was in November 2010, seven months after Ruiz, and it was the infamous Audley Harrison fight. Yeah, you know the one. The fight that rivalled Hagler/Hearns for furious and frenetic action.
Now of course I’m being sarcastic, but that really was it for David Haye. Next up was Wladimir Klitschko, Germany, thousands of disappointed Brits and the broken toe. And then we’re at the start of the article again.......well, almost.
What David Haye’s ultimate plans were after Chisora will only ever be known by one man. Yet when I speak of facts, "The Hayemaker" was eating those bugs in the jungle just over three months later, proving extremely popular with the viewers. Haye made it to the end stages, leaving the competition just the day before the grand final, in third place overall. Is it ironic the show is called "I’m a Celebrity....??"
So where does one reconcile that kind of celebrity with a serious fighting career? Well perhaps the logical solution for a fighter still craving relevancy amongst real fight fans would be to sign to fight one of the most dangerous, ranked young contenders out there. That could certainly be seen as a credible move, which is exactly why David Haye did just that when he signed to fight Tyson Fury. Yet we all know now that David Haye not only TWICE signed to fight Fury, he also TWICE pulled out of the fight through injury.
Its entirely down to the reader to speculate. The first meeting was called off due to a sparring cut. Then we had the career ending shoulder surgery which Haye was keen to tell the world he was "devastated" by, including the photographic proof over twitter.
Over the two camps they trained for, the Fury’s lost not only an extortionate amount of money, but also crucially a vast chunk of Tyson Fury’s in-ring career. Their insistence from the outset that David Haye didn’t really want the fight, had been confirmed not once, but twice. The similarly sized Klitschko showed a man of Tyson Fury’s size how to beat Haye. The pull outs were a blow for the Fury team, yet the reality is, Tyson Fury’s credibility had risen even more. Perhaps if you asked trainer Peter Fury where he thought David Hayes loyalties were with regards to boxing, you may get a more frank and decisive answer than I’m prepared to give as opinion in this article.
David Haye himself knows he has no world ranking with any governing body nowadays as he has been too inactive. His only option as a comeback fighter is to gain a "money fight" from a top ranked guy, yet after the Fury debacle, how many will seriously consider him? Other than that it’s working back into a mandatory position, something he appears to understand as he has stated as such in interviews. He is on record as saying he wants a Klitschko rematch, but how can anybody take these statements seriously nowadays?
The assertions of a ring return have been going on for a long time. All the while David Haye continues to speak at after dinner events, most probably to pay his tax bill, and remains in shape at his gym. But seriously. Is this comeback EVER going to happen? Or is it a constant smoke and mirrors exercise to keep his name in the spotlight? In pursuit of that dream acting career?
Wladimir continues to rule, for however much longer. Tyson Fury is his mandatory and has asserted he will NEVER deal with David Haye again, even for a record breaking purse! I can’t imagine Deontay Wilder, the WBC champion agreeing to fight Haye anytime soon either.
So maybe it’s back to the acting dream for now for David Haye? At least that’s the most REALISTIC option nowadays in my opinion. If The Rock can go from WWE theatrics and "People’s Elbow’s" to Hollywood action superstar, then hey, anybody can! At least David Haye used to hit people for real.
Maybe now he’s a king of the celebrity circuit he can call up that other veteran of British sport, who did the reality tv gig alongside Hollywood and became a household name. To think of it, he himself was a notorious "hardman", a member of a "Crazy Gang". In fact, perhaps I’ve stumbled on something here. David Haye, surely you’re mates with Vinnie Jones? I true gameshow style, I’d say it’s time to phone a friend. The boxing career is done.
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March 16, 2015