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WBA Heavyweight Champion David Haye: Why Not Facing a Klitschko is the Best Thing for Boxing

By Mike “Rubber Warrior” Plunkett

It’s been two years since David Haye obliterated Enzo Maccarinelli to defend his WBA/WBC/WBO Cruiserweight Titles. It was the type of win that made you want to see more of him as an explosive and compelling ring talent. In particular, I hoped aloud that he would find reason to stay at 200lbs to seek out a big money high stakes unification match with IBF titlist Steve Cunningham, the thinking being he’d be the first cruiserweight to unify all of the titles since Evander Holyfield turned the trick way back in 1988.

I also felt that “the Hayemaker” was in a great position to establish himself as the man in a division long devoid of a true star at a point where perhaps it had the deepest pool of talent in its 30-year history; as the guy who would once again see to it that cruiserweight was on the map. But rarely do those at the top of the sport or behind the scenes proceed as I deem fit, and Haye relinquished his titles in search of bigger money and bigger mountains to climb in the heavyweight ranks.

Looking back, I cannot help but shake my head at David Haye’s stuttered initial campaign as a heavyweight. Endless lip service about taking on and defeating the best available top contenders resulted in an extended period of inactivity followed by a curious choice of opponent; a doubtful match against the shadow of a former contender in a match that raised as many questions as it provided answers. Sometime later, his year-long campaign for a title opportunity against IBF/IBO/WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko was signed sealed and all but delivered when Haye suddenly balked and jumped ship under questionable pretenses.

Later a challenge of WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko looked to be the goods when again Haye and his team opted to look elsewhere for a mountain to climb. Shortly after, it was announced that the stalwart Brit would challenge the 7-foot WBA heavyweight titlist, the 50-1 Nikolay Valuev.

In a contest that could be reasonably compared to a shoot out slalom between a 2010 Nissan ZX300 and a 1974 Winnebago, Haye outfoxed and out-maneuvered the lumbering Russian, winning his first heavyweight championship and a second division major world title. British fans around the world cheered and predicted that their man would conquer the heavens while I shook my head, keen to the fact that Haye and his people had openly admitted beforehand that Valuev would be a far easier assignment than either Klitschko, a curious statement, given Haye’s brash words and bravado about conquering the heavyweight division.

Not that it was all bad. You see, I’m a glass half-full kind of guy when it comes to prizefighting. I considered Haye to be 50% chutzpah where others saw him as the guy who would detonate the division’s flotsam, but at the same time I liked the potential upside to Haye’s WBA nest egg, figuring he’d be happy to actually stay busy, ala Joe Calzaghe, playing heavyweight janitor for the Panamanian-based sanctioning body as opposed to actually getting into the ring with a Klitschko. In a very real way, it was the perfect time to correct the tiresome shenanigans that saw Nikolay Valuev and John Ruiz as bi-annual mandatory title challengers, winning and losing to each other every eighteen months or so in exceedingly mundane waltzes that had little to do with time cherished heavyweight competition or honor. The scene was bad enough to make me wish for the heady days of fat, under trained, listless heavyweights of the 80’s who passed the WBA strap around like it was a beach bong. David Haye and his explosive fight-ending power could do more for that present-day heavyweight conundrum policing the WBA’s side of town than perhaps any overhyped mega-event with an elongated safety-first Klitschko, as my thinking went, and recently the world got to see the first chapter of that needing policing actually play out as “The Hayemaker” bludgeoned perpetual mandatory challenger John Ruiz into a 9th- round defeat, becoming the first man to stop “The Quiet Man” in almost fifteen years.

I cannot help but believe that as time goes on the boxing world would be much better served if Haye continued to look to defend his WBA strap as the Klitschko brother move steadily towards the autumn of their respective careers. Vitali, at the advanced for the ring age of 38, has maybe two matches left in him.

Given the elder Klitschko’s current condition, grit and style, I give Haye zero chance against him so the idea of letting Vitali further erode helps his cause. As for Wladimir, I believe that he too now may have slightly passed the crest of his prime and that going forward we will see more and more evidence that the ever cautious IBF/IBO/WBO heavyweight champion is slipping. A year from now Haye would in theory, be more seasoned and confident, two attributes that cannot be understated when a split second and a damn the torpedoes approach could make all the difference for the smaller man.

In the meantime, Haye could do the important work, as I call it, by taking the next invaluable step in ridding the heavyweight division, or more accurately, the borough of the WBA, of further flotsam; dispatching Nikolay Valuev in the mandated rematch. Bouncing Valuev into retirement would be the next needed step, an invaluable step towards correcting the wayward direction of the heavyweight division. By eliminating the threat of Valuev staying in the WBA’s recycle-cycle, or worse, possibly regaining the strap, Haye will have rid the heavyweight of the two biggest impediments of division development over the last half decade or more.

There’s no question that the Klitschko’s have been doing solid and valuable work dispatching the majority of talented contenders dating back to 2006, but being in the position to police and ultimately clean-out the WBA’s humdrum corner of veritable giants is the next best thing, and it is in this regard where to me David Haye is a savior of sorts. Love him, hate him or indifferent to him as a fighter and the emotional clamoring of his passionate countrymen, make no mistake, David Haye is in a unique and most invaluable position to clean matters up for the sport and fans alike.

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