This Saturday, in the UK, we have the WBA Heavyweight Champion, David “HayeMaker” Haye, 24-1, 22 KO’s, taking on the underachiever, “A Force” Audley Harrison, 27-4, 20 KO’s, in an all British heavyweight title fight. This is not a first but it is remarkable similar to another heavyweight title showdown with two Brits battling it out for the belt.
In 1993, the WBC Heavyweight Champion, Lennox Lewis, 23-0, 19 KO’s, went to Wales to defend against Frank Bruno, 36-3, 35 KO’s. Lewis was seen as the big favorite and rightfully so. He destroyed Razor Ruddock, placing himself on the heavyweight map, was avoided by fellow champion, Riddick Bowe, and was easily walking through the division.
Bruno was an underachiever, much like Harrison. When it came to the hearts of the people, he had won those years ago. He was a likable sort, but, at this point, he had never turned it into heavyweight gold. He lost title bids to Tim Witherspoon by stoppage (TKO by 11) and to Mike Tyson (TKO by 5). For all his power, he lacked stamina and a heavyweight chin, and with the power of Lewis, it looked like an easy KO win.
Never before had there been so much on the line for Bruno and he came into the fight incredibly motivated. He came out and dominated behind the jab, rocking Lewis several times. The crowd erupted in hopes that Bruno would finally go on and win gold and it looked very plausible. This fight was much tougher for Lewis then most thought it would be and he may have lost had he not landed a vicious left hook which put Bruno into dreamland. Lewis nearly lost his first fight that night, but came back and proved to be one of the greatest champions in the history of boxing. Bruno went on to win the championship in 1995, defeating Oliver McCall, who just so happened to be the man that ended the first reign of Lewis as champion.
The first heavyweight title fight between two British fighters was a mismatch on paper that turned into an all out war, and we may be in for that on Saturday at the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester, UK.
The defending champion, Haye, has made a name for himself with his charisma and ability to rattle his opponents. He dominated the cruiserweight division, unified the titles, and then set his sights on the heavyweight title. He got into the face of IBO/IBF/WBO Heavyweight Champion, Wladimir Klitschko, prior to his defense against American Tony Thompson. He created artwork where he was holding the severed head of Wladimir, which really upset older brother Vitali.
To add salt to the wound, Haye created another piece of art, depicting Haye holding two severed heads, one of Wlad and the other of Vitali. It’s no wonder why this guy is so popular.
A signed bout with Wlad fell through due mostly to management problems, and Haye opted to take on WBA Kingpin, Nikolay Valuev instead of Vitali Klitschko, the WBC Champ. It was a good choice. The movement of Haye was enough to confuse the “Russian Giant” en route to a decision win and a heavyweight title around his waist. He followed up with a defense against former 2-Time Champion, John Ruiz, becoming only the second man to TKO the “QuietMan.” Now we have another Brit that stands across the ring from him in Audley Harrison.
Harrison began his career at 19-0, 13 KO’s, and then he had a showdown with Danny Williams, another British fighter that was still riding high off his victory over Mike Tyson. Williams would win a split decision and put the first blemish on the record of Harrison.
The comeback bout was dreadful. He faced off against Dominick Guinn in a bout where both men were so gun shy that they didn’t throw punches. Harrison did less then Guinn and lost a unanimous decision. It was a terrible showing.
Harrison would rematch Williams and knock him out in three rounds, but he would be shocked in the third round by Michael Sprott, a vicious knockout that sent “A Force” into dreamland. Two wins over nondescript opposition led to another defeat to Martin Rogan, a fighter that lost two out of his last four fights.
The one time “future of the division” has put together four straight wins, including a knockout of Sprott, avenging the defeat, but he has a tall order ahead of him on Saturday. Although he has only been stopped once in his four defeats, there is plenty of evidence supporting a weak pair of whiskers and Haye has a heavyweight punch. If Haye is to land early, it could be a quick night.
I think that we will get the best Harrison we’ve seen in a while. This is a historic fight for the UK, for his career, and a victory would erase his past. He has great skills. His psyche has always been the problem. According to reports, he’s looked great in sparring and had a great training camp. He’s motivated to finally live up to his potential, but Haye is very motivated to keep his spot at the top of the division. This fight is a lot better then it looks on paper.
Expect Haye to pot shot and use movement, much the way he did with Nikolay Valuev. He wants Harrison to make the wrong move so he can turn out the lights. Harrison, on the other hand, will use his southpaw stance and right jab and eight inch reach advantage to keep Haye away from the inside and to set up his power shots. Haye will have some rocky moments and may even find himself on the floor, but Haye is a warrior and you can expect him to rise and fight on, catching Harrison during one of his lapses of concentration and stopping him in the seventh round of a better than anticipated war.