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David “Hayemaker” Haye: The Key to a Boxing Upset

By Donald C. Stewart

On the May 21st, 2011, there was a dress rehearsal for the David Haye, 25-1, 23 KO’s, versus Wladimir Klitschko, 55-3, 49 KO’s, unification heavyweight title fight.

It’s OK if you missed it, as it was neither a Heavyweight fight nor a battle for a title. It was simply a domestic dust up.

Actually it was the culmination of one of the most bitter build ups for a fight in the UK that we have seen for a while. James DeGale, 10-1 8 KO’s, Olympic champion and all round big mouth had stated his aim of brining long term rival – the ugly kid – George Groves, 13-0 10 KO’s – down a peg or three.

DeGale had fought Groves once before, as an amateur and had lost. Both fighters had been brought up in the same gym, sparring and training side by side but neither liked the other and neither wanted to wish the other well.

When DeGale was picked for Olympic glory it was a sore one for Groves. When he came back with the Gold it might have made Groves even been bitterer but DeGale allegedly turned down a World title crack to allow Groves to settle the scores. DeGale went in Grove’s face. He was aggressive, rude and arrogant whilst Groves smiled and went low key.

It was DeGale who offered to put the purses up as an extra incentive. Groves had the smile of a man who thought he was winning the battle.

DeGale was sure he could do it. Don’t get me wrong Groves was far from silent. He talked of how DeGale’s ego was stroked by his camp and he was not as good as he thought he was. As another aside the media went into a DeGale camp. There were an overwhelming number who decided that DeGale had the class that Groves did not. He had too many tricks and he was the far superior boxer.

Thing was that Groves had a secret weapon. It was in his corner and the secret work was building a set of tactics that would see the Groves camp to victory. The executioner was certainly Groves but the master tactician who studied, planned, educated and came out triumphant was one Adam Booth.

Booth had obviously listened to the arrogance and whilst Groves was comfortable defending himself outside of the ring got on with a game plan. Booth clearly knew it was going to be a war and by God it was. This was a battle of blood filled warriors that lasted the distance and gave us a new British champion with Groves taking the belt form an Olympic champ!

DeGale postured and walked whilst Groves stalked his prey. Groves had to be at his best but he and Booth knew that pushing DeGale onto his back foot was the way to go. Making DeGale come out fighting rather than posing meant that Groves could pick him off and fight his fight.

That is not to say that DeGale struggled. He didn’t and in the ninth round showed why people talk of him as a future World Champion as he had Groves on the ropes. In the ninth DeGale cut Groves and wobbled him but the cost of that was that DeGale was also cut in a war of attrition that seemed to herald a draw or a split decision. The split decision followed. Groves won with two judges giving him the contest by one point whilst the third scored it a draw.
Of course there has been a call for a rematch and there will just not be one … yet. Booth and Groves have cleverly suggested that there will only be a rematch when these two fighters unify a World title. Smart words and it gives DeGale a challenge that his supporters felt he was up for now. Whether he will be up for it in the next few years depends upon whether he can recover from his first professional defeat against his bitter rival.

The spring in the step that came from the shoes of Adam Booth will see him confident that if he can unseat and outfox the domestic scene he can now achieve that again on a world stage. The fight did not settle once and for all who the better fighter is, but it certainly showed the world that Adam Booth can get the tactics right for a fight.

Sweet sounds for one David Haye – after all he only has two left to get through!

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