Boxing needs more fighters like David Haye, the World Boxing Association heavyweight champion with the fast hands, a faster wit and big-time knockout power.
Haye won three of the four major cruiserweight title belts when he knocked out Enzo Maccarinelli in two rounds in 2008 and, momentarily, made boxing's most overlooked division somewhat relevant.
He commands attention and he puts on exciting fights.
But boxing also needs far fewer fighters like Haye, who will defend his championship on Nov. 13 against 2000 Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist Audley Harrison at MEN Arena in Manchester, England.
Haye is all too quick to run his mouth and call out the world's two finest heavyweights, World Boxing Council champion Vitali Klitschko and his younger brother, International Boxing Federation/World Boxing Organization champion Wladimir Klitschko, but he's yet to be man enough to step into the ring with one of them.
Every time Haye has gotten close to a fight with either of the Klitschkos, he's pulled out. In 2009, he was only weeks away from a title fight with Wladimir in Germany when he withdrew because of a supposed back injury.
The heavyweight division is so abysmal that flameouts like Harrison, one of the most congenial men in the sport but perhaps the most undeserving title challenger in this century, can earn championship shots. Given the stiffs who have fought for one version or another of the heavyweight belt recently, that's saying something.
Haye is one of only perhaps two men – Tomasz Adamek being the other – who would provide even a moderately credible challenge to the Klitschko brothers. The Klitschkos are winning their fights by wide margins while on cruise control. It's been seven years since anyone pushed Vitali and about five years since Wladimir had to dig down for something extra.
One-sided beatdowns such as the Oct. 16 Vitali over Shannon Briggs debacle and the embarrassing Sept.11 Wladimir knockout of Samuel Peter do more harm to boxing than good.
It's not the Klitschkos' fault that there aren't any heavyweights good enough to push them. But if Haye would act as tough as he talks, the division may actually have a compelling fight for a change. And while boxing can survive without a quality heavyweight division, the sport is always much healthier with one.
Haye, though, seems content to trash the Klitschko brothers from afar and not make the fight that not only would earn him millions but which also would boost the business immeasurably.
He's upset that the Klitschkos demand rematch clauses and what he feels is an inordinate share of the purse, but guess what? They've earned that right. Haye has a lot of gall to complain about contract terms given that his heavyweight résumé consists of wins over a faded Monte Barrett, Nikolai Valuev and an end-of-the-line John Ruiz. That's not exactly Ali, Foreman and Frazier.
Instead of fighting one of the Klitschkos, he's defending his belt against Harrison, for whom he once worked as a sparring partner. Apparently, because both men are British, the fight is big in the United Kingdom, but someone needs to remind Haye that he owns a world title, not the British title.
So Haye takes on the 6-foot-6, 39-year-old Harrison. Harrison is a physical specimen who earned comparisons to Lennox Lewis coming out of the amateurs, but Harrison never fought with confidence and always seemed timid. As a result, he's lost to the nondescript likes of Martin Rogan and Dominick Guinn.
Harrison should be nowhere near a world title fight without a ticket, but he's in with Haye because Haye doesn't apparently have the stomach to fight someone who can actually, you know, fight.
"I don't believe Audley deserves a shot," Haye told the London Telegraph. "But unfortunately for him, or maybe fortunately for him, enough people in Britain want to see him get annihilated, so that's why this fight is happening.
"People want to see me close the door on the joke that is the Audley Harrison Show. That's what I am going to do." Big deal if he does. Haye's reign has about as much legitimacy as those Rolex knockoffs you can buy for $20 on a New York street corner. I'd say he's disgracing the belt, but given how despicable the WBA is, that's not possible to do. Still, Haye is deluding himself if he believes anyone regards him as a champion.
At a news conference in London last month to announce a Dec. 11 defense against Dereck Chisora, Wladimir Klitschko again scolded Haye, apparently in an effort to shame him so much he'll force Haye into a fight.
"It's just an excuse," Klitschko said of Haye's complaints about contracts he was offered. "He's a coward and he's a liar. David Haye is just finding another excuse not to fight the Klitschko brothers because he knows heâs going to get knocked out."
It will almost certainly be Harrison who winds up on his back on Saturday, though Harrison does have power and the you-never-know factor will always be there.
Haye will undoubtedly parade around the ring with the belt if he wins, but the public knows the truth: Without a match against one of the Klitschkos, that belt is just fool's gold.
- David Haye
- Wladimir Klitschko
- Audley Harrison