The current WBA Heavyweight Champion, David “Hayemaker” Haye, 24-1, 22 KO’s, is a marked man. Some still point to the power-punching, charismatic champion as the savior of the division and where the heavyweight division goes, so too goes boxing. If you look at the history of the championship, you will see boxing ratings soar when there is an interesting and entertaining champion.
Mike Tyson brought in the majority of the biggest pay per view successes of all time. Evander Holyfield is also another name on the list of huge PPV scores. The majority of the most memorable fighters were in the 200 pound range. Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, George Foreman, Rocky Marciano, Joe Louis, Lennox Lewis, and so on, have all earned their spots in the memories of the boxing fans, but since the departure of Lewis, there hasn’t been much interest, despite the domination of the division by the Klitschko brothers. Haye is seen as a viable threat and if his abilities inside the ring are as good as his abilities to promote outside of the ring, the division could have renewed interest.
Haye was the cruiserweight champion from 2007 to 2008 and campaigned in the 200 pound division his entire career until he made the move to heavyweight in late 2008. Realistically, it could be argued that he has been a heavyweight all along. Many of the greatest champions weighed somewhere around that weight. Joe Louis was 200 pounds, give or take, when he ruled the division. Muhammad Ali was 210 pounds when he faced Sonny Liston for the title, Floyd Patterson was 182 pounds as heavyweight champion, Rocky Marciano was 183, and Joe Frazier was 205 pounds. The best heavyweights in the world were not “super” heavyweights. They averaged between 195 to 215 pounds. Haye fits right into the average.
The cruiserweight limit was pushed up from 190 to 200 as an alternative to the ridiculous idea of a super heavyweight division. When Lennox Lewis reigned supreme and fighters like Michael Grant, Mount Whitaker, and the Klitschko brothers were lingering around, the proposed super heavyweight division was seriously considered along with some equally ridiculous ideas like open scoring. Thankfully, they opted to change the cruiserweight division to a higher weight and Haye dominated the opposition and when there were no 200 pound worlds left to conquer, he went to the heavyweight division and immediately challenged the recognized champion (by most), Wladimir “Dr. Steelhammer” Klitschko.
Prior to his 2008 title defense against American challenger, Tony “The Tiger” Thompson, Wlad was confronted by the brash Haye. Face to face, Haye spoke his mind, demanding a shot and dismissing the run of the champion against what he perceived to be weak opposition. The feud began there, but soon Haye would be wearing a tee shirt with artwork featuring Haye holding the severed head of Wladimir. It did not go over well and it was enough to convince Wlad to defend his title against the British fighter.
The grudge match was signed but promotional problems and fear of non-payment, forced Haye to pull out. He then agreed to fight older brother, Vitali Klitschko, the WBC Heavyweight Champion, but opted out of that fight as well, eventually settling for a crack at the “Russian Giant” Nikolay Valuev for the WBA crown.
Haye was able to eke by the giant and take the title, which forced many to rethink his chances of dethroning either of the Klitschko brothers, but his first defense has gotten some fans back on the bandwagon. He was able to stop former 2-Time Heavyweight Champion, John Ruiz, which has only been done once before by David Tua. When looking at Haye as a whole, you can see that he fights according to what he has in front of him. If he has a slow giant, he moves and pecks away. If he has a clumsy brawler, he throws harder shots and uses timing and less movement. Should be fight the Klitschko brothers, we may yet see another version of Haye.
There are three men right now with Haye in their radars. The first is the IBO/IBF/WBO Heavyweight Champ, Wladimir Klitschko. Wlad started a trend by going on youtube and challenging Haye in the public forum. It got a lot of views and more than that, it may have gotten under Haye’s skin, proving that he is not the only one able to perform psychological warfare. Rumors persist that this will be the next fight for both men and it’s the most attractive fight in the heavyweight division. The question is whether or not Haye wants to gamble his title against the top dog in boxing.
Vitali Klitschko, the WBC Kingpin, seems very angry with Haye, not at all amused by his antics. When Vitali voiced his disgust at the artwork with Haye holding the severed head of his brother, Haye countered with new artwork where he held both Wlad and Vitali’s severed heads. Vitali is not the sort to take a joke very well and has made it clear that he not only plans to face Haye and beat him, but punish him and end his career.
The third and, by miles, the weakest of the men seeking a shot at Haye is the mandatory, Ruslan Chagaev, fresh off his lopsided decision win over Kali Meehan. Chagaev was the first man to defeat Nikolay Valuev, but has been sidelined by injuries and medical clearance problems. He struggled and was given a gift decision, according to some, when he got the nod over John Ruiz, and was dominated and stopped by Wladimir Klitschko when he stepped up to challenge for the title. He isn’t seen as much of a threat to Haye and not many would be interested in this title fight outside of the fact that it is for one of the numerous titles.
Haye needs to strike while the iron is hot and take on Wladimir. If Haye should win, it would set up a showdown with older brother Vitali, which would mean big business for boxing and for the division. No matter what happens, a undisputed champion would emerge and if it were Haye, boxing would be turned upside down, and the public’s interest may just return to the division that always has the potential to bring in the masses of fans.